By Aria Dunham
In April, I had the pleasure to interview Ian Punnett one day before the release of his book, “How to Pray when You’re Pissed at God”.
Of course, I had to ask him, “When was the last time he was [you were] pissed at God.”
“Fair question,” he replied, “considering that from an author’s standpoint, one would expect that they begin with themselves to write for others.”
I couldn’t agree more. It’s no small wonder that Ian’s book is rising to the top of Amazon’s reading list just 2 weeks after its release. Lots of people agree and as heads nod, pages are turning to figure out what to do about the growing anger that is infiltrating our society.
Just days before his book was placed on bookshelves every where, our nation experienced the Boston bombing, the Texas accidental explosion, and now the release of 3 women held captive in a home for over 10 years. Discrimination against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and the break down of the American economy and family have lots of people pissed, at each other, at the world, and at God. In fact, what is starting to make more people angry is blame shifting to the general populace by claims that the judgment is from God due to loss of Christian principles and a Christian nation fallen asunder. Amidst the massive onslaught of crime and lack of morality rather than turn faces towards heaven in prayer, people like David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox Star Big Papi shake fists in the air threatening their own actions to protect peace and declare war against peace breakers. The face of heroism is that of Jason Collins and people who are not “religious” and lately the religious right is considered exceptionally wrong and books released placing God on trial -vs- humanity.
Non Christians question Bible thumpers every where– “If God exists where is He?” and “If God is good, why does He allow so much evil? and “What about all that child abuse and divorce in your own Christian churches. Clean your own houses before telling me how God is going to protect people who don’t believe in Him on the street.”
Suddenly, Christians feel the heat and hostility rising as their right to religious freedom of expression made national headlines post Florida Atlantic University’s controversial suspension of a student –a Christian attending a secular institution refused to follow his professor’s lesson to step on a picture of Jesus. Now, Christians and people of faith are asking the same question, “Where is God?”
There is no stopping the unfortunate realities of tragedy in our world–the outcome is people feel angry, and not only do people feel angry…but they are pissed, and they are pissed at God.
For 10 years I’ve worked with Christian writers and pain is commonly used by Christian writers writing to connect with their audience. The belief is that pain brings people TO God and by sharing painful experiences healing and hope are found. A wound that came from an experience can created a false belief, and eventually anger at God. Often the pain first lead to silence, and then the silence lead the person to words, and words became the place of expression to reach out and make connections to the world. Yet, what makes books of this nature difficult to sell is that they sound “preachy” and fail to connect on a deeper level. And in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for that!” (Is it any wonder then that most new writers begin their first book as a self-published a memoir?)
“What can anyone do who is feeling pissed off during these times?” I asked him. The question has merit and now the hell’s heat is here without any grace for those who preach it in their churches.
The advice is applicable to any situation where powerful emotion is affecting your ability to be honest with yourself and honest with others.
Here is the advice Ian gave to our listeners.
1. Prayer is not a force field around people. Bad things happen to all people and prayer doesn’t control the world.
2. Everyone struggles with anger but the answers must come from within. Pain is private and personal.
3. One of the biggest obstacles to that inner journey is honesty with self.
(Ian suggests that the first step any person who is angry to anyone is to decide whether or not there is a willingness to change. He shared that sometimes a person actually is comfortable with their anger because it promotes lack of forgiveness.)
4. Ian advices if you’re angry and pissed at God (or anyone else for that matter) then you might as well just say it because you are already thinking it, and He already knows it.
5. Anger dealt with leads to better health. Statistics show that people who pray live longer. Just get it out of your system.
6. People of faith get angry just like people who don’t believe in God.
7. Most atheists are really protest atheists and will not pray at a God that they are angry with.
8. Prayer can work on all sorts of levels–privately and corporately. The type of prayer you begin with must start with you, but the point is to just start with honesty and admitting that you feel angry.
9. The point isn’t whether or not your feelings are legitimate, the point is getting to a place of honesty with the Divine. God can handle anger, and can sort out what is the right thing to do. He doesn’t hold our anger against us, but instead the goal is authenticity in relationship with self and the Divine.
10. When things get weird we express the wrong things to the wrong person, and will also come out in our relationships with God.
11. It is scientifically true that any meditative state allows our body systems run better.
ABOUT IAN PUNNETT is one of the hosts of Coast to Coast AM, a legendary radio show syndicated on almost 600 stations across North America and a deacon in The Episcopal Church who received his Masters of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
When things really go wrong, what do you do with the feeling that God is to blame? A popular Coast to Coast radio host (and Episcopal clergy) provides some answers. In a first of its kind book, Ian Punnett provides a spiritual path for expressing your rawest emotions through prayer and how to rebuild a relationship with one’s higher power–or anybody else in your life.
In this important and practical book, Ian Punnett provides insight on feeling anger and resentment toward God and offers advice on how to deal with the pain and blame that accompanies these emotions. In a book that is edgy, timely, funny and compassionate, Punnett presents real help in everyday language for transforming the negativity of anger into a positive and useful force that will ultimately help us pray more effectively, bring us closer to God, enhance our spiritual relationship, and change the way we live and love others.
After a divorce, a broken friendship, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or even the accumulation of all the tiny cracks in our spirit from life’s disappointments, it’s easy to feel pissed at God. When anger is left unchecked, it is harmful to our minds, bodies and souls.
“How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God is not “the last word” on angry prayer,” Punnett writes, “but it might be the first words you have ever heard on the topic. By the end of the book, it is my hope that you’ll understand the role of anger in our lives, the benefit of honest prayer, and the need for honest, angry prayer in the lives of the faithful and faithless.”