Daily Riches: ‘Please Don’t Mention the Dysfunction’ (Walter Brueggemann)

“The second loss caused by the absence of lament is the stifling of the question of theodicy …the capacity to raise and legitimate questions of justice in terms of social goods, social access, and social power. …It is now noticed and voiced that life is not as it was promised to be. The utterance of this awareness is an exceedingly dangerous moment at the throne. It is as dangerous as Lech Walesa or Rosa Parks asserting with their bodies that the system has broken down and will no longer be honored. For the managers of the system – political, economic, religious, moral – there is always a hope that the troubled folks will not notice the dysfunction or that a tolerance of a certain degree of dysfunction can be accepted as normal and necessary, even if unpleasant. Lament occurs when the dysfunction reaches an unacceptable level, when the injustice is intolerable and change is insisted upon. …The lament/complaint can then go in two different directions. …the complaint can be addressed to God against neighbor [or] addressed to God against God. …the issue is justice. …the petitioner accepts no guilt or responsibility for the dysfunction but holds the other party responsible. …The claims and rights of the speaker are asserted to God in the face of a system that does not deliver … with the passionate conviction that it can, must, and will be changed. …When the lament form is censured, justice questions cannot be asked and eventually become invisible and illegitimate. …A community of faith that negates laments soon concludes that the hard issues of justice are improper questions to pose at the throne, because the throne seems to be only a place of praise. I believe it thus follows that if justice questions are improper questions at the throne … they soon appear to be improper questions in public places, in schools, in hospitals, with the government, and eventually even in the courts. Justice questions disappear into civility and docility. The order of the day comes to seem absolute, beyond question, and we are left with only grim obedience and eventually despair.” Walter Brueggemann

justice is perverted”
Habakkuk 1:4

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Do you believe “the system has broken down?”
  • Are justice issues “improper … at the throne?”
  • Have you settled for “civility and docility?”
  • Do you believe things “can, must, and will be changed?”

More: The Psalms, Patrick Miller, editor


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

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