I watched last night’s State of the Union and I have to say that from a public speaking perspective I thought it was a good speech. President Obama is an accomplished speaker. Many of the commentators noted the change in tone from previous speeches. The President has often been criticized for being too cerebral or professorial, and last night he was obviously attempting to head in a different direction by tapping into the frustration and anger felt by many in our country.
That’s understandable. Anger can be a big time motivator towards action. Apparently, anger at the Bush years swept Obama into power and anger in the last year has put this new president on his heels. The emotion of anger also makes for good television. That’s why the news media will always cover those shouting the loudest. To hear the media tell it, America these days, on the left and on the right, is one giant cauldron of boiling rage.
I’m not sure what percentage of Americans is actually angry, but I have a suggestion for those who are: Take a mission trip. Get out and serve the less fortunate. See if you can stay angry (at least stay angry in a self-righteous or self-focused sort of way). Last night, five of the teenagers in our church reported on a recent trip to Gora, Ethiopia. There they encountered people who truly live day to day, some on as little as $700 a year. The teenagers were surprised both by the poverty but also by the joy they discovered in the people who lived on so little. “Maybe we don’t need everything we think we need,” seemed to be a common lesson learned.
Interestingly, last night, there was not an ounce of teenage angst in that room. Instead, these young souls abounded in gratefulness. Yes, they had a renewed sense of thanksgiving for all the things in their life that they once took for granted. But you got the sense that their new found gratefulness went well beyond that. In fact, you could sense a great discomfort about how much they each owned compared to their new friends a world away. No, their gratefulness seemed to reach beyond the stuff they possessed to a deeper understanding of their purposes in the world. They were ultimately grateful to discover that God had invited them to participate in bringing about his coming Kingdom of love and grace, a Kingdom in which everyone has seat at the table and enough on their plate.
Angry, today? Try joining God on his mission of love and mercy.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love – Psalm 103:8