I am a big Billy Joel fan. I find his music well written and his lyrics an incredible use of culture and language to communicate meaning. I also wish he was on the side of Christianity so I didn’t have to appreciate his talent but not his message. One of the things I appreciate about his music is his ability to communicate the existential zeitgeist of our culture founded in the industrial revolution and broken open in the sexual revolution of the last century.
One of his songs, Prelude/Angry Young Man, I think speaks to a deep reality in our culture of life breaking the spirit of young men. Here is the song (warning–it has a long prelude and an instance of mild language):
When I hear this song the words that resound to me are:
I believe I’ve passed the age
Of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving
Was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too
I had my pointless points of view
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right
And then I think of Jesus. What if this had been his attitude? Compare the words about an “angry young man” from Michael Card.
So the question I pose is this. Is anger the problem or is it the direction? Do we want to train anger out of our young men, or get them angry about the right things? After all, it wasn’t a happy-go-lucky Jesus that sat outside the Temple, wove a whip, and used it to quite literally drive the money changers out of the Temple.
This is where I think Chip Dodd, in his book The Voice of the Heart, really helps out. He places different emotions in a column and on one side is their correct or godly outpouring, and on the other is the harmful outpouring. Anger can come out either as passion or as depression. This point is illustrated well by the two songs above. Billy Joel’s message is to just survive. Michael Card’s message is to passionately pursue God’s wisdom even when people think you are crazy. So God’s call for young men is not “Don’t be angry”, but instead “Be angry and do not sin.”