A Lament

For The American Church

Edited by Drew Friesen

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Burden

By Amar D. Peterman

Published September 1st 2020

The proclamation “Jesus is Lord” is self-elegy, a burial hymn, a funeral dirge. Our faith testifies to the reality of dying to ourselves and being raised again in Christ Jesus. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

[D]o you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

- Romans 6:3-7

As an evangelical Chrstian, I lament the ways in which we have failed, time and time again, to truly love our neighbors. 

 

As the Church, we have failed to preach a Gospel of dying to ourselves. The prophetic truth of the Gospel, the story of our God who emptied himself and took upon the form of a servant, has been replaced with the good news of political dominance and cultural clout. 

 

We have embraced exclusivity and  tribalism rather than building bridges to mend the chasm of polarization. 

 

We have equated God’s work in our world with the election of a political candidate.

 

We have turned a struggle against evil into a war against our culture. 

 

We have made the “other” into our enemy. 

 

We have ignored the suffering of our Black brothers and sisters and replaced longsuffering with platitudes and euphemisms. “All lives matter.” 

 

We have not listened to the land that we have taken and abused. We do not hear the cries arising from the dirt, from the dust we were first formed from. 

 

We have used our privilege to uphold systems and structures that have dehumanized and traumatized our own brothers and sisters for generations and generations.

 

We have dismissed the voices of our brothers and sisters who have been emotionally and physically abused by those with great power and those placed in spiritual authority. 

 

We have claimed God’s Holy word as inerrant and infallible, only to uphold racist theology, white supremacy, and anti-blackness. 

 

We have characterized our faith as a one that may pervade American culture, but we have not allowed Christ to permeate our very being. 

 

We have rightly advocated for life in the womb, but have failed to address the lynching of Black men in the street, the immigrant child at the boarder, the asylee fleeing from danger.

 

We have recognized and denounced Black theology, Latinx theology, Liberation theology, and the like; but we have refused to acknowledge the existence and pervasive nature of white theology. 

 

Blinded by whiteness, we do not recognize how our Savior was lynched, crushed by the weight of Roman imperialism — put to death without justice. Instead, we were the one who have lynched black bodies outside of our steeples. We brought our families and children to gawk at the horrors of being Black in America. A warning to all who dare enter our sanctuaries and places of worship.

 

In return we have refused to acknowledge that our God is one of radical justice. A God who freed his people in Egypt and continues to free his people from the bondage of sin today. By the way of the cross, he has proclaimed freedom for the captive. He has taken our burden so that we may take his yoke, which is easy. 

 

We have painted Christ with bristles covered in shades of white, along with the saints and the angels and the cherubim. We have made our triune God into our image, our likeness. We have committed idolatry. 

 

We have refused to give real power and equity to people of color in our pews, on our staff, and in our board rooms. 

 

We have turned our churches and institutions into modern sharecropping — allowing BIPOC folk to do the work of ministry, yet measuring any important decisions by the values and beliefs of wealthy white trustees, elders, and donors.

 

I lament how feeble our faith has become in America. 

 

I lament that we are not known by our love, but by our political tribe. 

 

I lament that hospitality has been traded for hostility.

 

While joy and redemption may come at dawn, in this moment of darkness we weep, we struggle, we cry, “How Long, O Lord?”

 

May we confess our sins to Almighty God. May we reckon with our past so that we may be released into the new possibilities of tomorrow. May we confess and publically repent of our individual and systemic sin. May the Lord bless us and keep us near Him. May he who is able to keep us from stumbling allow us to stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy and make us into the image of his Son through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

May the Lord, in his mercy, hear our prayer:

 

Lord, have mercy!

 

Christ, have mercy!

 

Lord, have mercy on us!

________________________

Footnotes:

            Editor's Note: For more on the subject of lament, Amar D. Peterman has written on lament: 

https://www.ideos.is/ideos-writes/category/The+Long+Obedience+of+Lament

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