As oil spews from that environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, news media (there’s a generic term) are reporting that the President of the United States is under fire for being too calm. His critics and even some supporters want him to show more emotion, more outrage over the situation.

“Outrage” is a common word in many news leads these days. It used to be mere “anger,” but now it is outrage. Even my favorite news anchor Mr. Nice Guy (Brian Williams of NBC) describes this story or that one as the public, or the Tea Party, or politicians being outraged about conditions, decisions, reports — that are, on some level, disturbing.  Or, disappointing. Or, frustrating. The word outrage is often just an example of the hyperbole necessary to get the attention of an audience that is busy eating, texting, chatting, and watching (or listening) to the news. If the anchor said that voters were disappointed over an act of Congress, well, ho-hum. But if voters are OUTRAGED! —  well, now you’ve got my attention, and I’ll stick around to hear not only that news item, but maybe even hear Sally Field tell me she has only one body, or wait to see if that couple winds up holding hands in the two bath tubs by the lake at the end of the next commercial.

The problem with the use of the word “outrage” is that it has so many synonyms that were apparently rejected when the news story was written. The verb form means everything from “offend” to “displease,” and from “ruffle” to “make one’s blood boil.” But we want the drama of outrage. And we don’t want our President to be “ruffled.” We want his blood to boil!

(An aside…maybe:  The thing is, that if he had reacted with blood a boil, if he had let his emotions rise to the level of most radio talk show entertainers, then his critics would warn us that the man is somehow unstable, hot-tempered, and un-presidential.)

I am saddened (not outraged) that the level of discourse in our land is such that we must rile, offend, incense, and/or infuriate those to whom we speak or with whom we converse. Those aforementioned talk show “hosts” have perfected the art of enraging our neighbors with sheer volume and shrill voices, giving credence to the old saw that if your argument is weak…raise your voice! The virus has been passed to our elected representatives and to those who attend public meetings to shout their “outrage” to anyone who will tolerate it.

Now we want the President to join the party. Well, not me.

I don’t remember a lot of what I was taught in seminary. After all, it’s been many. many years. But I recall one preaching class when fellow students were to critique one another’s sermons. I had just preached mine, and one classmate commented that, while my content was acceptable, even helpful, I didn’t seem to have much passion in my delivery. His remarks were probably on target. My delivery was less than dramatic. The professor for that particular homiletics section was William Oglesby, whose specialty was pastoral care. He admitted that the student critic had made a helpful point, but then he cautioned us all with this statement: Some folks are just a little more quiet by nature. They are like gentle lambs, and they have their own good gifts. Their sermons can be quite effective.

From that day on, whenever Dr. Oglesby passed me in the seminary hallways, he’d greet me by saying, “Hello, Gentle Lamb.” I treasured that appellation, and the man who christened me with it.

There is far too much anger in the land these days. Way too many angry people. Too outraged for their own (or anyone else’s) good. Passion can be expressed in quiet ways, and even anger can be channeled into positive directions to effect change.

But outrage? Ask your doctor.

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