Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"The God Whom Anger Never Touched"

Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.

When anger tries to burn up the temple of my body, I’ll look to the goodness of God, whom anger never touched. I’ll look to God whom anger never touched, and I’ll become sweeter than the breeze whose gentleness moistens the earth. I’ll look to God whom anger never touched, and I’ll have spiritual joy because virtues will begin to show themselves in me. I’ll look to God whom anger never touched, and—because I look to God—I’ll experience God’s calm goodness.
–Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias

I read these words on a Sunday morning when I was apprehensive worshiping with someone with whom I was angry, who had cost me money. And I would be worshiping in the local franchise of a denomination that had cost me much of my career, though not my vocation.

Raised on a theology of a God around whom we had to tiptoe because “he” was so easily provoked to anger, I have tried to avoid the progressive Christian temptation to exchange that God for a God also easily provoked to anger, but by injustice.

But to think of a “God whom anger never touched,” is truly revolutionary. Could Hildegard mean a God unmoved by our angry temper tantrums, above it all? Or the God of Eden before the first expression of human arrogance (pride goeth before The Fall)?

Rather, I hope she is imagining a different God than either conservatives or progressives can imagine. Our vengeful, punishing selves have projected onto the Divine Inspiration of the cosmos a rage that finally, even eternally, burns in hell the unconverted, the arrogant, and the unjust parts of humanity and of our selves.

She imagines a God who instead blesses us with sweetness, gentleness, joy, virtues, and calm goodness. I’ve often said that, in the spiritual life, we need to follow the business maxim offered in The One Minute Manager that we should “catch somebody doing something right” instead of “catching somebody doing something wrong.”

Maybe Hildegard was imagining just such a God.

Chris will be the guest preacher during the 11 a.m. worship of Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church in Atlanta this Sunday, July 10. His books will be available.

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