How ‘Angry Young Men’ Grow Up

This afternoon I had the sudden hankering to listen to some of Billy Joel’s music. I discovered on Spotify a live album I didn’t know about (actually an expanded re-release of his), and one of the tracks that stuck in my head was Prelude/Angry Young Man, originally off of his 1976 album Turnstiles.

I blame my father (and by ‘blame’, I mean ‘thank profusely’) for my love of Billy Joel’s music, especially from 1974’s Streetlife Serenade to 1983’s An Innocent Man. I borrowed Dad’s Billy Joel CDs enough for him to ask me where they were on a regular basis. I’m not sure whether he ever actually got all of them back.

‘Angry Young Man’ is a great, fast-paced track. I don’t know if it’s because ‘angry young men’ seem to rush about here and there, , or if it’s just because Billy Joel wanted to do an awesome, fast-paced song–either is fine with me. It’s no surprise that it stuck in my head, but it was weird when I paused the album and drove to the gas station, where, after pumping gas, the same song starts playing over the intercom system. (I don’t know who programs the music for RaceTrac gas stations, but I approve.)

Either God or the universe is trying to tell me something, or I’m just grasping at an interesting coincidence to give myself an excuse to write something. I’m fine with either.

There’s a place in the world for the angry young man
With his working class ties and his radical plans
He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl
And he’s always at home with his back to the wall.
He’s proud of the scars and the battles he’s lost
He struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.

Give a moment or two to the angry young man
With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand
He’s been stabbed in the back, he’s been misunderstood
It’s a comfort to know his intentions are good
He sits in a room with a lock on the door
With his maps and his medals laid out of the floor
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.

I don’t know if Joel is referring to anyone in particular here, but this song seems timeless to me. It could almost apply to the modern Social Justice Warrior as much as it could the anti-war protesters of the 1960’s.

The third verse changes to something self-reflective:

I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage,
I’ve found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too, had my pointless point of view
Life went on no matter who was wrong or right.

I thought this was interesting on a personal note. Joel has passed through the fire of the 1960’s and grown up a little, mellowing out a little.

Billy_Joel_-_TurnstilesThe ‘angry young man’, however, didn’t learn a thing:

And there’s always a place for the angry young man
With his fist in the air and his head in the sand
He’s never been able to learn from mistakes
He can’t understand why his heart always breaks
He’s honest and pure and has courage as well
He’s fair and he’s true, and he’s boring as hell
And he’ll go to his grave as an angry old man.

I missed my time to be an angry young man, which is probably a fortuitous thing. I didn’t encounter any ‘radicals’, as far as Christians can think of themselves as radical, until I was into my thirties and out of college.

How To Avoid Becoming An Angry Old Christian

By that time, I was too old to mix with them effectively, though I could admire their youthful zeal and encourage them as much as I knew to do, even though what they were doing was misguided. I don’t blame these young ones–the ‘International House of Prayer’ is a tricky place that you can’t quite call a cult; it’s more of a commune with teaching that appears well-grounded in Scripture at first.

It took the revelation of grace to get me out of IHOP and out of all these ‘prophetic’ movements. I hope that the folks I left behind won’t grow into angry old men and women, disappointed that Christ didn’t come in their lifetime, expecting a revival movement and a rapture that never came.

The way to prevent becoming an ‘angry old Christian’ is to get free.

The book Raptureless got me free of the obsession with the end times. Once you discover that all of the ‘end times’ scriptures were already fulfilled, it opens you up to some incredible freedom. All of a sudden you discover that you don’t have to live on eggshells, waiting for an angry Jesus to pop out and catch you doing wrong. This is huge.

The revelation of grace–Christ setting me free totally from the power of sin–took a while. Here are a few books that helped me:

Desire Found Me by Andre Rabe
Adventures in Christ by Andre Rabe
Divine Embrace by Francois du Toit
Saints in the Arms of a Happy God: Recovering the Image of God and Man by Jeff Turner
Hyper-Grace: The Dangerous Doctrine of a Happy God by D.R. Silva
Mirror Bible by Francois du Toit
Mystical Union by John Crowder
Cosmos Reborn by John Crowder

Once you’ve discovered just how free Christ has made you, I’ve found there’s another step, sort of: connecting with Christ within. Separating yourself from the idea of ‘Christ above there somewhere’ and connecting with ‘Christ in me, the hope of glory’–I am really enjoying this. The book that is currently amazing me–every page hits home directly, and it’s fantastic–is Inner Anarchy: Dethroning God and Jesus to Save Ourselves and the World.

How To Avoid Becoming An Angry Old Voter

Now that I’m in my late thirties and getting more and more involved in politics, my current issue is avoiding becoming an angry old voter. This year I discovered two important things:

  1. There are more than two issues at stake in every election (abortion and gay marriage), and
  2. Republican politicians have lied to evangelicals for years, probably a few decades, as long as I can remember, about these two things, in order to get into office.

The thing about Evangelical Christians, like I mentioned the other day, is that we are absolutely terrible at politics. White Evangelicals are duped to vote Republican because once we find the politician with the right stance on abortion and gay marriage, we’re done! Vote in the primary (if you get one), vote in the election, and the rest is up to God, right? Unless a Barack Obama gets into office, and then a little cognitive dissonance sets in: either it is God’s will to get an anti-American activist into office, God has abandoned America to judgment, or…or what?

The ‘or what’ is where Evangelicals have failed. Some of us have leaned more to the left, some more to the right, but I think that most of us missed the point:

Christ within us.

I’m not talking about Christ in everybody–I don’t understand to what degree Christ is present or not in unbelievers. I am talking about the presence of Christ within Christians. The Holy Spirit, all of the power and the entire ability of God himself, living within us.

With all that is going around us in the United States, there is only one way to know how to proceed if you want to stay involved. You can withdraw from the world, but I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work. You still have to work. You still have to interact with people.

And me, I can’t help but be involved. There’s always been an activist inside me waiting to get out, but I haven’t figured out yet how to channel that inner activist…

…oh wait, I have–I have the Holy Spirit living inside me. So I always know where to go. I don’t know all of the plan, but I know a little bit, enough light to see the path directly ahead of me.

The rest of it is just living life, sorting through the day’s events, seeking out which direction to go. Do I want to become a teacher? Should I move into politics? How do I proceed? I know I want to have an impact on future generations. I want to see young lives rescued from the grasp of the extreme left (Marxism, Socialism, the SJW mentality, the sense of entitlement–there’s so little sense taught in American colleges these days) and restored to some sense.

I don’t know how to proceed, but I know I need to keep writing, keep reading, keep watching the news…and take time to recharge all along the way.

In Conclusion

How do you grow up from an ‘angry young man’? Learn about grace and get connected with the presence of God. He’ll keep your mind and heart flexible and open to new things: new experiences in him and new experiences in the world. You learn to gain perspective. You learn to love even the craziest people.

I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage,
I’ve found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too, had my pointless point of view
Life went on no matter who was wrong or right.

We grow up when we learn grace, and allow God to expand our consciousness so we gain a sense of perspective. The anger disappears, so it can be effectively re-harnessed for good later on. It’s a wonderful feeling. Don’t allow yourself to become an ‘angry old man’. Abide in the presence of God and remain happy and young inside.

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