Throughout the scriptures there is a theme of corporate grief. We call it lament. It’s a grief that, though experienced differently by individuals, holds a common communal thread. It’s a unifying experience in the midst of the rest of the world seemingly shattering in more directions than one could possibly gather to put back together again. From plagues to exiles to occupations, the Hebrew people know this experience well, and thus Scripture gives us ample lament material. It’s a motif resulting in national fervor and single-minded experience.
But what happens when the world becomes globalized, and suddenly we are barraged with nuances and complexities that redefine the corporate experience?
When sorrow and politics intertwine with a side of theology we use our favorite platforms for commentary. For many, this is a way of processing all the information coming our way at a rapid fire pace. It allows for a “thinking out loud” if you will. Good things come from participating in the marketplace of ideas, but judgment is also cast that can inhibit our relationships. My commentary on a national/global issue forgets the local, personal effect.
This past year has seen a heightened conversation on racial tension in America. Each headline on the matter has its corresponding conversations. From police brutality to citizen compliance, from heritage to symbols, from stricter gun control to taking up arms, from religious persecution to terrorism. from #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter, the conversations are as endless as they are polarizing. Facebook and Twitter are full of articles from the New York Times and the blogger next door. Yet somewhere in all the noise, caught up in the issues, we lose sight of each other.
This past week, in the latest edition of the racial tension saga, Sandra Bland died mysteriously in police custody. There may only be one or two people on the planet who know what happened to her, but far more have an opinion on her death. Yet in the midst of this chatter, I noticed a simple post from a friend asking for prayer as his church held a service to grieve the death of his classmate. He KNEW Sandra Bland, and could recognize her not as an issue but as a life. Her death, whatever circumstances, was tragic and he needed space to grieve. Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann calls the dismissal of lament “ the loss of genuine covenant interaction.”
We don’t have to agree, but we do have to function as one body. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, even as much as our freedom of speech. Maybe that looks a little bit like holding a safe space for each other to lament the things going on in our world, to lift each other up and learn from each other’s experiences.
May our political platforms not bring such a chilling effect on our neighbor that they are forced to grieve outside of the community of believers.
May the Mom with a child suffering from mental illness not be shunned by our comments on the latest mass shooter.
May the father of a wounded solider not shoulder the burden alone as we grapple over defense spending.
May the student who is afraid of what might happen if her brother gets pulled over not be too afraid to lift this concern in Sunday school because of what her Sunday school teacher posted this week.