Anger toward people and toward God or yourself can delay your recovery. Resist seeing yourself as a victim.
James 1:19-20: "Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for human anger does not achieve the righteousness of God."
HOW JESUS HANDLED ANGER
is demonstrated in Mark 3:1-7, which gives the account of Jesus going
to a synagogue on the Sabbath: "and a man with a withered hand was
there. They (the religious leaders) were watching Jesus to see if
he would heal on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse him."
Jesus told the man to stand up and come forward. Jesus said, "Is
it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to
religious leaders did not answer. "And after looking around at them
with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man:
stretch out your hand. He stretched it out, and his hand was
restored." The religious leaders immediately went out and consulted
with political leaders about how to destroy Jesus.
"And Jesus withdrew to the sea with his disciples." Mark 3:5 is the only use of the word
"anger" (Greek orge)
to describe Jesus in the Gospels. This event is given also in
Matthew 12:9-21 and Luke 6:6-19. Jesus first recognized and admitted
his own anger. He became angry when faced with flagrant religious
abuse against a suffering individual, who was being used by religious
leaders to try to trap Jesus into breaking their laws.
The Pharisees taught that all sickness was caused by sin. Jesus
challenged all of this in a moment of compassion and healing. Jesus' anger was real.
Gospels picture Jesus practicing a healthy rhythm of involvement and
withdrawal in his ministry to the crowds. Jesus did not stay
involved all the time. He took regular time out for rest and
prayer. Dealing with anger often requires taking some time to
"cool off" and think through what your response should be.
did more than admit his anger and withdraw. He prayed all night
(Luke 6:12), selected friends to be with him, and turned to the Bible
for a clear description of his mission as peaceful, nonviolent,
inclusive and effective (Matthew 12:17-21). Then he plunged back
into the crowds to continue his work. He refused to let his
enemies draw him into fighting them on their terms (Matthew 12:38-39).
Follow Jesus: Admit your anger.
Take time out to think it through.
Use the Bible to give you a clear sense of your real mission and purpose in Christ.
Choose the people you will let be close
to you and share with you in your times of stress.
Don't let your anger distract you from God's love and your mission.
Continue to love and heal.
here to see an important APA (American Psychological Association) web
site on "Controlling Anger -- Before It Controls You".
Further discussion of Step 4 can be found in my book Steps To
Recovery From Bible Abuse
in the following Lessons:
(Click on the Bible references to read them)
No. 13. "HOW JESUS HANDLED ANGER"
Mark 3:1-6; Matthew 12:15-45; Luke 6:6-19
No. 14. "OVERCOMING HOSTILITY AND VIOLENCE"
Genesis 4:2-16; Proverbs 14:29; 29:22;
James 1:19-20; Ephesians 4:24-27
No. 15. "FREEDOM FROM FEAR"
John 6:15-21; 14:27; 20:19-23
No. 16. "FREEDOM TO LIVE IN HOPE"
Mattheew 26:31-39; Psalm 22 and 23; Romans 8:18-39
On to Step 5
"DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL"
Updae for January 15, 2004
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS
John of the Cross wrote "The Dark Night of the Soul." Find a copy
and read it. (See link below.) We all have experienced
it. You may be going through a "dark night of the soul" as you
read this. Know that you are not alone. A lot of other
people are going through the same things that put you down and depress
experienced a "dark night of the soul" in the Garden of
Gethsemane. Read the Gospel accounts of this in the Four
Gospels. (See links below.) When I was on a trip to
Palestine led by Dr. William Morton in 1958, Dr. Henry Turlington was a
member of our group. When we shared our experiences that were
most meaningful to us, Dr. Henry told of his experience of visiting the
Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives by himself after the group
had been there the day before.
in Damascus, Dr. Turlington had received a message along with Dr.
Morton that they both had been fired as Professors at The Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary in their absence. Henry said that as
he sat beside the stone that marked the spot that tradition said Jesus
fell on his face to pray the Gethsemane prayer, he wondered why the
edges of the stone were stained brown just inside the little iron fence
that surrounded it. Then he saw a pilgrim come and kneel beside
the stone and lean over and kiss the stone where Jesus prayed: "Thy
will be done" and then was arrested, tried, tortured, crucified and
died. Then Henry realized that the stains had been left by
multitudes of kisses by visitors to the site. This was a very
emotional experience for Henry and for all of us who listened to him
share with us.
professors at the seminary had been fired for defying the President and
demanding his ouster. One of the thirteen decided to stay and
continue to teach at the seminary. This was Dr. J. J. Owens,
professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. The next year as I began
my graduate work, I was student assistant to Dr. Owens and graded
papers and taught his courses in Biblical Hebrew when he was
away. Dr. Owens was going through his own "dark night of the
soul" and I learned a lot from him as a teacher and as a dedicated
servant of God. Dr. Duke McCall, President of the Seminary, was
also a friend of mine and was going through his own "dark night of the
soul" in all of this!
seminary education included a lot of "dark night of the soul" and also
a lot of learning from people whom I respected and love and still thank
God that I was allowed to sit at their feet and learn from them in
their own times of pain and travail. The seminary was never the
same again after these events. Now the seminary has taken a turn
into fundamentalism and intentional biblical ignorance that is truly
dismal and self-defeating.
The "dark night of the soul" takes many forms and is experienced personally by many different
people in different ways. Have you or are you now experiencing a "dark night of the soul"?
WHY NOT KILL YOURSELF?
I was leading the small group study and dialogue in my home every
Wednesday night when I was pastor of MCC Nashville, we discussed the
issue of GLBT suicide. I asked how many of you have contemplated
or attempted suicide. Most of the 35 people present said that
they had either planned or actually attempted suicide. We were
supportive and loving to each other as we listened to each person share
Rev. Troy Perry, founder of MCC, attempted to kill himself after his
lover broke up with him. His landlady found him and got him to
the hospital in time, and the result was a fresh new experience with
God for Troy and a clear call to start a church for Gay and Lesbian
people. MCC exists today as an outgrowth from Troy Perry's "dark
night of the soul"!
Perry has reminded me that suicide is a permanent solution to a
temporary problem and is also a big mistake because you do not know
what is just around the corner that will change everything for
you! I thank God for Troy Perry, for his leadership of UFMCC and
for his personal friendship. His own "dark night of the soul" has
led to great glorious benefit for all GLBT people around the
world. Don't despise or reject whatever is happening to you as a
mistake. God has a purpose in whatever you are going through
now. You are learning and growing. Pay attention to the
Spirit of God, who is your Teacher. You are learning what you
need to know. Listen. Learn. Grow. Move on.
Frankl in a landmark book on "Man's Search for Meaning" (originally
called "From Concentration Camp to Existentialism,") described his own
"dark night of the soul" as a medical doctor in several Nazi
concentration camps, where, because he was a doctor, he was allowed to
live. Frankl began a school of psychiatry call "Logo therapy"
("meaning therapy") based on his experiences in the camps, where he
recorded his experiences in a journal. He noted that some people
reacted to the concentration camps like saints and others reacted like
concluded that the difference depended on whether the individual had a
clear purpose or a sense of meaning in life. Often this clear
purpose in life was based on someone that the individual loved, even if
the person was dead. You need to read "Man's Search for Meaning"
by Viktor Frankl. And you also need to find and read a copy of
"The Dark Night of the Soul". (See Internet links below.)
READ, LEARN AND GROW
Viktor Frankl developed a technique of helping people deal with
their own "dark night of the soul" by asking them why they had not killed themselves.
answer was then used to help rebuild a sense of purpose and meaning for
the life of the individual. All of this has been personally
helpful to me, though not quite enough. I could sill use a lot
more help dealing with my own "dark night of the soul." How about
decided a long time ago not to kill myself because I could not do that
to my son, Russell, or to my daughters, Susan and Deborah. I also
want to live so that I can continue and finish the work that God has
called me to do.
Why have you not killed yourself?
DEPRESSION AND DESPAIR
darkness and despair will fade and light and hope will return.
You do not have to remain in "the dark night of the soul" for
ever! Read Philippians 4 for some really practical help in
dealing with anxiety and fear, especially Philippians 4:6-7. I long ago
memorized this and often recite it to myself in the middle of the night
and any time when I am afraid and anxious. (See link below.)
Depression is "anger turned inward"
and can be best understood and controlled when you face and deal with
your own anger. See all of my web site and book material on Step
4. My good friend David Kelly is the person who convinced me that
dealing with Anger should be one of the 12 steps to recovery from Bible
and religious abuse. He was right, for he had experienced these
issues himself and had helped many others deal with anger and despair
in his frequent role as a GLBT counselor in Gay Centers and HIV Clinics
in Atlanta and Los Angeles. (See below my material on this in my
web site and book on Anger, Depression and Despair in Step 4.)
OUT OF THE DEPTHS
is both the most common and the most treatable of psychiatric problems
and illnesses. My friend Psychiatrist Professor Dr. Corbett
Thigpen, M.D. is the world's authority on the diagnosis and treatment
of depression. He is co-author of "The Three Faces of Eve" and
the psychiatrist who helped me to accept myself as a gay man many years
ago. Dr. Thigpen also treated my ex-wife and several members of
my church in Greenwood, S.C. (See my link on "Psychiatry and
is the most prevalent disabling and debilitating psychological
condition which threatens us. Every day we are exposed to various
dimensions of "the dark night of the soul". How do you handle
depression? How do you deal with sadness and despair on a daily
basis? Maybe you never have to deal with these issues, but I
do. I have learned to cry a lot in recent months because of a
situation that I am trying to face and handle. Not very
successfully so far, I have to admit.
probably should not tell you these kinds of things about myself.
But I am no different from you! Whatever you are trying to
overcome and trying to handle is common to all of us. To me and
to a lot of other people you know who just do not try to tell you about
what is really happening to them. Believe me, my friend; we are
all in this sinking boat together! You are not alone. You
have a lot of despairing company. How can we help each other?
(See link below to "Stand By Me")
can listen without judgmental condemning attitudes and
statements. You can show that you really care by simply being
there when a friend needs you. You can listen and pay attention
when your friend or partner needs to pour out a heart of pain and hurt
that you might not have known was there. Be available.
Stand by your man – or woman! Just being there can be of great
support and encouragement more than you realize.
who have listened to me and showed that they really care about me have
helped me far more than people who have come up with lots of advice and
suggestions about how I should behave and how I ought to handle
things! What has most helped you when you were going through a
"dark night of the soul"? How can you do the same for someone
DARK NIGHT EDUCATION
"dark night of the soul" can be God's way of equipping you for ministry
to others. Learn everything you can from your own
experiences. Your "walk through the valley" is part of your
education for your mission to "stand beside others" and encourage them
in their pain and despair. Write down every detail of your own
dark night experiences. Keep a daily journal of your life.
Use what you are learning to gain a better understanding of who you are
and to develop compassion and insights that prepare you to be of
practical help to others.
that happens to you is part of God's work of "equipping the saints for
ministry." (Ephesians 4:12-14: "God gave some as apostles, and some as
prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
for the equipping of the saints (true believers) for the work of
service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain
to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a
mature person to the measure of the stature which belongs to the
fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children,
tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine, by human trickery, by
craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we
are to grow up in all aspects into Jesus, who is the head, even
(See text of Ephesians 4 at links below.)
already have the spiritual resources that you need to face and deal
with your "dark night of the soul." You are created in the image
of God. The Spirit of Jesus has been poured out into your heart
and mind and is everywhere in every person. If you want to see
God, look in a mirror. If you want to see Jesus, look at the
person next to you. Remember that Jesus said, "Inasmuch as you
have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me."
See a new web site and book by Herndon L. Davis in Atlanta:
web site and book are greatly needed in the African American GLBT
community, as my friends Carolyn Mobley and Duncan Teague can
testify. (They started the first African American GLBT support
group (ALGA) in Atlanta.)
See "About the Author":
"Dark Night of the Soul":
This web site gives you the complete text of the work of St. John of the Cross.
See Viktor Frankl on the Internet:
See Anger, Depression and Despair:
See Lesson 16 in my book on "Freedom to Live in Hope", pages 152-158. Read all of
it. See my web site material on how to get a copy of my book: BOOK INFORMATION.
See: Psychiatry and Medicine:
and read the update on "It's About Time".
See "Stand By Me":
Ephesians 4: 22-32:
"IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN"
Update for Dec. 13, 2003:
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
(John Greenleaf Whittier: "Maud Muller")
to the bottom of this page and click on the link to read this great
classic of English literature for yourself. You will be touched
you review your life in this year of 2003, what stands out most clearly
in your mind? What have you done that pleases or distresses
you? What have you not done that you wanted to do and just never
got around to doing? What has happened in your most significant
relationships with others? How much have you let other people's
craziness make you crazy?
How will the final half of this final month of 2003 be different?
BEING THERE FOR SOMEBODY
all need a person to talk with and to share our feelings and ideas, to
care about what happens to us and to be available to listen and not
judge or condemn. We need a person we can trust to keep
confidential what we tell in private. We need a person who loves
us and accepts us when we are at our best and when we are at our worst.
Have you been that person for somebody this year? Has anyone been that person for you?
is the title of a very helpful book by Redford Williams, M.D., and
Virginia Williams, Ph.D., published l994 by Harper. It is as
entertaining as it is practical. (It contains some great
cartoons!) I encourage you to get a copy and read it as a
Christmas gift to yourself this year! Anger is the distracting,
numbing approach to life that most prevents us from doing and being
what we really want to be and do.
the Dr. Williams and Williams make clear, anger is unhealthy and can
kill if allowed to rage unchecked throughout your system. Read
again the material in Step 4 in my web site and book.
single out anger as the most deadly of dysfunctional attitudes that we
can develop and nourish? Simply because "anger" means "mad" and
madness is crazy! Anger causes me to become illogical,
unobjective, unrealistic and impractical. Anger makes me act
against my own best interests and counter to my own carefully developed
common sense! I know better than to let anger get control of
me. So why do I do it anyway?
MOVING BEYOND THE JUNGLE
is a very primitive human trait. "2001" begins with primitive
humans discovering how a bone can become a weapon and using it to kill
each other. How do we move beyond the jungle mentality of beast
versus beast, predators and prey and become fully human and
delightfully contented with who we are?
some kind of spiritual insight and faith perspective can help.
The Christmas season is a time of intense attention to religious
traditions, mythologies, rituals, promises and abuses. Christmas
can also be a very painful time for many of us who have suffered the
loss of loved ones and no longer have our partners, parents or children
with us at holiday time. I remember clearly how I avoided
Christmas at all cost for years after I had to leave the college and
leave my family, and all of life as I had know it before.
losses can become greatly intensified at holiday times. Look
around you. Someone nearby really needs you now. GLBT
people are so often in pain and loneliness at holiday times that we
alternate between anger and depression.
LEARNING SO YOU CAN TEACH OTHERS
most disastrous personal experiences that I have endured are exactly
the times in life when I have learned enough to pass helpful material
on to others. My web site and book are directly the result of
painful and confusing episodes in my life that prepared me to reach out
with practical help and encouragement for multitudes of GLBT people
whom I will never know.
know GLBT people who become physically ill during the Christmas season
because the stress is so painful. As I write this, I am
experiencing some unusually painful stress and conflict, confusion and
confrontation. Anger sometimes grips me like a spasm of whooping
cough. Depression is quick to follow. Sometimes I am a real
mess! The most positive dimension of these kinds of experiences
is to look for what God is trying to teach me and how God wants me to
use what I am learning to help others who go through the same kinds of
greatest gift you can give is yourself. Encouragement in the New
Testament is the word "paraklete" that means "one called alongside" and
is the word translated "comforter" in John 14. Barnabas is called
the "Son of Encouragement," using this word. When you are
alongside another person to give encouragement, you are truly following
the Spirit of Jesus in a most wonderful practical way.
December 13, 2003
See Lesson 37: "Stand By Me" in my book and at:
Read the related biblical texts at:
Acts material on Barnabas.
See my update on "Stand By Me":
See: "Help With Holiday Stress":
"Face and Deal with Your Anger":
Click here to go online to read "Maud Muller" by John Greenleaf Whittier
"WHY HATE HURTS"
Update for May 4, 2003
hurts everybody. To hate someone is to diminish yourself as well
as the person you hate. Since every human is created in the image
of God, to hate someone is to diminish God and to distort the reality
of the universe. Hate is powerful. Hate is
destructive. You will always gain by getting rid of hate.
Browning wrote a poem called "Soliloquy of a Spanish Cloister" in which
one of the monks looks out of his window and sees a brother monk whom
he hates. The poem is awesome as it begins:
Gr-r-r--there go, my heart's abhorrence!
Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims--
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!
No amount of protection from the outside world and confined controlled religious environment can protect anyone
from the destructive power of hate within!
do you hate? Yourself, someone who has hurt you, your parents, your
partner, your boss, your special personal vision of God? Hate is
just as inclusive as love. Hate can break out in any human
situation that has lost control. Hate consumes a lot of energy.
Can you spare that much energy?
WHEN LOGIC FAILS
great words can bring hate under control and reverse the fatal course
of hateful thinking: Logical, Objective, Realistic, and
Practical. These four words express the effective use of your
brain to be in control of your own thinking and life and to resist
allowing negative emotions and misinformation to rule your life.
fails whenever abusive misinformed religion convinces you that some
people deserve to be hated and rejected as an abomination to God!
This happens all the time regarding GLBT people and the most
devastating results of self-hate is the self-destructive thinking and
actions of GLBT people themselves. Many multitudes of us live
just one step from suicide!
years of experience in the gay world at every level has taught me
clearly that nobody hates and hurts GLBT people nearly as much as we
hate, hurt and destroy ourselves! I experience the
self-destructive forces in myself every day. I am not immune to
being illogical, and neither are you.
FAITH BASED HATE
believe even some of the lies and distortions of the facts that the
fundamentalist homophobic "ex-gay" religious establishment dumps on you
is deadly! None of the hate based religious industry is based on
logical, objective, realistic, practical thinking! Hate against
and within GLBT people is based solidly on misinformation and
ignorance. Run! Do not walk! To the nearest exit and escape from
the self-hate that you have been taught by illogical, unrealistic,
Avoid abusive churches like the plague, because they are the plague!
of hate write to me every day to tell me I am going to hell for giving
hope and encouragement to GLBT people. I am constantly amazed at
the obscene language and graphic descriptions of "perverted" sex that
some of my hate mail contains. The enemies of the truth about
sexual orientation are just as creative in their destructive hate as
were the Nazi, Fascist, KKK, and biblical tyrants who hated and
destroyed multitudes of innocent people simply because they were
Religion in today's world is the chief sponsor of terrorism and the primary source
of racial, ethnic and culturally based hate.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
can you do to make a difference in this hostile, hate-based
world? You can begin by accepting and loving yourself! You
can take the time and make the effort to learn the facts from reliable
sources like those listed and cited in my web site and book.
can make a personal commitment to logical, objective, realistic,
practical thinking. Remember the slogan: "High truth for revenue
always arouses suspicion!" Resist listening to and even partially
accepting the message of mass media evangelists and religious
personalities. Truth compromised for the sake of making money is
no longer truth!
religious and social extremists over simplify the issues and generate
hate based enthusiasm for their own financial benefit and
influence. Don't listen! Turn off the hypocrites.
Walk away. Look the other way. You don't have to give any
attention to the craziness all around you. You have been
liberated by the Spirit of Jesus. Now enjoy your freedom!
THE FIFTH OF MAY ("Cinco de Mayo")
May 5, is the great celebration of Mexico's victory over the French in
the Battle of Puebla. It is a great festival of joy and
liberation throughout the Mexican American world. (See link of
personally celebrate this event along with my many Latino friends here
in the San Francisco Bay Area and in other parts of the country.
I also celebrate every Chinese New Year and Kwanza along with my GLBT
friends who are Asian and African American. We are all part of
the human race that God created in God's own image. We all share
equally in the gift of love that God has poured out into our hearts by
the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
In Christ, there is no room for hate based religion or hate based
hate and anger kill. Hate and anger kill the hater and the victim
of hate. God is not the author of hate or anger and is not the
creator of confusion and strife. To believe in God and to follow
Jesus is to love and accept yourself and others. We have the
remedy for hate already. Be logical, objective, realistic and
practical and replace hate with love and compassion.
See my web site and book material on "FACE AND DEAL WITH YOUR ANGER" in Step 4.
Cinco de Mayo:
"VIOLENCE AND DECEIT"
Update for March 26, 2003
VIOLENCE IS ALL AROUND US
weeks ago I experienced an unexpected act of traffic violence when I
was waiting at a stop light near my home and a pickup truck rear-ended
my car with such force that I was knocked into the intersection.
The trunk and rear bumper plus other car body parts were demolished and
my car is still in the body shop being repaired. I am OK.
Everything was covered by insurance. But it was enough of a shock
that I have had several nightmares of being hit from behind and knocked
has reminded me that none of us is immune to violence in our
world. Violent methods of training children and pets, family
violence, spiritual and religious violence, emotional and verbal
violence, and the self-inflicted violence of suicide caused by
homophobia and religious abuse are all part of the environment in which
we live. A lot of the violence against people who are different
is spawned by ignorance and misinformation. Racial, class,
social, sexual and other areas of violence in our society cause
suffering, fear and distress that affects all of us even when we are
not aware that it does.
JESUS AND VIOLENCE
Jesus came to replace violence and deceit with love and truth.
Jesus stood before the secular ruler Pilate, he said that he had come
to witness to the truth. Pilate answered, "What is truth?"
Jesus had earlier told his followers that he himself was the
truth. Jesus had already demonstrated and taught that love is the
path of hope and peace and all kinds of healing.
political power is maintained by violence and the threat of violence
and by deceit. We are presently witnessing many levels and many
various manifestations of violence and deceit in the war in Iraq and in
daily life all around us.
KINDNESS, GENTLENESS, PATIENCE, HUMILITY, FORGIVENESS
powerful words of hope and healing are central to the character of
Jesus and to the Spirit of Jesus who dwells within you at every moment
of your life. The world around you is violent and
destructive. The powers of the world constantly attempt to invade
your mind and heart with anger, deceit, violence, pride, and
greed. As long as the destructive abusive forces of violence,
deceit and anger prevail, reconciliation and healing are impossible.
world teaches you to prefer revenge to reconciliation. This is
the internal dilemma that distracts us all from the will and mind of
we approach Easter and the celebration of the crucifixion and
resurrection of Jesus, meditate on the seven last sayings of Jesus on
the Cross. Jesus asked God to forgive the people who were nailing
him to the cross. In the midst of anger, extreme violence and
deceit, Jesus maintained his commitment to peace and love and to the
declared his own humanity as he always did when he cried out "I
thirst." He provided for the care of his mother and for the
future of the thief on the cross.
quoted Psalm 22:1 as a reference to the entire passage, as all teachers
at the time did, and in saying "My God, My God, why have you forsaken
me?" He thus declared himself to be the fulfillment of the
message of hope in Psalm 22.
proclaimed his trust in God in the midst of violence when he said:
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." This prayer also is
a quote from Psalms to which Jesus added the word "Father."
declared his victorious triumph over evil, violence, anger and death
when he cried out: "It is finished," which means that the goal has been
reached. The final victory has been won.
are no viable detours around the path that Jesus demonstrated in his
journey in the will of God into love, joy, peace and truth. We
continue to "look to Jesus" who for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross despising the shame and is now in the glorious
presence of God to which you also are invited by the same route.
always means avoiding the pathways of anger, violence and deceit and
remaining on the brightly lighted royal road of love and truth.
CLEANSING THE TEMPLE
one problem in the Gospels that seems to contradict the consistent love
and truth plan of Jesus is the "cleansing of the temple" in which Jesus
turned over the money tables and drove out the money changers as he
exclaimed that the house of God was intended to be a house of prayer
for all people ("people" is "ethnos" which is the word used for
"nations" or "gentiles." The word "ethnic" comes from it.).
religious leaders, however, had made the temple into a den of religious
robbers where the undesirable and unclean were excluded. The
story is told at the beginning of the Gospel of John and at the end of
the Synoptic Gospels, and it presents several problems of
interpretation. The text never says that Jesus was angry.
He was simply fulfilling prophecy as he did in the "triumphant entry
into Jerusalem" and in many other events.
was declaring the truth of the inclusive love of God by this dramatic
act and was revealing the deceit and spiritual violence of the
prevailing legalistic system and of all subsequent legalistic religious
systems. The one time that the word for "anger" is used of Jesus
in the Gospels is in Mark 3:5. See my material on "How Jesus Handled Anger"
in my web site and book. (See above.) See the powerful
explanation of the cleansing given by William Barclay in his Daily
Study Bible commentaries on the Gospels.
frequently revealed the destructive violent power of legalistic
religion that is based on who is left out instead of on who is included
in God's love and acceptance. To Jesus, all people had equal
value to God and all people were equally and unconditionally loved and
posture of Jesus as a teacher who sat to teach communicated the calm
peaceful attitude of the typical teacher of the time. Teachers
always sat to teach. The students also sat at the feet of the
teacher. The entire scene is an expression of peaceful, calm
dialogue and truth. What a contrast to the bombastic striding
shouting antics of many television preachers!
VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE
religious system that Jesus challenged was itself a violent attempt to
enforce a distorted and deceived view of an angry vengeful God.
People were stoned to death for "blasphemy" and for many other
religious crimes. The final end of the abusive system that Jesus
confronted and that crucified Jesus came when the Roman army besieged
and utterly destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. Not one stone was left
on another. All trees were cut down and burned. Salt was
scattered throughout the ruins so that nothing could grow. The
violence of the Roman destruction of the city of Jerusalem was seldom
equaled in ancient history of war and battle.
your personal relationships every day, a familiar proverb is useful: "A
gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
Proverbs 15:1. I only wish I could always remember this when I
most need to practice it!
to stay on the "road less traveled" that leads along the way of love
and truth so that you will not wander off into the bushes of violence
"You will never regret doing the loving thing."
"If you always tell the truth, you won't have to worry about trying to keep your story straight."
See also Lesson 13 in my book.
Update for September 28, 2001:
"WHERE TO GO FOR HELP"
are living in increasingly troubled times and a growing environment of
depression and emotional stress because of the terrorism that has been
launched against our world. Fear and uncertainly about many
aspects of daily life continue to grow and develop. A pervading
sense of helplessness envelops us as we see the continuous vivid
television presentations of crumbling economy, disrupted travel, plans
for war, and a general sense of threat that is new to our culture.
people have felt and acted upon an overwhelming desire to help by
donating blood to the Red Cross, going to New York to join the relief
work there, giving to new charities, attending churches, buying guns,
stocking up on emergency disaster supplies, committing hate crimes
against immigrants, and many other activities that give clear evidence
of troubled times.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP?
time can be wasted by needy people as they go up one blind alley after
another seeking help." With this statement, Dr. Wayne E. Oates
and Kirk H. Neely began their book on "Where to Go for Help" published
in 1972. I used this book as a text along with field trips to
various community agencies and guest speakers to lead a college course
at Baptist College at Charleston, S.C. The purpose of the course
was to give practical useful information about resources for helping
class visited Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a local police department,
a Salvation Army church, a nearby state institution for mentally
disabled and retarded people, a local home for helping released
prisoners make the transition back into society operated by the Alston
Wilkes Society, a local Catholic Monastery and other community
resources. Visiting speakers included the psychiatrist director
of the Charleston County Mental Health Program, a local police chief,
and the director of the local Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed
class members also divided into small groups for dialogue and
discussion about what they were experiencing and learning. I have
given some of the details of this class, because it turned out to be
exactly what I have always thought that any effective education should
be. Learning factual information combined with practical
experience and group dialogue gets educational results that study and
research alone cannot achieve.
live in the midst of a vast growing network of helping agencies,
professionals, voluntary organizations, recovery groups, and government
programs that provide resources that an individual cannot develop alone.
HELPING OTHER PEOPLE
other people is based on several basic principles. You have to be
standing on solid ground yourself before you can reach out to others
and lift them up. We often see someone drowning in a sea of
trouble and want to jump in and rescue that person at all cost.
Life saving courses always teach the importance of not "jumping in"
because of the real danger that you might be pulled in and drown
principle of helping is finding and giving accurate information.
Many agencies, organizations, and other community resources for help
are available. I have often been tempted to help seriously
troubled people myself only to discover that I was not equipped to give
the necessary help. The best thing that I could do was to help
that person find and follow up on professional help that I was not able
to give. Trying to fumble around and help troubled people who
need professional help often delays the helping process and can be
and encouraging people to discover their own solutions is far more
effective than giving free advice, which is worth just about what it
costs. You cannot decide anything for another person.
People make their own decisions, with or without your opinions.
See my web site material on "Giving Advice" in the link below.
to pressure troubled people into getting the help they need is
frustrating and seldom productive. The only way that people can
be forced to enter treatment programs is when they are in custody or
under a court order. The individual has to become convinced that
treatment or recovery is necessary and available.
someone not to worry or to "get over it" can simply create distance and
distrust towards you with little progress in dealing with the real
problems. Really listening and encouraging a troubled person to
be objective and to think honestly and realistically can help far more
than trying to manipulate anyone into agreeing with you about what you
think they ought to do.
can discourage people from getting practical help. Medical
treatment, psychiatry, counseling, group recovery programs, and just
about all helping professions have at some point been condemned and
ridiculed by abusive religion. Another book by Dr. Wayne E.
Oates, "When Religion Gets Sick", is directly related to the problem of
getting practical help when sick and abusive religion gets in the way.
is basic to finding help. Emotionalism under pressure hinders
helping yourself or helping others to find resources and
solutions. Be objective and realistic about your own feelings and
point of view. If your emotions are so involved with a troubled
person that you cannot really pull back and be objective, you can
encourage the person to find someone more neutral and professionally
trained to provide information and to find long-term help that might be
and condemning are never effective approaches to getting or giving
help. Self-acceptance and self-esteem have a lot to do with a
person's desire to get help and to believe that reliable help is
available. Depression and self-rejection can lead individuals to
give up and begin to believe that they do not deserve help or that they
cannot be helped.
new pressures and fears are being heaped upon many people all around
you. International students are special targets for unusual
suspicion and pressure in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially at the
University of California at Berkeley. Hear what other people are
saying, listen with your heart, and let the compassion that generates
your ability to identify with others guide your treatment of other
Perhaps the most helpful thing you can do is to become conditioned by
the Spirit of Jesus to create an accepting nonjudgmental atmosphere wherever you go.
material in my book for information and practical guidelines about
handling stress, fear and depression in Chapter 7 (The Second Step) and
Chapter 9 (The Fourth Step).
Link on "Giving Advice"
Update added January 18, 2001
"FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND ANGER"
is Inauguration Day. A new President of the United States who
received less than a majority of the votes is being sworn in.
Many minorities in this country view this historic event with fear and
of the people who have been nominated to the new presidential cabinet
and other positions seem to be selected as a concession to the
politically powerful religious right. This is like making
concessions to the Nazis. Attempts to appease Hitler did not
change Hitler but instead led to the destruction of millions of
people. Rapidly committed fundamentalists in religion and in
politics do not listen to logic and do not change because of being
given what they want. Giving in to bigots only encourages them in
their bigotry and ignorance.
Surrendering to playground bullies and appeasement of religious bullies have the same results: more
bullying and more pain.
COMING OUT HAS CHANGED OUR WORLD
can take away our LGBT gains in public acceptance and in our soaring
self-esteem. The greatest change that we have experienced in the
past 30 years is the coming out of millions of Gay, Lesbian, and
Transsexual, Bisexual people. We are a mighty living force for
honesty and fairness for all people. Nothing can stop us, except
perhaps our own fear and anger.
and anger make us vulnerable. Fear and anger blur our vision and
can lead us to terribly self-destructive decisions. Years ago,
Surgeon General Dr. Everett Koop declared that we need a stronger term
than "homophobia" to describe the anti-gay attitudes that he had found
in many churches. Dr. Koop said that we need a word for the raw
anger that many religious leaders have towards homosexuals. He
said that he had met many religious leaders who would gladly push the
button if they had one that would destroy all homosexuals!
see little evidence that this attitude has declined significantly in
our religious and political society. Of course we have made
progress. Of course MCC, SoulForce, Act-Up, and you have made a
difference. The majority of the traditional religious forces in
America, however, are still arrayed against us with passionate
is the deep-seated fear of homosexuality in our selves and in
others. Homo-hate is the offspring of that fear and leads us into
self-destructive behavior and into self-defeating relationships.
Anger that we feel in response to anger from others can distort our
minds and loosen our grip on reality. These inner forces have
created for us a crazy-making environment that must be challenged and
"WE SHALL OVERCOME"
shall overcome only when we overcome our own fear and anger. If
Jesus helps us with anything, Jesus helps us follow a totally different
path from fear and hate. Jesus calls us to follow the road less
traveled. The road that you follow when you follow Jesus is clear
in all Four Gospels. That road is the way of love, compassion,
humility, practical help to others, acceptance and affirmation of
yourself and others, and the way self-giving that Jesus called the "way
of the cross."
cannot control how other people feel about you. You can, however,
with God's help control how you feel about the feelings of other
people. You can face and deal with your own anger. You can
resist letting other people's craziness make you crazy.
(See links below to my material on Fear and Anger in my web site and book.)
SOULFORCE MOVES ON
under the leadership of Mel White, Gary Nixon, Jimmy Creech, Laura
Montgomery Rutt and many other faithful volunteers has begun a new
phase of positive response to religious abuse against all
minorities. A full description of this new strategy is given in
the SoulForce web site and in the SoulForce message below.
strategy is very simple. It is a call to all LGBT people to
withhold financial support from religious organizations that use their
power and influence to abuse, diminish, oppress and spread
misinformation about LGBT people. This is not intended as
punishment. It is intended as a clear and effective way to get
attention from those who have been intentionally blind to our existence
and to our suffering at their hands.
you have a better plan, put it into action. We can only help our
opponents by fighting each other. Find a way that fits you to
make a difference for love and justice in your world. Ask God to
show you what to do. And then listen for a response. With
that response will come the energy and ability to do it.
THE HIDDEN DRAGON WITHIN
thinking that leads to destructive behavior lies deep within the psyche
of every one of us. We all have a dimly perceived "reptilian
brain" that under certain conditions can take over our personality and
turn us into an unpleasant and destructive anti-self.
gives most people control over these dark urges? What keeps you
sane, objective and realistic? What triggers you to over-react
and lash out at others in mindless rage? Take a good look at how
you handle fear and anger. You will discover clues to how to deal
with fear and anger in others.
calms your own personal "savage beast" within? Does this give you
a hint as to how you can help others to calm down and be realistic and
objective? What part does accurate believable information play in
helping you to be more accepting of your self and of others?
probably would resent having me or anyone else ask these questions
directly to you, but can you ask them for yourself and be honest and
corrective in your own responses?
HOPE FOR PEACE AT LAST
the Bible, peace is always a gift from God. The fruit of the
spirit in Galatians 5:22 begins with "love, joy, peace." Peace
with God, peace within, and peace with others flows from your
experience with God. Read Romans 5:1-5, where faith, peace with
God, hope and perseverance flow through our lives because "the love of
God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who
has been given to us."
the most tragic error of our culture today has been the distortion of
the loving accepting message of Jesus into a fearful legalistic
judgmental religion that separates people rather than bringing them
together and that puts people down rather than lifting them up.
PURITY OF HEART
Kierkegaard wrote a wonderful devotional classic: "Purity of Heart Is
To Will One Thing." His text was from James 1:8: "Double-minded
persons are unstable in all their ways." Kierkegaard developed
the truth that the only way to will one thing and not to be drawn into
willing many things to the point of distraction and despair is to will
the will of God. The book says a lot more than that. So get
a copy and read it. The Book of James contains a lot of practical
advice about angry thoughts and angry words. It may say some
things to you that will be unexpectedly helpful.
people who champion truth and love in their many manifestations have
gone through the purifying fires of their own inner struggles and
external pressures. Sometimes this takes the form of "being
humbled and changed to become like a little child" (Matthew
18:1-5). Sometimes it means letting go of everything and starting
over. Sometimes it means physical and mental suffering.
When you decide you want God to use you to do the will of God and be
part of the progress of truth and love, then God will do whatever it
takes to prepare you and to get you involved in the ways that will do
the most good.
I leave with you. My peace that I give to you is not fragile like
this world. Let not your heart be troubled. Don't be afraid
(Jesus in John 14:27)
is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear, because fear
causes suffering. The one who is afraid has not yet been made
perfect in love. We love because God first loves us. If you
say you love God but hate people, you are lying, for if you do not love
people whom you have seen how can you love God whom you have not
seen? The commandment that we have from God is that if you love
God you should love other people also."
(1 John 4:18-21)
"A FORK IN THE ROAD"
Update for December 31, 2003
Yogi said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!"
are at a fork in the road as 2003 ends and the new year of 2004
begins. Where do we go from here? At the end of 2003, the
GLBT community can rejoice in a lot of progress in human rights and
legal protection during the past year. The U. S. Supreme Court,
the Massachusetts State Supreme Court, and countless new businesses in
granting same-sex partner benefits made profound changes in our world
and in our public acceptance.
is your life taking you at this moment? Are you on a path to
health and wholeness or on a downward spiral into destruction and
despair? Only you really know. Progress for the GLBT
Community does not necessarily improve my life or yours, does it!
personally have decided to take the "road less traveled". The
road less traveled is love. Love is the most expensive toll road
in the world. Love costs you everything you have. Love
means everything that 1 Corinthians 13 says it means. (See link
below.) The bottom line is that "love never gives up."
means letting go and holding on at the same time. Love means
being there for someone who needs you but who thinks you stink.
Love means being like the truly human Jesus, who accepted and
identified with all people, no matter how "unclean" and stupid they
might seem to be.
means being available even when you don't feel like it. Love is
indeed "the greatest thing in the world," but it also means putting up
with and ignoring really stupid destructive behavior in people that you
means telling the truth and being the truth about yourself. Love
and truth go hand in hand. You cannot love and lie. These
two attitudes are inconsistent and will cancel out each other.
do you really feel about yourself? Do you love and accept
yourself as you are? How co-dependent do you have to be to be
happy with yourself? Is your love for yourself dependent upon how
somebody else feels about you?
PARTNERS WHO FIGHT
and John were partners for 6 years, and then John started seeing and
dating another man. This new relationship led to sometimes
violent confrontations and frequent verbal and sometimes physical
fights. Abusive language and accusations became their everyday
way of communicating most of the time.
hateful angry words were exchanged in person, on the phone and in
e-mail. Tension mounted day by day. Both Tom and John loved
each other very much. The conflict seemed to be
insurmountable. How was the conflict resolved? Was it ever
really resolved? It remains to be seen. The fork in the
road always looms just ahead. To go, to stay, to self-destruct,
to give in, to give up, to fight, to manipulate, to cry, to beg, to
bargain, to plot revenge, to hurt each other, to be nice, to cooperate,
to see a therapist, to kill each other: what to do? I cannot give
advice, even to myself.
you ever faced anything like this? How did you handle it?
Was your approach successful? Are you dealing with a clear fork
in your road as you approach 2004 this week? What do you plan to
CAN GOD HELP?
is God when you need someone to bail you out of a really terrible
personal mess? Perhaps you have to be your own "god" and take
control of your own thinking and let go of the emotional craziness that
has kept you from being objective, logical, realistic and practical
about your own personal life and your most intimate relationships.
is already within you. You are made in the image of God.
The Spirit of Jesus is already within you. Look deep within your
own psyche and your own heart and soul and see what you have to tell
yourself about how to handle your own impending fork in the road.
Draw upon your own personal experiences and learn from yourself.
Be your own best teacher. Listen to yourself as you describe your
own situation. Write it out. Think. Meditate.
Be still and know. The truth will come upon you like the breaking
of dawn after a long "dark night of the soul."
are not a helpless wretch. You are a child of the Creator and
Sustainer of the Universe. Act like it. Buck up. Face
your own reality. Be honest with yourself. Tell yourself
Let go and move on.
You already have "the victory that overcomes the world."
Act like it.
You will never regret doing the loving thing!
See I Corinthians 13
also: "The Road Less Traveled" and "People of the Lie" by M. Scott Peck
and "Games People Play" by Eric Berne. These three books have
been all time best sellers and have helped millions of people deal more
successfully with stressful interpersonal relationships. See also
"Why Am I Afraid to Love?" and "Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I am?"
by John Powell. These two brief books are so practical and
helpful that I required them as parallel reading in most of my
Update added January 5, 2004:
"OK, NOW, LET'S START OVER"
The wonderful gift of starting over! God lets you begin again whenever you are ready to let go and move on.
you begin this new year of 2004, what do you want to let go and leave
behind you so that you can move on into a happier and more useful life
this year? Only you know what stands in your way and keeps you
from starting over.
LEARN FROM YOUR PAST
stock of where you are now and why you are there. You can and
must learn from your own past, but you cannot live there. You
have no choice about it. You have to live one day at the
time. Each day is the first day of the rest of your life.
beginning of a new year is a clear invitation to you to "let go and
move on!" What that means for you is highly personal and
individual Nobody else can tell you where you are been or
where you can go from here. You have to be the source of your own
self-knowledge and your own inspiration for new positive healthy
directions for your life.
THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS
lived a life of starting over every day. Jesus demonstrated a
healthy rhythm of withdrawal and involvement. He did not stay
withdrawn all the time nor did he stay involved in activity and
ministry all the time. The clearest example of how Jesus handled
pressure and started over is in Mark 3 and the synagogue incident where
Jesus became angry at his enemies and then withdrew to think through
his purpose and to select people to be with him and then plunge again
into his mission.
Read the details of this incident in my book in Lesson 13 and in my web site in this Step 4.
rapidly through the Gospel of Mark and notice how many times and in how
many different ways Jesus came to a fork in the road and said to his
disciples, "OK, now, Let's start over!" The human life of Jesus
gives you a detailed example of how to face and deal with human stress
and dilemmas that all of us confront every day.
his death, Jesus was saying, "OK, now, this is over: We can start over
again, and all of you can go with me now." Let your imagination
soar. Where can you go from here? Where do you want to go
now? Accelerate your vision of what is out there for you if you
will just let the Spirit of Jesus be your teacher and guide and empower
you to be what you are really capable of becoming as a child of the
Creator and Sustainer of all things. You have no limitations
except for your own passion to live in the past.
WRITE IT DOWN
out what you are letting go in order to move on. Write out what
you want to become now that you are starting over.
a New Year resolution to write something in your personal journal every
day. Doing this will help you to learn from yourself and to learn
from your own experiences. Even if you do not read back over what
you have written, you will have made an indelible impression on your
own mind and will grow in your thinking about who you are and who you
you want to, write to me and tell me how you are starting over
now. I will not always answer unless you ask me to, but just
telling me and knowing that I am reading what you say will help you to
express hope and encouragement to yourself in your journey.
Remember that the journey is the goal. You grow and recover and build as you move along, not as
you wallow in self-reflection and bog down in despair and regret. OK, now, Let's start over.
On to Step 5