The Outrage Cycle

So I was on Facebook the other day perusing some threads on a ministry group that I’m a part of. One thread was all about the crisis in Syria and the possible actions by our government. You can imagine the discussion — sadness over the loss of life, indignation at a government’s use of chemical weapons against their own people, worry over impending war and opinions on the dynamics of pacifism and redemptive violence.

And then it happened. Very similar to what Jon Acuff would describe as a “Jesus Juke“, someone completely hijacked the conversation.

“I share the outrage over the thousands of lives lost in Syria. But are you aware that 1.2 million children are murdered in the US every year from abortions?! We’re worried about thousands overseas. Millions here don’t even get a blink!”

I had to visit the chiropractor from the whiplash. Who in the heck was talking about abortion? I’m not even done getting upset over this issue and you want me to be upset over yours? Can’t I at least have a break?

5579556110_9bcd60bfc4Nope, not in this religious climate. It seems like every time I hop online it’s just as bad as turning on the evening news. Everyone is asking me to be upset about something. “Look over here! Here’s something evil! No, wait – something much worse is coming! And it’s right in your neighborhood! Outrage! Anger!”

I’m not sure my outrage meter can keep up.

Now let’s be straight here. There are terrors and evils and tragedies in this world. It can be a dark, dark place to call home. There is pain, disease, inhumanity and all types of hells no matter where you look. And each of these is cause for concern. I believe that Jesus would care about each and every one of these things. He would be there with people in their pain and run to help the mistreated.

And so should we. But that’s where the rub is for me.

Because just like the news media, so much of our Christian culture seeks to keep us in an outrage over the latest pet issue. And so our outrage keeps finding new things to be pointed toward. So I effectively move between one global crisis and another, rarely staying focused very long. While I may throw some money over here or buy a bracelet to support a cause over there, I can’t care about one issue long enough to actually act for good in any situation before being called to outrage at another.

We end up with a bunch of outraged Christians who care about lots of stuff, but rarely care enough to actually do something significant about ONE of these things.

Or more specifically: Instead of being with the hurting and outcast, my backside remains firmly planted in my chair, waiting to focus my outrage on the next big thing. Because that makes me feel like I’m doing something, when most of the time, I’m really not.

I’m caught in the outrage cycle.

Trevor had a beautiful post yesterday about persevering in our journey. His quote from Joan Chittister has stuck with me:

It is what we do routinely, not rarely, that delineates the character of a person.

And I express my outrage much more routinely than I actually help people. It’s a cycle that I need to break. Maybe you do, too.

So the next time something comes across your Facebook feed or email inbox that calls you to outrage at the latest evil in the spotlight, take a moment to consider action. You may feel moved to help or you might just pray for the peace and love of God to reign.

Look at your church, your neighborhood, your school. Someone around you could use your love and kindness and mercy much more than your outrage. Even Jesus didn’t help every single person out there — just the next person he met.

Let’s all get off our butts and do some actual good. Let’s break the outrage cycle and invest in love around us. I think it would make the world a better place.

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