God doesn’t get angry, pure and simple.
Ron Rolheiser, OMI
ANGELS WITH SICKLES AND GOD’S FURY
God is not a creature, another existent among others, a being like us. God’s ways are not our ways. This has been affirmed from Isaiah through 2000 years of Christian tradition. We cannot project our way of being, thinking, and loving unto
God. And nowhere is this truer than when we imagine God as getting angry. Mercy, love, and forgiveness are not attributes of God, as they are for us. They constitute God’s nature. God doesn’t get angry like we do.
Scripture and Christian tradition do, of course, speak of God as getting angry, but that, as Christian theology clearly teaches, is anthropomorphism, that is, it is a projection of human thought and feeling into God. In saying things such as God is angry with us or God is punishing us for our sins, we are not, in essence, saying how God feels about us but rather how we, at that moment, feel about God and how we feel about ourselves and our own actions.
Yet isn’t the language of God’s anger a vital part of our tradition, our scriptures, our prayers, our psalms, and our liturgy? They all speak of us as offending God and as God getting angry. Are these simply to be written off? No. They teach an important truth, even as they must be called for what they are, anthropomorphisms. They are meant to challenge the soul the way indigestion challenges the body. God doesn’t punish us for eating the wrong things or for overeating. Our own biology does and, in doing so, it sends us a
nasty signal that we’ve been doing something wrong.
Metaphorically speaking, indigestion comes at you like a vengeful angel and throws you into the great winepress of biological fury.
God doesn’t hate us when we do something wrong, but we hate ourselves; God doesn’t wreak a vengeance on us when we sin, but we beat ourselves up whenever we do; and God never withholds forgiveness from us, no matter what we’ve done, but we find it very difficult to forgive ourselves for our own transgressions. There is indeed an angelic razor and a winepress of God’s fury, but those are names for the experience of discontent and self-hatred inside of us whenever we are unfaithful. They have nothing to do with God’s nature.
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