Mad as hell…but without hope.
There’s a famous scene from the movie Network where newsman Howard Beale who is fed up with the manipulation, lying, and general state of things decides to go on live television and declare to the world, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” He encourages others to join him but gets nowhere. Becoming despondent over his powerlessness, he ends up killing himself on national television, giving his network great ratings in the process.
He began by being angry at all that was wrong but he ended by giving up and adding to the wrong. His anger lacked hope, the kind of hope born of faith.
Anger and Augustine
Saint Augustine, back in the 4th century was full of faith, and he had a better approach that did not include guns pointed at one’s temple. Augustine knew that the key to Christian life was hope, so he left us a formula against hopelessness that I think we should inscribe in our hearts right now. Augustine said:
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage—anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”
Ever since this war began I have felt profoundly sad, and I have wondered—along with millions of other people on this planet—where is God in all this? I realized that the sadness was because it feels like God is absent, like God is absent because we are in the process of obliterating all traces of love and of beauty from the world. Since God is love, hope is what we need to “get God back.”
Augustine said if we want hope we have to get angry at the way things are. This is where each of us comes in as a responsible member of this world’s community. We need to look close, look hard, around us, in the everyday, in what we possibly did not notice before, what are we “mad as hell” about? I’ll start us off.
My rant for hope
I am mad that my little boy has to wake up every morning to a new security alert and does not want to get on a plane to see his grandpa; I am angry that video game manufacturers are getting rich by making addicts of children who spend hours blowing virtual people up with the flick of a thumb; I am fuming that thousands of teachers are being laid off while we spend billions destroying a country which we will then have to spend billions rebuilding; I am dismayed, disgusted, heartbroken to hear things like, “…and then our troops went in and killed everyone there.”
How is it possible for human beings to do this?
I am beside myself at the death of a young Guatemalan immigrant as one of the first of our troops felled in combat. He had braved everything to come to our land of freedom as a teenager, young and idealistic. He wanted to defend his adopted land, and he died in a battlefield on the other side of the world.
Ranting and righting wrongs
So now we need the courage part of Augustine’s equation, the courage to notice the wrongs—to speak up, to change, to discern, to criticize, to refuse to be one more statistic anymore.
We need the courage of Jesus running into the Temple and saying, “Get out! You have defiled the house of my Father!” Our earth, our children, our beautiful civilizations, the cultural treasures of our many ages, this is the house of our Father and it must be reclaimed. We need to heed Augustine and hitch our Christian hope to the anger and the courage necessary to change things.
God is love, how much simpler can it be? You want to feel that God is back among us, do love. Let’s “get God back”; let’s make God visible everywhere and to everyone. Notice the wrongs, get angry, have courage, act. Love comes when evil is challenged. Hope.