I'll likely tease out my thanks at some point below, but in case I get distracted, I want to start by thanking Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson, Ekemini Uwan, Jemar Tisby, Tyler Burns, Russ Whitfield, Mike Higgins, Michelle Alexander, Jill Allison, Mika Edmondson, Duke Kwon, Bryan Stevenson, Rachel Denhollander, Soong-Chan Rah, Sherman Alexie, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Most are people of color, many are women, and most have a deep Christian faith, though a few struggle with or outright disbelieve the gospel. All have advocated for justice, and every one of them has suffered deep injustice. I have read or listened to some of their voices more than others in the list, none of them as much as I should, and I still need to find more voices of experience and reflection different from my own. For that, I will need to engage face to face with new people and their experiences, but that is a discussion and post for another time.
For now, I will focus on what they have taught me about lament. Broad evangelicalism in America is generally ill-equipped to consider, much less practice lament. Within that, our own strand of Reformed Christianity actually has good categories and a decent heritage of practice, but robust and full-orbed lament has been neglected for generations in most our majority-culture churches. Frankly, we have been too comfortable to be bothered by it. In our Reformed justifications, we use our not-yet-mature views of what we mean by "grace" as a shortcut to every comfortable facet of the gospel: celebration, freedom, hope, and rest. I have too often read and rehearsed Scriptural lines that describe tears traded for laughter while ignoring, glossing over, and reinterpreting the calls for God's people to return to mourning. Calls like the one found in James:
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Taking someone else's wise advice, I have spent the last couple of years giving more focused attention to people with cultural experience very different from my own. I expected to be informed, and I was, but often and powerfully these folks have let me eavesdrop on their own lament. In this, they have invited me to try it on.
In their laments, and especially their calls to act, most, if not all of the Christians in my list above have been attacked and had their orthodoxy, their faith, their integrity, and their motives questioned.
Pick one or two, and find a place to start reading or listening; if you want help, email me, and I'll be glad to point you toward or tell you more about their work.