Jackie Hill Perry and Jen Pollock Michel discuss how Christians should respond to cultural outrage. In their conversation, they discuss:
- The expectation of outrage against the offensive claims of the Bible.
- The need to differentiate between righteous outrage and emotional response.
- The need to temper our language and aggression when handling disagreement.
- The need to be slow to anger and quick to love when addressing outrage.
- The rightful place of outrage that fights injustice—to hate what God hates.
- The need to learn from other believers how to be outraged over the right things.
Read more from TGC about this topic:
Jen Pollock Michel: Jackie, how should Christians respond to the culture of outrage today?
Jackie Hill Perry: I think one, there has to be the expectation of it. There was outrage in Jesus’ day. They couldn’t believe that he was saying the things that he was saying, “drink his blood,” “eat his flesh.” What are you trying to say? Is he making himself one with God? And so I think the claims of Scripture do merit some kind of outrage. But also I think the claims of Scripture are offensive where sometimes the outrage in my mind is like being easily offended by things that make you offended, you know?
And so to say that we should submit to the Spirit of God and not, you know, submit to our sexual temptations. That sounds crazy. That sounds like foolery. And so I would expect a natural man to react to that in a way that is loud and abrasive because it’s offensive.
Jen Pollock Michel: There’s so many different kinds of outrage. Like there’s a legitimate kind of, well, I don’t want to say legitimate, but I say expected sort of outrage, like you’re saying when we encounter the claim of God on our lives. Like you said, the natural man sort of feels outraged that his life could be demanded of him. I mean, I’m thinking about the rich young ruler, you know, I don’t know if he felt outraged, but you know, Jesus essentially said…
Jackie Hill Perry: He felt some type of way.
Jen Pollock Michel: He left and definitely went away sad. So I think about the outrage of, I think I was sharing with you Fleming Rutledge was saying, you know, sometimes we’re outraged too little when things are unjust and broken in this world that the only proper response to that is outrage. And in fact, I think we could even think of the cross as an example of God’s outrage against sin, you know, so that’s legitimate.
Jackie Hill Perry: And the prophets, they were outraged often.
Jen Pollock Michel: They were often outraged. But the irony is in culture today is like we’re not outraged about the right things, right? We are outraged when people offend us personally, when people, I don’t know… I mean, what do you think about that? How do you see that in your social media feeds? How do you see a culture of outrage that is illegitimate?
Jackie Hill Perry: Honestly, I think it’s just this hypersensitive culture where we want to police language that we would prefer not to hear. Should people be careful about what they say? Absolutely. So we should be careful and gentle. I think Timothy speaks to that, like the way you speak to your opponents should be Spirit-led, but I really do believe that when the Scripture talks about in Romans 1, how people will suppress the truth by their own unrighteousness.
I think in some ways this outrage is a kind of suppression where let me be loud enough, louder than you. Let me be more intellectual than you. Let me be so aggressive that it moves you to silence. And I think that’s the temptation is that when telling the truth merits this kind of outrage and this aggressiveness from people. As a human being, I don’t want to be yelled at. I don’t want to be offensive. I don’t want to be treated a particular way for what I believe. And so I have two options, I either speak into the outrage and why it exists or I be quiet and I don’t think God would prefer the latter.
Jen Pollock Michel: I was thinking when you’re saying like loud, that’s like how outrage gets things done a lot and that is so counter to God’s way of love. That love is the way that he gets things done in the world. And that doesn’t always look like, “ Oh, happy-clappy, I never say any hard words” because the prophets said a lot of hard words in love.
But I feel like…and this is something that we talk about even in our family with our kids. It’s just like anger is not a wrong thing. Anger is, you know, a light on your dashboard, something’s going wrong. It requires deeper investigation though. And one of the things that I’m always telling my kids and truthfully always telling myself is that anger just doesn’t get God’s work done well.
The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. And I would love to legitimate my anger and I feel very like, you know, you feel that kind of rush almost of adrenaline sometimes when outrage and anger is animating you. But I feel like there’s gotta be that hesitation to just say, “Okay, like, what’s this really about? Is this about me being offended that my name has been, you know, offended in some way, or is that God’s holiness that’s been offended?” Like I think a lot of the outrage we’d start to see evaporate when we really looked deeper.
Jackie Hill Perry: What would you say to those who lack righteous anger or righteous outrage of the things… our neighbors being abused or aborted or oppressed? What would you say to the Christian who…?
Jen Pollock Michel: I would say that’s like a whole piece of our formation too. What spiritual formation means is like we learn to love what God loves and we learn to hate what God hates. And it’s both of those. And the only way we do that is reading Scripture. I really think because I don’t learn to love what God loves until I’m in the word and hate what God hates until I’m in the word and church. And I mean there are obviously other disciplines that are involved, but I think that’s a really good point because it’s really easy to sort of forget that’s the other side of the coin. Loving what God loves and hating what he hates. And if I am not hating injustice and oppression and violence and poverty and also spiritual alienation, like then I’m not yet, you know, walking in the heart of God.
Jackie Hill Perry: Yeah. I would imagine that being around people who have a response, even a visceral response to particular things, Christians that we love and know and trust being in their presence and asking them the why I think could show us why we don’t have that why. Why does my heart not respond to these kinds of things? Why do I not care and maybe that would help us all to become outraged about what we should be outraged about.