The Common Good

On Lamentation

You can search the internet and find post after post about the shootings in Aurora, Colo. Rightly so. We'll be talking about this for some time. It seems, though, that most of the conversation has been about gun ownership again. Who has the right to bear what kind of arms? One side is blaming the gun lobby for the severity of the crime. An opposing side is blaming Darwinism and the teaching of Evolution in public schools. Neither side has a whole lot to stand on. It's hard to blame ideas. We do it, but I'm not a big fan. I'm into blaming people not ideas. You cannot hold an ideal accountable for anything. People, on the other hand ...

Photo: Southern Stock / Getty Images
Photo: Southern Stock / Getty Images

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Another thread has also been winding its way through the morass of media: Lament. Nadia-Bolz Webber's sermon has seen some traffic. She sings alleluia in the face of tragedy as tears stream down her face. There's a similar post by a woman who was present at the shootings. She still praises God for God is mercifulShane Claiborne's post is about the myth of retributive violence. 

This morning I read and sang this canticle.

Come, let us sing to the Lord;
 let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving
 and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God,
 and a great king above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
 and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
 and his hands have moulded the dry land.
Come, let us bow down and bend the knee,
 and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture
   and the sheep of his hand.
 O that today you would hearken to his voice!

   Psalm 95:1-7 (Venite)

Then I lamented. I lamented the work of human beings to tear down what God holds in God's hands. I lamented that my friends in the peace movement callously sent a press release decrying the gun lobby within what seemed like moments after the smoke cleared in Aurora. I lamented the inane anti-Darwinian posture of other Christians. We're all looking for something to blame. We cannot simply sit in our sackcloth and our ashes and lament ... lament our own failure, lament the actions of someone raised in church, lament our inability to protect the innocent, lament our powerlessness.

We cannot and will not lament our powerlessness. We need to learn how. 

In 12-step programs the first half of the first step is to state that we're powerless ... over something. It's a lament, a lament that the past cannot be changed and that, try as one might, we cannot escape our addictions. Lament. Powerlessness. Such an admission hard work. But it's necessary work. It is the first step, the foundation of true repentance, forgiveness, and transformation. 

For these things I weep;
   my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
   one to revive my courage;
my children are desolate,
   for the enemy has prevailed.

Shouting at ideas is a form of rage. Hell, it may be a form of lamentation. Who knows? As long as we're willing to sit in it, dig a little deeper, and discover our own fear of powerless and how that motivates the diatribes it may be lament after all. Then, then we might begin to know how to come together and heal the wounds of this land. 

Cry aloud to the Lord!
   O wall of daughter Zion!
Let tears stream down like a torrent
   day and night!
Give yourself no rest,
   your eyes no respite!

Arise, cry out in the night,
   at the beginning of the watches!
Pour out your heart like water
   before the presence of the Lord!
Lift your hands to him
   for the lives of your children,
   who faint for hunger
at the head of every street.  

Then, then we might change our tune.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
   his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.  

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

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