Walter Brueggemann, one of the great Hebrew Bible scholars of our time, in his important book on The Prophetic Imagination, speaks to the prophet Jeremiah’s vocation of “tearing up and knocking down” that precedes the “building up and planting” that creative transformation is about.
Brueggemann argues that the prophet is sensitive to the discontinuity of history: how things need to break and be broken if New Creation is to emerge. The discontinuity that is the prophet’s concern is above all an interference with injustice and a break with the continuous injustice that is rained on, for example, women, people of color, the earth, animals, Native Americans or the poor. The prophet does not hesitate to break with the recent past in order to regain an older ideal when justice, harmony and order was meant to rule the cosmos.
The prophet trusts anger and one’s moral outrage and strives to mold that anger into creative possibilities. When Meister Eckhart declares that “all deeds are accomplished in passion,” he too is underlining what a blessing anger and outrage can be. Before him, Thomas Aquinas taught that “nothing great happens without anger.” Anger is a fire in the belly that needs steering but that allows us to persevere when things get rough.
The fall/redemption tradition has made far too much of anger as a sin. In fact, anger is often necessary to see one through the struggle against injustice. Anger, after all, is proportionate to one’s love. Gandhi called his work useful because it “struck the religious imagination of an angry people.”[i] Poet Audre Lorde believes that trusting “the chaos ourselves” and getting “in touch with the things that we feel are intolerable” is the key to vitality and creation. And this, she believes, is the essential role of poetry. Art as meditation indeed!
Brueggemann says: “Every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination.” It is imagination that steers the sparks of anger in the direction of transformation and new creation. In this sense we need to realize that every prophet is an artist and every true artist is a prophet.
The prophet recycles the anger of oppressed peoples away from sublimation, denial, passivity or depression into ways of transformation, self-expression, and New Creation. Isn’t this what Gandhi and MLK jr did—give birth to social art? Lassoing anger so it served the greater good?
Adapted from Mathew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 257, 260-61
 Karla Hammond: An Interview with Audre Lourde,” The American Poetry Review (March/April, 1980), p. 19.
[i] Erik Erikson, Gandhi’s Truth (New York: 1970), p. 383
Banner image: Mahatma Gandhi leads the Salt March, March 1930. Wikipedia; image scanned by Yann
Queries for Contemplation
Meditate on anger. How can you see anger as a blessing for you and for others?
What creative ways do you possess for steering your anger into an energy to serve the greater good, to serve justice and compassion?
Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality
In this book Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology). Here Fox lays out the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.