Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court has unleashed once more, extraordinary scenes of rage. The screaming tantrums, irrational and lurid accusations, and the wild eyed protests reveal a disturbing rage bordering on insanity.
What are the roots of this rage?
First it should be acknowledged that sexual assault is real, and anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault knows that the wounds are raw and the trauma is difficult to overcome. There should be compassion for genuine cases of sexual assault–whether they are inflicted on women, men, boys or girls.
However it is much more complicated than simply blaming sexual assault. Indeed, sexual assault is rarely simple. The dynamics of sexuality include so many variables of circumstance, intention, social factors, personality types and motivations that most every case has layer upon layer of complexity for both the victim and the perpetrator of the crime.
Sexual assault is itself a shifting definition–it can be anything from a pat on the backside and a lewd comment to indecent exposure, bullying and violent rape. Furthermore, various people survive sexual assault better than others. One woman will brush off the pat on the backside and the lewd comment with a slap on the hand and a wisecrack, “Mind your language you dirty old man!” while another woman will suffer trauma and rage at the demeaning treatment. One young man touched and leered at by a homosexual predator will laugh it off and tell the creep to get lost. Another guy will have a genuine crisis of confidence that lasts for decades.
My point is that not everyone gets so upset over sexual assault that they collapse into an irrational frenzy or rage. Therefore the roots of rage must be more complicated and deeper than this one (albeit serious) issue that sparks the rage.
Furthermore, it is not just women who are concerned about sexual assault who are on the warpath. Within American society rage simmers beneath the surface in a varied range of individuals. There is white, middle class rage as well as African American rage. There is LBTGTQ rage and heterosexual rage. There is right wing rage and left wing rage. There are rich people who are full of rage and poor people who harbor rage.
Because of this, I believe there are other factors at play. There are deeper roots of rage. and the surface issues–whatever they may be–are simply the catalysts. Since the rage is irrational, I suggest that the roots of the rage come from the irrational part of our personalities.
In my book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing I explore the roots of our emotions and suggest that our adult emotions are rooted in the earliest experiences of our lives. Here’s an example: I was once asked to help a fifteen year old boy who had suddenly become irrationally angry and rebellious. He had been a sweet looking kid, sang in the church choir and had been delightful. At fifteen he became a “Goth”. Black hair, black leathers, eye make up…the works. He also started stealing cars. We asked him why he did so. He didn’t know. We asked if he knew that he would go to jail. He did, but didn’t care. He was in a tailspin, and there was no rational explanation. He said he was mad at his Mom and Dad and found external reasons, but they were all groundless.
In an attempt to discover the roots of his rage we asked him mother about his early years. She said he was adopted, and that he was conceived in the back seat of a car when his mother was fifteen. She carried him for nine months in an attitude of rage, frustration, rebellion and hatred. The other priest I was working with realized that in some strange way the boy was acting out not just his own rage, but the rage and rebellion of his mother. He was working through and acting out (according to the priest’s theory) the disturbing circumstances that lay at the very foundation of his personality
The first experiences of life take place while we are still in a sub-linguistic and sub-rational existence. For the infant, and certainly for the unborn child, life is nothing but a stream of emotional and instinctive stimuli and reactions. We exist in those pre-rational and pre-linguistic years in an emotional and instinctive soup, and the reason this is important is that just as in these early years our mind and body is forming, so our emotional life and emotional resources are forming.
This is why God ordains that we are conceived in a moment of self giving and beautiful love between a man and a woman, and that this conception takes place within the sacrament of marriage so it is also blessed and inspired by God. Likewise, the first nine months in the womb are to be a time of peace, health, love and happiness for mother and child. As the child receives nourishment from the mother, so he also receives love, confidence and peace. These contribute to a healthy and confident child. If the atmosphere is also one of spiritual nurture, prayer and worship, then the child’s spiritual life also receives a healthy and confident foundation.
What happens though, if those happy circumstances are not in place? What happens if the child is conceived in rape or in a moment of drunken “hooking up”? What happens if the child is carried for nine months in an atmosphere of hatred, worry, anger, rage and fear? I believe the foundation of the child’s life is therefore one of rage, fear, lack of trust and violence. The root of his rage as an adult is at the very foundation of his or her personality. Outward circumstances are only the fuel for that rage. The rage will be there and will find a focus.
Are we surprised that our society simmers with an undercurrent of rage, violence and fury? For fifty years now we have witnessed increased promiscuity, break down of marriage, disintegration of faith, abortion, disruption of community life and the decay of the extended family. Children are born into broken homes, conceived in rape and drunken-ness and drug addiction. When they are born they are shoved into day care and ignored by parents, and now we have repeated the pattern into the second and third generation.
Do not misunderstand me. This is a complex matter. I am not saying every child who is adopted will be a criminal or that every broken home must be a place of hopeless dysfunction and despair. Nor am I saying that the racial, sexual and economic tensions can simply be blamed on promiscuity and broken homes. The social problems are real, and should be addressed and furthermore, I see the same symptoms of rage and fear in families that are not of a racial minority, are well of financially and seem to be functional on the level of social niceties.
I am speaking of the deeper sickness of the human heart–the lack of love which causes fear, which in turn causes anger and rage. Then when young men and women do search for the love they so desperately desire they are caught up in the battlefield of the sexual revolution. Seduced by pornography, drunken promiscuity, co habitation and serial sexual relationships, their hearts are hardened to protect themselves and their hardened hearts prevent them from committing to the long term relationship that is needed for the fragile flower of true love to flourish.
Their hearts broken and wounded and hardened…no wonder they react with rage. It is easy to see the howling, yowling protesters as big babies. I do so with compassion. I see poor, forgotten, abandoned, abused children crying out in anguished rage.
Furthermore, I am speaking of the heart’s great wound–the longing not just for human love, but for the unconditional love of the Great Father. The message of the Christian gospel is that the wound can be healed. The broken heart can be restored. The sin can be forgiven. The darkness can be banished by the light.
But for this great wound to be healed there must be a constant turning to God and a constant sacrifice offered for the healing of the nations. Only as that sacrifice is offered and lived and the Divine Love is seen to be alive in the world can our broken hearts and our broken world be healed.
Is this possible? Yes. I have seen profound healing through prayer, loving support of the Christian community, the sacraments and the rosary. However, it is not magic. What is required is great faith, hard work, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a gentle, perseverance in first understanding the roots of rage, then opening the heart and mind and the memories to the forgiveness and healing of Christ. Sadly, there are far too few competent priests, healers and counselors who are familiar with this theory and method. The demands are huge. The numbers who can help are few and far between.
Too many priests are totally ignorant and suspicious of the healing ministry. Too many counselors dismiss the spiritual and emotional dimension. Too many of those who do believe in Christian healing are cranks and charismatic kooks. Nevertheless, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the healing prayers of the church individuals can be changed, and the only way we will change our world is for Christ to change one person at a time.