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Beware the fellowship of the grievance

Christians must not go down a path that leads to destruction and death

Students shout during a protest near the Pantheon monument in Paris on May 3. Associated Press/Photo by Christophe Ena

Beware the fellowship of the grievance
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As we watch the unfolding drama play out on our college campuses, Christians would do well to learn one of the key lessons that the Lord is teaching us through this Great Unraveling: Beware your passions. As the Apostle Peter wrote 2,000 years ago, “Beloved I urge you as sojourners and exiles abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

We’re accustomed to think of the passions of the flesh as our physical appetites—lust and the like. But passions include all of our impulsive reactions, including desire, anger, fear, sadness, and pity.

It’s not hard to see the passions at play in the protests on our college campuses. The disciples of Saul Alinsky are attempting to deploy their degrees in Grievance Studies in order to steer the universities (and American society) into doing what they want. Our universities have brewed a toxic mix of empathy, competitive victimhood, and grievance mongering, and they are now being forced to drink it to the dregs (except in states where governors still believe in the rule of law, or where the frat boys get to the flag first).

So much is obvious and many commentators have ably dissected the leftist temper tantrums. But my reason for mentioning them is to warn Christians (and conservatives more broadly) from nursing our own grievances and indulging the passions of anger, frustration, and self-pity. As the fish admiral in Star Wars said, “It’s a trap.”

We must refuse to play the Grievance Olympics. For starters, the devil has already stacked that particular deck. Christians will never outcompete the professional members of the Fellowship of the Grievance. And even if we could, the judges of those particular competitions have all drunk deeply from the well of feminism and critical theory, and have thus buried justice and righteousness beneath a steaming pile of toxic empathy, sexual insanity, and weaponized pity. Unless you’ve completely abandoned yourself to your sexual appetites, you have no hope of medaling.

Not only that, but nursing grievances is tacky and pathetic. What’s more, it’s bad for your soul. As Peter says, the passions of the flesh wage war against your soul. Griping and complaining about the left is like drinking curdled milk. Don’t do it.

But if concern for your soul isn’t enough, remember this crucial truth: Aggrieved people are easily manipulated. Those enslaved to their own passions, including the passions of anger and grief, frequently find themselves dancing to the tune of hucksters and demagogues.

The financial model of most media outlets is built on stoking the passions of lust, fear, and anger.

In an age of social media and mass communication, this is a particular danger.  The financial model of most media outlets is built on stoking the passions of lust, fear, and anger (and often all three). They ensnare their audience through titillation, through fear-mongering, and through ginning up perpetual outrage at the latest dastardly deed of our political enemies. To put a point on it, powerful elites nurse the grievances of people in order to keep them in a constant state of agitation and victimhood, because agitated victims are steerable. They are a panic in search of a trigger, and they are primed to take the bait. So don’t be a chump.

Of course, this doesn’t mean denying the reality of wrongs. We ought to be clear-eyed about the injustices, trials, and challenges we face in our current cultural moment. But we ought to be equally clear-eyed about how God tells us to respond to such evils. We must not be surprised by them, as though something strange were happening to us. The world slandered Christ; why should his disciples expect any better?

We’re told that we are blessed when we’re insulted for Christ’s name. When they utter falsehoods against us and persecute us, we’re called to rejoice and be glad, because we’re in good company. We want to endure the hardships of the present moment in such a way that the Spirit of glory rests upon us, not the spirit of grievance. To be inducted into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings leads to resurrection and life. To wallow in the fellowship of the grievance leads to destruction and death. We may be wronged, but we must not see ourselves as victims. It’s through our tribulations, hardships, and persecutions that we are more than conquerors.

So to my fellow Christians, remember: The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Neither does the fear of man or the empathy of man, for that matter. Human passions are untrustworthy and must not be allowed to lead and master us. Instead, they must be governed.

And how do we govern our passions? By fearing the Lord, by turning away from evil, by cultivating gravity and gladness in God so that we have ballast in our boat to face the trials and temptations before us. No whining or grumbling. No griping or carping. No muttering or complaining.

Instead, we must be clear-eyed and hopeful, building our families, churches, and institutions, and then fighting the good fight and waging the good warfare as though Christ is reigning from heaven—because He is.

Joe Rigney

Joe Rigney serves as Fellow of Theology at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. He is the author of six books including: Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles (Eyes & Pen, 2013) and Courage: How the Gospel Creates Christian Fortitude (Crossway, 2023).

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