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Finding Faith: We don't have to accept an angrier society

"The stress of the past two years is impacting us in different ways and to different degrees. Add in our own past experiences, the state of our individual mental health, and our varying levels of support resources, and you have a complex miasma through which we’re all journeying together."

Devlyn Brooks 2021
Devlyn Brooks
Contributed
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There is no shortage of analytical, nor anecdotal, evidence that we are an angrier, less agreeable people than we were just a few years ago. The years of rolling pandemic and political division are making us meaner and less patient.

The latest data? A New York Times story this week tells us that the U.S. is experiencing its “most severe increase in traffic deaths since the 1940s.” That’s even despite all of the amazing advances in vehicle safety technology that have been introduced by automakers in recent years. So what gives?

Blame it on our aggression.

Car crashes and deaths began surging in summer 2020, just months after the pandemic set in, and they’ve been on a record pace since. Experts agree that two years of disruption of our lives and societal divisiveness has left us mean, contributing to angrier driving and more “violent crime, customer abuse of workers, student misbehavior in school and vehicle crashes.”

But where do we look for help? Let’s ask James, Jesus’ brother and the writer of the New Testament book of James. “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20)

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One of the most lamentable things happening is that we’ve lost sight that each of us is an extension of our neighbor, as we all are members of the one body of Christ. The Apostle Paul goes to great lengths to teach us that we all belong to each other, and what we do to one member of the “Body of Christ,” is felt by the rest of the body.

But rather than looking to see what we have in common with the person who is the target of our wrath, we justify our behavior because we make them an “other,” someone different from us, apart from us.

This is a simplification of a complex issue, of course. The stress of the past two years is impacting us in different ways and to different degrees. Add in our own past experiences, the state of our individual mental health, and our varying levels of support resources, and you have a complex miasma through which we’re all journeying together.

But I also don’t believe that we have to accept the continuing degradation of our personal interactions either.

If Christ is in each of us, as Paul teaches us, then Christ is in all of us. So we’d do well to remember that the next time we feel our anger getting the best of us. We are not just getting angry at a stranger, which is easy, but rather we are getting mad at someone who is also a member of the “Body of Christ.”

And, as we know, it’s much more difficult to be angry at someone whom we call our own people.

Devlyn Brooks, who works for Modulist, a Forum Communications Co.-owned company, is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. He serves as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minnesota. He can be reached at devlyn.brooks@forumcomm.com for comments and story ideas.

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