Commentary on the Costly Loss of Lament

Brueggemann’s article “Costly Loss of Lament” states boldly that the loss of lamentations among the church or by the church causes psychological and sociological harm to mankind. While I still have to do some research on Winnicott’s Maturational Processes and the concept of “False Self”, there are too many assumptions and a distinct limitation on the Divine that I simply cannot agree with.

When the author stated the “proper setting of praise is lament resolved”, my first question was why? Why can praise not come from joy? He later expounds that praise has been limited to joyous and thankful situations within both the life of the church and the liturgy, and apparently feels that this leads to the practice of denial, cover-up and pretense which sanctions the social contract.

Having studied law, the social contract, contrary to Brueggemann’s assertions, governs the treatment and contract between men, not between God and men. It assumes a level of incivility inherent in all men and governs their outward actions towards one another.

Apparently, comparing mankind to a child within a state of development whereby not asserting one’s own sense of authority and “omniscience” (wasn’t aware that was one of man’s gifts), if we do not question or challenge God, both to our state of existence and our unhappiness with the situation, all we are able to develop is a false faith, based on praise without reality. Now, being one who regularly asks questions of God, but out of a sense of need for my own edification, knowledge and understanding, and certainly not from a sense of challenging God, I have no idea where I’d stand in Brueggemann’s hierarchy of development. In his opinion, “lament helps to create enough distance from the parental aspect of God that one can have a mature, responsible faith.”

[As a complete and total aside, I apparently have more than a little problem with people who repeatedly use the term “Yahweh”, when they even acknowledge that the text uses “Adonai” or “Lord”. If you want to emphasize the tetragrammaton, then use it! And if you just want to piss people off by using a non-word, you’ve succeeded. I have to wonder if I’d have gotten so irritated with this article if he’d have used “Lord” or even “God” in place throughout.]

Throughout the article, Brueggemann never gives any credit or thought to the concept that God gave man free will, or that men generally create their own hells on earth through their decisions, actions and choices. Lamenting your lot in life, that often times, you’ve created yourself, and then expecting God to fix it is akin to whining to your parents that you’ve made bad choices, and would you fix it please? The “obligation” to fix things should not lie with God as a measure of mature faith, but rather should lie with yourself, as a measure of being a real-live, grown-up human. This, of course, does not mean that one cannot petition the Divine for assistance in that endeavor, and should generally be preceded by an acknowledgement of one’s own actions and choices that got you where you are.

When discussing Psalm 109, the author uses the term hesed to mean “steadfast love”. My understanding through my own studies with Jewish rabbis is that hesed is the attribute of masculine nature, yes, filled with love, but also still, silent and non-moving. It is the need for the inclusion of gevurrah that is actually acting upon things. Oddly enough, that is the embodiment of the feminine. So I need to look at that more fully.

In the comparison of Psalm 109 to Psalm 88, Psalm 109 doesn’t describe the experience of an overturned decision by God, but rather assumes it will/has happened (timelessness of God, again) and goes into a thanksgiving to God over it. Psalm 88, on the other hand, has no portion of thanksgiving because either the writer has stopped believing and trust God, or they have accepted that this is God’s (not man’s) judgment. They’re not happy with it and find no need to be thankful for it.

Lastly, the entirety of this article challenges the omniscience of God by stating that the created must cry out in order to move heaven to act. If we believe that God is both omniscient and outside of time, then we also must believe that God knows what is in our hearts and minds, knows how He will/has respond/ed and that Heaven will “move” when it is within the plans of God. No matter what man manages to do, God turns it into an advantage for advancing mankind.

The one aspect Brueggemann brings up that is an interesting concept is that of the laws governing guests. In Psalm 39, the author identifies himself as being a guest, and one that is temporally short in God’s eyes, on this creation of God. As a result, the laws of hospitality should apply, and God is therefore responsible for fixing the problems of His guests. That might actually be a concept worth exploring.