“There are so many ways of being despicable that it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.” James Baldwin
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” J. Baldwin
“Lament in the Bible is a liturgical response to the reality of suffering and engages God in the context of pain and trouble. . . . [In his book, Soong-Chan Rah] contended that the modern American church has over-elevated praise, which he called triumphalistic. Churches that are triumphalistic . . . elevate stories of success, gravitate toward narratives of exceptionalism . . . , emphasize problem solving, and are marked by a can-do attitude backed by a belief that human effort and positive thinking can conquer the big problems we face. Though there are some redemptive themes in the triumphalistic approach, its dark side is its inability to grasp lament. . . . American culture tends to hide the stories of guilt and shame and seeks to elevate stories of success . . . which results in amnesia about a tainted history. The reality of a shameful history undermines the narrative of exceptionalism, so it must remain hidden. . . . Suffering, tragedy, oppression, and pain are everyday realities for most of the earth’s citizens, and an inability to cry out and grasp for the presence of God in the midst of that suffering is a recipe for hollow spirituality. . . . Without a theology to support lament, we become paralyzed in the search for balance [between praise and lament] and often turn back to the triumphalist narrative as a crutch. . . . We’re conditioned to celebrate those who experience success and triumph while screening out the message of those who suffer. We too often become ‘one who sings songs to a heavy heart’ (Proverbs 25:20). We’ve been groomed to search for quick and easy answers to complex problems, and we rarely have the ability to appreciate the act of crying out to God in brokenness and pain.” Daniel Hill (discussing Soong-Chan Rah’s book Prophetic Lament)
Moving From Head to Heart
*Imagine how it feels to have your voice screened out when you’re hurting. . . . perhaps at your own church. . . . in the very country where you live.
*Did you ever imagine during worship, that you might be increasing the pain of others by “singing songs to a heavy heart?”
*Can you allow your history books, family stories, and local/denominational church histories to give an honest account of your nation’s story? Is part of you refusing to grieve that story?
O Lord, teach me to weep with those who weep.
For More: White Awake by Daniel Hill and Brenda Salter McNeil
Thanks for reading my blog! Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.