Cause and Effect

Cause and Effecthoward_beale_network

If you’ve been reading 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness by Joe Paprocki and participating in the “Challenge of the Month” for One Book One Parish, you will note that during the month of March, we’ve been focusing on the motto “Think before you act.”

I find myself struggling to do that these days, especially as I watch the news and try to figure what is going on with the political process. Ironically, what is before me on the television is nothing more than a contagion of irrationality which is both cause and effect of my response to it – anger.

Undeliberated anger breeds more undeliberated anger. In the book that Joe Paprocki wrote, he makes a reference to the 1974 movie The Network in which Howard Beale shouts into the television camera “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” (Full video clip can be found below). Howard invites others into his rage-inducing hysteria until the entire nation is shouting out the window. Don’t think, don’t reflect, just be enraged and act.

On Palm Sunday, I feel like Howard Beale’s famous outburst serves as entrée into understanding how the problems Jesus faced are problems still with us today. Within one hour of Mass on Sunday morning, we will recapitulate the extreme elation of the crowd as Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem and also the rejection of Jesus just days later by the very same people during his condemnation and death.

And they acted this way because… they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore! They were mad at the Roman occupation of Israel and they were mad at the corruption of their religious leaders and so they rejoiced at the arrival of Jesus without really listening to what he was saying. When Jesus didn’t rule with the flashy heroism of a warrior-king, they were mad as hell. So again, without really listening to what he was saying, they mocked him and spat on him as he journeyed to the cross. In short, the movement from triumph to crucifixion was caused by undeliberated anger and the effect was more undeliberated anger.

Photo of 7 keys to spiritual wellnessAs 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness points out, and to be sure, anger is not an inherently bad thing. At times, we are truly frustrated and pretending that we aren’t leads to greater frustration. Additionally, righteous anger is a virtue. Anger at injustice has been the fuel for many social movements that have changed the world for the better. But when unrighteous anger is given permission to rule our life and we don’t stop to put the heart in conversation with the head, then our lives spiral out of control. We become like the crowd that both welcomed and turned on Jesus in less than a week’s time. We become participants in an endless cycle that enslaves us as a the meaningless envoy of anger following anger following anger.

Something has to put the resulting chaos to a stop. Something did.

Jesus stopped the spiraling mess. Yes, in his Death, but also in his Resurrection.
And our recalling of his journey during this Holy Week is important because in some mysterious way, it allows for his presence and his actions to transcend time and space and enter into our chaos here and now. This allows for a new cause to take hold – Peace – and we await the effect of its triumph over all anger – Peace.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate


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