Did you know that outrage has become a recreational activity?  When I was watching a clip from a popular podcast on YouTube this week, the person being interviewed made a reference to “recreational outrage”.  I was like, “what”?  I didn’t know it was a thing.  You know, outrage for fun.  It’s all the rage.  You can do it anywhere, but it’s especially popular online.  Social media, including comments sections on websites, are the arena for prime time “recreational outrage”.  Most media is actually designed for that purpose, and fertile ground for outrage, conflict, and fear.

There are “internet trolls” or “recreational outragers” who post inflammatory, insincere, false, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses, or manipulating others’ perception for fun.

I’m not sure if I would call it fun because “recreational outragers” are serious about it.  We can take our recreational activities and hobbies very seriously.  How many times has conflict or outrage broken out in a friendly game of basketball or church softball?  Outrage is a competitive contact sport, it’s not just “harmless fun”, and even online people get hurt.

You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time online to recognize it.  Like me, you’ve probably been sucked into it without even knowing you were “recreationally outraging”.  Even though I avoid RO (Recreational Outrage) most of the time, I’m still tempted to go online and tell “them” a thing or two.  “I’m going to straighten these people out.  Just wait until I start typing.  They won’t know what hit them.”  I’ve jumped into the “recreational outraging” arena a few times only to realize that I’ve wasted valuable time and energy on something that was a complete WASTE OF TIME!  Why? Because the person on the other end wasn’t interested in my POV (point of view), they just enjoyed rattling my cage.  From what I’ve seen, “recreational outraging” doesn’t really solve anything.  In many ways it makes things worse and can spill or overflow in to every day life.  Our outrage doesn’t just stop when we turn our devices off.  Look up the Tennessee vs Mississippi game last weekend for an example.

The purpose of outrage is to “arouse fierce anger, shock, or indignation in someone”.  Basically, it is picking a fight.  To antagonize, instigate, or provoke are closely related.

Back in the mid 90’s, I took a group of teenagers to see a minor league hockey game in Atlanta.  One of the kids in my youth group, who was about 13 at the time had mental disabilities, and occasionally he would do some harmless abnormal stuff.  Everybody loved Brad.  We understood him.  If anyone messed with Brad, his friends made sure they only did it once.  Well, at the hockey game some rowdy spectators sitting behind us started making fun of Brad.  They were enjoying it.  They were “recreational outragers”.  There is another word I could use to describe them, but this is a Christian devotional and I can’t type that.

These guys were laughing and giving each other high fives after each joke thrown in Brad’s direction.  They were trying to provoke a response.  Fortunately, Brad didn’t really understand what was going on, but I did and I wasn’t very happy about it, neither were Brad’s friends.  After a few minutes, I asked them politely to stop.  Of course, they didn’t.  They wanted to see if we wanted to play along, and join the fun.  I will admit that I did take a quick glance to size up the competition.  But, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do.  I was outnumbered and didn’t really want to get into a fight in front of my youth group.  It’s not really a great ministry strategy.  There was the whole “Jesus love your neighbor, enemies, and peacemaker thing” to think about.  Plus, this group of kids was looking to me as an example of Christ likeness, and there was also the possibility of getting arrested to consider.  I mean it was a hockey game and fighting is okay in hockey, right?  I’m kidding of course, but in my flesh I wanted them to pay for how they were treating Brad.

Fortunately, it was close to the end of the game and there was an arena attendant near by that kind of saw what was going on.  He moved a little closer to diffuse the situation and it worked.  We were able to avoid any serious altercations.  But that’s what these guys behind us wanted.  They wanted to pick a fight.  It was a recreational activity.  It was fun.

“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”  Galatians 5:26 NIV

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”  James 1:19 NIV

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, to one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV

I especially like the wording from the English Standard Version (ESV) in Ephesians 4:31-32.  Being “tender hearted” is looked upon as a weakness in our culture, and walking away from a fight is considered by some to be cowardly.  But, It takes greater strength to show self-control than to loose control.  If I would’ve chosen to engage in “recreational outrage” with those jerks at the hockey game, it might have been an extreme adrenaline rush, but I would have destroyed my credibility with those kids. Recreational outrage just isn’t worth it.

One of the things that are most disappointing is when Christians, including myself, not only engage in “recreational outrage”, but many times we throw the first punch.  Since most recreational outrage is done in the public arena there is always collateral damage.  Someone is always watching.  There are times to speak up, but we have to be very careful about how we do that.  As Paul says, we need to be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak”.

Recreational outrage is also an “extreme” sport, like the X games or skydiving.  Its purpose is to push things to the limit, to be on the edge.  It may be an adrenaline rush, but extremism in any form is inherently dangerous and destructive.  Like other recreational activities, outrage has become very popular and it’s, well, outrageous.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist, but there is a reason I threw that in there because outrageous means “shockingly bad or excessive”.  Outrageous behavior rarely wins anyone over or changes hearts and minds from any point of view.

While it’s tempting and even fun to engage in the extreme and outrages behavior of our culture, the Lord has something else in mind, an alternative recreational activity for us to engage in.  We can even wear it like a jersey from our favorite team.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12-14 NIV

Love y’all!  Have a great weekend!

Weekly Devotional by Robby Morris, Director of Family Ministry & Facility Coordinator @ Andrews UMC.