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Mad as Hell

July 8, 2016

"Last Words" by Lori Slaymaker-Stahulak currently on
display at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” (Network, 1976)

This line came to me yesterday from a movie I saw 40 years ago. It made an impression on me then and I have never forgotten it. A suicidal news anchor is on live television and goes “off script” as he describes the state of the world:

“I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad . . . and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it . . . We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy.” 

The newscaster refers to an economic depression, to unemployment, and crime in the streets. He doesn’t know what to do about all of these things, but he does know that nothing can happen until people get mad, really mad. He tells the television audience to get up out of their chairs, to go open their windows and scream to the world, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”  And they do!

You must know what precipitated my memory of this exclamation and provoked anew, the seething, helpless rage that so many persons have been feeling for a very long time. It was the police killing yesterday of Philando Castile in Minneapolis on top of the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge early Tuesday morning. And, then last night we learned about snipers killing 5 police officers in Dallas during what had been a mostly peaceful protest against police violence. 

I am “mad as hell” and I am not alone. In late August, as the seminary community begins to come back together with the beginning of the fall semester, I will appoint a representative working group of students, staff, faculty, and administrators to identify more intentional, institutional responses that Garrett-Evangelical can make to these killings and to the systemic variables contributing to them including issues of racism, police brutality, and matters of gun control.  At the very least,

  1. let us in our worship life together pray consistently lamenting these tragedies, and interceding for the families, friends, perpetrators, and communities directly involved,
  2. let us renew the posting (prayer list) in the chapel of the names and ages of those killed by violence in Chicago,
  3. let us gather in small groups for theological reflection and ethical debate regarding our various responsibilities as Christians called to love our neighbor,
  4. let us begin an intentional writing campaign to our local leaders and to leaders across the country demanding more meaningful and transformative action,
  5. let us work strategically with local seminaries, clergy, inter-faith organizations, and with our United Methodist seminaries across the country,
  6. let us join in partnership with the Northern Illinois Annual Conference to work for justice, and,
  7. let us mentor our field education students in becoming prophetic leaders for our partner congregations.

It is imperative that we pray and worship, that we lift up our voices, that we teach and learn from each other, and that we take considered action.

In the words issued yesterday by our alum, Bishop Bruce Ough, “Let us together pray that God will work through us to bear witness to Christ’s call to reconciliation and justice, and to bring healing to a fractured community and a broken world. As we pray for peace, let it begin with us.”