This blog explores and examines the intersections of rhetoric, race, and religion.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
The Modern Need for Lamentations
Twenty first century readers of the Scriptures are likely uncomfortable with the book of Lamentations and its stories of weeping, groaning, and grieving. But, the act of lamenting is not unique to biblical Israelites.
Today’s world is full of lament-worthy situations. One need only turn on the nightly news to hear countless stories from places like Detroit, Michigan and Camden, New Jersey – plagued by record foreclosures, abandoned buildings, corrupt government officials, and boarded up businesses – to understand the devastating impact of high unemployment, increased crime, and precarious civic finances that have taken a toll on communities. Further, the country’s working poor earn wages that are so meager they have a hard time providing basic necessities for their families. Many cannot make ends meet without help from public assistance programs, which ultimately leads to feelings of despair and a decreased sense of self-worth. Modern readers also lament over:
The chilling statistic that 2.5 million persons, individuals like Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, are victims of kidnapping and/or human trafficking throughout the world.
The possibility of participating in yet another war which weighs heavy on the hearts and minds of Americans who have already watched countless mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, spouses, partners, and assorted loved ones march off to serve as part of our military only to return limping on crutches, sitting in wheel chairs, or laying in flag-draped boxes.
It is no surprise the Book of Lamentations is unpopular even among Bible enthusiasts. Its title, authorship, and images are troubling. Few who read the Bible for devotional purposes seek spiritual uplift from laments. The title alone may explain why. In all my years of attending church services, I have yet to experience a sermon built upon the Book of Lamentations. Despite its lack of popularity, Lamentations models the importance of acknowledging dreadful situations in today’s modern society.
Our world is full of lament-worthy circumstances, and this oft-forgotten book highlights a critical element of the lament process: hope. More importantly, the theology of Lamentations affirms the importance of giving voice to our feelings of despair.