The Enigma of Anger: Essays on a Sometimes Deadly Sin. By Garret Keizer. Jossey-Bass, 363 pp., $22.95
Provocative, thoughtful and supremely useful, this book is a brave expedition to a place most of us would rather not go, the seat of our anger. Keizer is attempting nothing less than to restore anger to its proper place within Christian tradition as a God-given gift for combatting injustice and evil, a gift that turns into sin when we use it for any other purpose. I found the book to be a healthy and much-needed antidote to a slew of cultural orthodoxies: that we can "rise above" anger; that it's a "problem" to be solved, or talked out in therapy; that it is "always tied to an objective cause," and if we can just eliminate or escape from that cause, we can be at peace. These comfortable lies, Keizer asserts, are nothing less than a denial of our essential humanity as created in the image of God.
The book is laced with pithy observations that not only resonate with my own experience but push me toward a new understanding of my behavior, and that of other, sometimes angry people. A few examples: "Anger is often nothing more than a hasty judgment registered as a nasty emotion," "The recent phenomenon of road rage is a good example of the anger that results from exaggerated subjectivity," "Anger is constructive only to the extent that fear is reasonable," and my favorite, "Anger outbursts are the result of grief that never comes to sobbing." But these quotes can't do justice to the breadth and depth of this book. The contents page makes it clear that we are asked to consider anger in all its many guises: "Anger in the Lord," "Anger in the Head," "Anger in the House," "Anger in the Church" and "Anger in the World."