About five years ago a Finnish video game designer sketched a flock of over-sized leg-less birds. Among other things, these birds were both round and red, equipped with large and yellow beaks, thick eyebrows, and intense (slightly deranged) expressions on their faces. While the video game designer refused to laud his creation at the onset, the preliminary sketches were eventually presented to the leadership of Rovio Entertainment, and the cross-eyed angry birds were deemed to be totally irresistible. As a result, in December of 2009 a game for mobile phones inspired by the drawings was released to the public, under the affectionate name of “Angry Birds.”
Since the initial appearance of Angry Birds more than five years ago, it has since become a mobile phone phenomenon, with more than 2 billion downloads recorded worldwide (and counting). The game currently registers more than 200 million minutes of play each day, and due in part to such astounding popularity, parents can be found making Angry Birds cakes and Angry Birds Halloween costumes, stores offer Angry Birds toys, Mattel is working on an Angry Birds board game, and in the near future there will be an Angry Birds cartoon series and likely a full-length Angry Birds feature film. Through it all, because Rovio Entertainment provides countless global citizens with hours of enjoyment, the Angry Birds brand has become the single largest mobile phone application success the world has ever witnessed.
While Angry Birds has produced a massive monetary windfall over the past few years, the game has endured a significant level of controversy, especially in recent months. In January it was revealed that Angry Birds was a “leaky application,” as it was used by the National Security Agency and Government Communications Headquarters to collect private data about its users, such as residential location and sexual orientation. According to numerous online and print media investigative publications, the private user information of Angry Birds users was leaked through the application itself and collected by government authorities and private retailers for detailed analysis (under the stated purpose of research and national security). In the midst of it all, the incriminating evidence revealed that Angry Birds was a massive privacy hazard, as the Rovio Entertainment application allows the intimate details of its user identities to be stolen and even sold.
Although Jesus of Nazareth did not live in an era of mobile phones, apps, and Angry Birds, he most certainly dwelled in a time when there were plenty of harsh actions, ethical traps, and angry words. In other words, just as “leaky applications” in the 21st century allow identities to be hijacked electronically, so did angry deeds and unethical chat in the 1st century (and every era since). And so, while Jesus embodied the pursuit of justice for the oppressed and marginalized, he also spoke often about the ways in which angry thoughts, angry actions, and angry words corrode their container to the point of decay. In doing so, Jesus told his followers to put anger aside and be reconciled with one another and for one another in the pursuit of life in community alongside one another. Jesus taught that whatever begins in anger typically ends in remorse; when we act with anger we often create situations that we soon regret; and perhaps most of all, Jesus revealed that the consequences of anger are often far more serious than its perceived causes.
While our world is filled with outpourings of pain that can water seeds of anger, we cannot overcome such pain through that which often first creates it. Jesus reminds us that although injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, anger anywhere is ultimately a potential creator of more injustice everywhere. The road of reconciliation and transformation cannot come through indignation, but it must be paved by the empowering seeds of peace. While we may be drawn to fight anger with more anger, and although we are tempted to face oppression and negligence with violence and rage, we affirm that the love of God liberates what our anger incarcerates, and through God’s grace-filled action we may confidently and nonviolently participate in peacemaking reactions. In doing so, not only do we cooperate in restoring that which anger has left broken, but we step into a future that embodies God’s dreams for the world, and perhaps most of all, we live into the sacred identities that God first dreamed for us to fulfill.
The time to boldly journey into such life-giving living is upon us, for despite all the evidence to the contrary, what begins with a single drop of water placed on a solitary seed of peace can grow into something remarkably divine, and we all have opportunities to ensure that it will.
Rev. Brian E. Konkol is a Chaplain of the College at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.