I can’t bear to watch the news these days.
GOP win in Massachusetts. (There goes health care reform).
Massive aftershock in Haiti.
Eight people in Virginia killed in a domestic dispute.
I know some of you will be appalled at my saying this: But I loathe much of what passes itself off as praise music these days. I’m not much in the mood for one of those little happy, sunshine ditties. God is good, yes. God is great, yes. Dance to the Lord. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Did you know that the largest single category of psalms is Psalms of Lament (e.g., Psalm 142)? Psalms of Disorientation. Psalms of Hurt and Hisappointment. Psalms of Grief and Outpouring of one’s pain. Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggeman, in an article entitled “The Costly Loss of Lament,” argues that by bypassing lament for praise we have become like “yes people” surrounding the one in charge, always speaking as we think we should so that we can stay close to power. This loss, leads to a faith that is unable to deal with the real, messy, paradoxical reality of life.
Of course, behind every lament is hidden praise. I rail at you God because I believed in your goodness. I scream in pain because in hope that you’re listening. I threaten to walk away trusting that you will come after me.
Admit it: The real point of a psalm like Psalm 42 doesn’t sing well in a praise chorus. So, Psalm 42 isn’t a psalm that gets much song time in our churches. Listen to some of it: “My tears have been my food day and night” “why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?”
I’m as guilty as the rest of leading the congregation in chants of “God IS good.” But looking around, sometimes God is so good to a few of us that God seems uncaring and cruel to the rest of us …
Don’t let me scare off some of my faithful readers with my unorthodox ramblings. (Experience has taught me that God can take criticism and honest inquiry; it’s humans who has no stomach for truth telling.)
I’ll just reach for one of those old long meter hymns folks usedta sing in the old church. Talk about wrangling with the Lord. You gotta appreciate the honest public debate and dialogue with God we see evidenced in some of the music produced back in the day. “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee.” “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.” “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.