I started listening to Rob Bell’s podcast during my newscation since the election. The Lamentations mini series from May is just right for right now.
The book of Lamentations is 5 poems in the middle of the Bible that express the human experience. It was written after the devastation of Jerusalem about 500 BC. As Rob Bell explains “When you suffer, literal language often fails you.” Lamentation poems use images to express what they are feeling.
Here are a few Bell statements from the first of five episodes:
“Lamentations is naming what is wrong–naming the pain and giving expression to the injustice.”
“If you are lamenting you are still alive. You are still in the game.”
“To lament is to refuse to be silent. Rip open your rib cage and let it out. To expose and name whatever is out of order in God’s world.”
In the US we live in a culture that denies reality. We invest in plastic surgery to deny time and aging. We keep quiet when we should blow the roof off this thing. Lamenting may disrupt things because to lament is to feel your full humanity.
In all of the people of the book faiths there are people who teach extreme quietism, that is we need not do anything but pray because God/Allah is in control. And you could interpret Lamentations as a way to pray through your anger. I respectfully disagree. Prayer is essential. And public lamentation is also important to give expression to the suffering at a societal level. This is why I support the Black Lives Matter movement, and I am spending my time and money to participate in the Women’s March on Washington to affirm women’s power.
And if you are a Christian who celebrates Advent, consider this modern Lamentation-like devotional.