This picture comes from Caryn Riswold’s blog. A feminist Lutheran theologian, Riswold reflects in this post on the idea of God’s wrath. She traces her readers back to Sarah Over the Moon, who wrote a provocative piece entitled “Maybe God is A Bitch.” Both articles articulate quite eloquently God’s solidarity with marginalized peoples. Rather than spend time here telling you about how they explore preconceived notions of God’s anger as bad, I recommend both articles before moving forward here.
Though, I will go on to say, Riswold confesses her own insecurity with the idea of an angry God as a result of notions that take root with Jonathan Edwards, way back in the nineteenth century. Edwards’ rather infamous sermon articulates why God must go against God’s otherwise pleasurable demeanor and send the wicked to hell. Here are a few excerpts:
The Wrath of God burns against them, their Damnation don’t slumber, the Pit is prepared, the Fire is made ready, the Furnace is now hot, ready to receive them, the Flames do now rage and glow. The glittering Sword is whet, and held over them, and the Pit hath opened her Mouth under them.
Sin is the Ruin and Misery of the Soul; it is destructive in it’s Nature; and if God should leave it without Restraint, there would need nothing else to make the Soul perfectly miserable.The Corruption of the Heart of Man is a Thing that is immoderate and boundless in its Fury; and while wicked Men live here, it is like Fire pent up by God’s Restraints, whereas if it were let loose…if Sin was not restrain’d, it would immediately turn the Soul into a fiery Oven, or a Furnace of Fire and Brimstone.
No wonder mainline Christianity continues in her struggle to overturn such sexism and faulty theology like “God is love, but only to a certain point.” To the extent that entirely new waves of theology have arisen in response to traditional conservatism, the likes of which we learned from our Puritan frontrunners, we are able to craft new ideas that turn our orthodoxy into orthopraxy. Thanks to liberation, feminist, womanist, queer and other budding theologies, it is orthodox to experience an angry God. To take a step further, let us say that it is a sin to not be angered by the oppression that God’s people endure. How do we image/imagine this within the lens of Jesus’ own liberation-love tactics?
The two bloggers ask “What if the wrath of God is something else?” Aside from what Edwards explains as a force of domination or coercion. Aside from fundamentalism threatening hell. Aside from the fear of those who are in power losing their power.
Here’s a quote from Sarah over the Moon. I like how she also re-appropriates a term usually relied upon to connote a derogatory attitude and female posture. It also shows the idea of God’s anger coming from love, not fear.
Maybe God’s a “bitch.” An “angry black woman.” A “bitter” abuse survivor. Maybe God’s “too sensitive” and needs to “learn to take a joke.” Maybe God is all of the dismissive words that we throw out to try to silence those who are fighting for change and for justice. Maybe God is angry, and we should listen to her.
Here’s a quote from Caryn as she validates Sarah’s hypothesis with liberation theology.
…[E]ver since I became familiar with James Cone’s description of wrath as ‘God’s almighty NO!’ to the sins and oppressions we inflict upon each other, I started warming up to it, seeing it as Cone does, an essential ingredient of God’s love.
Wow! Anger as an essential ingredient of God’s love. How beautiful to experience God’s indignation that blossoms, not from fear, but from an intense understanding of the longing of our human condition. Who knows better than our Creator of our systemic woes, corporate sins, and beleaguered ideas of equality? When we are angered by injustice, we do well to mimic God’s anger with our efforts of advocacy and education.
This year the Women’s Center is one of expressing solidarity and giving voice to the issues that anger God. We also hope to proclaim honestly our own anger when we see people of God alienated from justice. So let us stand united under a banner that has been redefined yet still claims we are, indeed, in the hands of an angry God. And let us work to absolve fully God’s anger of love as we embrace ALL of God’s children.
As my blogging sisters already stated,
Maybe God is angry and we should listen to her.