Why we need lament: because no matter the bitter partisanship we have devolved to, we are nearing 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. These are lives lost. Young to old. Poor to rich. Across all ethnic lines. These are lives to remember. These represent families with deep loss in this time of pandemic.
The New York Times put the names of those lost on their front page this weekend. We lament lives lost. We lament with the families who remain.
Over the last couple of years I have toyed around with a book. I have a working title: “Living in Babylon.” Last year I sat down and put all my notes together so I could have some sense of what I had studied over the 2-3 years I had been picking at it.
As I write this, the United States has come to the cusp of 60,000 deaths from coronavirus. That is over the number of American lives lost in the entirety of the Vietnam War. In six weeks.
N T Wright brings such thoughtfulness to his writing and this piece is a must read in our time. We think that surely our faith brings answers to big questions like these. Wright’s contention is this: Christianity isn’t supposed to do that.
There is a podcast I listen to on a fairly regular basis called “Pass the Mic.” It’s two younger black Christians, one working on his PhD in history and the other a pastor of a church, who reflect on theology and the issues around Black Christians in American society.
The weariness of terrorism and racism in our news last week can exhaust us. There are times when we truly wonder: How long, O Lord?”
The psalm in my reading this morning gives me a reminder on perspective:
“You love evil more than good; you love lying more than speaking what is right. Selah You love all destructive words; you love the deceiving tongue. But God will take you down permanently; he will snatch you up, tear you out of your tent, and uproot you from the land of the living! Selah”
Lament isn’t always soft… or done in time to get to lunch.
Lament is brutal because the soul has been assaulted. It is a crying out in pain because in that moment… in that time… there is nothing else to do.
Lament is personal. Lament is communal.
America doesn’t do lament. But we need to.
Lament is deep in my soul because “the system” failed the family of Philando Castile this week. Lament is deep because among the friends I have there is a sense of, “Here we go again.” And “reason” doesn’t help. “Statistics” don’t help.
The soul has been assaulted.
Lament needs a space in our community. The hurt needs to fly out of the soul and those nearby need to stand aside and let it happen. Instead… we judge. We judge because we think that’s not what WE would do… or a “civilization” would do.
Black or white, lament needs to fly out of the soul and allow the pain to have a way to exit. And it won’t make sense a lot of the time.
I was with another family this week who suffered the loss of a teenage girl. There were a lot of “F” bombs. A lot of bad theology. And it was loud.
And I wept with them. I sat with them and let the soul cry out.
There are feelings we have in the moment that ultimately may or may not be true… but in that moment have a sense of truth. The soul has been assaulted.
My soul has been assaulted in a tragic loss this week. My soul has been assaulted in a tragic court decision.
And in this moment, I am at a loss to say, “Trust the system.” In this moment… I do not “trust the system.” The system keeps failing minority communities. And, quite honestly, that system may end up failing the very law enforcement community it was designed to try and help.
In this moment I am not going to say, “Now… protest nice, y’all.” Not in this case. Philando Castile was compliant that night… and he is dead. A bad cop (and that doesn’t reflect on the meaning that he can also be a “good person”) was ill-prepared for the job and he is home. And free.
The soul has been assaulted. And lament needs to flow.
For now… let it. There isn’t a “right way” for this to happen.