Sunday, February 12, 2012

Righteous Indignation Disorder

Part 1 of 2

I grew up with an anecdotal story about a sinless man, who acted out in physical aggression toward some group of individuals who had incited his wrath by offending God.

As the story goes, these men were violating the sanctity of a holy place by peddling on the steps thereof. And, as the story goes, they were assaulted for this offense— their tables and wares upturned and hewn out behind them.

The alleged "moral" of the story, is that if God has spoken his will, and it is violated, then the enforcer of his will shall not be accountable for his aggressive pursuit of said offenders, or for the exacting of Godly justice upon them by physical violence. Because, as the story goes, the sinless, perfect man remained sinless. This concept is called "righteous indignation".

As an 8- or 9-year-old, I thought 'okay, so God wouldn't judge me as long as I was driven to anger on His behalf... Probably I will never find myself faced with such a situation, so I needn't worry. A better rule of thumb is to never be violent or aggressive.'

The idea behind the resolution to not act out in violence or aggression, is that if I ever did find myself in a situation where clearly God was offended by the actions of someone around me, I would surely know it. I would then make a knowledge-based choice to abandon my non-violent demeanor in the name of God. But otherwise, to act out in anger or indignation and assume that I was justified could prove to be a pitfall, and perhaps my anger would not be sinless in the eyes of God. Surely, righteous anger is a different emotion than plain ol', run-of-the-mill anger; play it safe until all doubt is gone.

Until recently, I had not realized what I had really taken to heart from that story. As an adult I have rarely reacted physically to offense. But, I realized, I HAVE reacted with righteous indignation.

Righteous, or justified indignation is more common than I had ever thought possible, because I was identifying the physical manifestation of this indignant behavior as the defining characteristic. When, in reality, it is the mindset that matters; It's the thought that counts.

I thought of all the times my anger was kindled at the actions or words of others, not because of some personal offense, but offense on the behalf of my God. Perhaps it is considered a God-like attribute to be repulsed by sin, or the appearance of evil. After all, God cannot look upon sin with the slightest bit of tolerance. As his righteous followers, why should we?

We do not look on 'sin' with the slightest bit of tolerance. Not at our "best". We might be tolerant of the sinner, knowing we all fall on occasion, but the sin we cannot abide. When evil men conspire to oppose the will of God, the righteous are obligated to act so as to prevent the spread of their influence, or the establishment of their amorality.

We as Christians have an obligation to oppose laws and practices which are contrary to the will of God. If we don't, the sin will be upon our own heads.
Is there any question of what we are to do when the God-Defined sanctity of marriage is being debated, or put to a vote?

What I am interested in is not the behavior of people who seek to act and live according to the will of God. I am more interested in the thoughts that lead to, and justify, those behaviors.

I believe that the core beliefs espoused by Christians shape their thoughts, which in turn dictate their actions and behavior. And I believe the core belief upon which these thoughts operate, is that of righteous anger, or indignation. It never even manifests in physical aggression, it is strictly a function of thought: the recognition of sin; the righteous indignation; the contemplation of recourse for the offense. After this thought process, we are able to overcome the behavior of the sinner in a (seemingly) non-violent manner. We head to the voting booth, to let our voices be heard, and overcome the offense toward God through the power of democracy; we destroy the offensive music, or pornographic material, or base literature; we take the opportunity to preach the truth, or fellowship would-be followers or participants in this offense toward God.

In short, righteous indignation is the thinking error which turns affinity to certain beliefs or values into intolerance of all ideas and behaviors which oppose it. The conclusion which is indignation is arrived at by the presumption of a moral absolute, and assumption of willful disregard for said set of moral or divine laws, and/or malicious intent toward that divine being or his followers.

In short, I (quite hypocritically) declare that to be possessed of righteous indignation is to be caught in circular thinking, and flawed logic. Or, in other words, to be closed-minded. To be possessed of a superiority complex, and perhaps even to be brainwashed.

I am righteously indignant against organized religion. It offends my God, which is logic. I am well practiced at jumping into a slough of thinking errors and unfair categorization of the religiously inclined. Perhaps I am more inclined to indignation as a result of having espoused religious beliefs for so long. Perhaps feeling that I discovered truth in spite of religion makes for a super-superiority complex in regard to those who still espouse and protect such beliefs.


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