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This year 2018 I read two books by Dr Rah The Next Evangelicalism and Prophetic Lament Of the 100 books I read this year, Next Evangelicalism was in my top 2 Prophetic Lament was one of the most disappointing I found Lament to be a stretch It seemed to be an applying of our current circumstances back into scripture instead of vice versa I found it repetitive and lost interest 1 3 of the way through but pushed through to the end I think much of this would have been solved if he didn t feel tied to working chronologically through the book of Lamentations It would would have been far powerful to build a case from across Scripture of the need for lament However, I DO think Dr Rah s own prophetic voice is a helpful correction to American Evangelicalism and I am very thankful for him I agree The triumph and success orientation of our typical church member needed the corrective brought by stories of struggle and su ering. Summary A commentary and exposition of the book of Lamentations that advocates for the restoration of the practice of lament as part of the worship of American churches, particularly majority culture evangelical churches.Have you every experienced terrible suffering, or terrible loss, or have witnessed horrible events such as have dominated our news of late and been deeply moved to turmoil and grief that cries out to God, or even the four walls around you, how long Now, when was the last time that you did this as part of a service of worship in your church, if you regularly attend one Soong Chan Rah contends that this was an important part of the worship life of ancient Israel that has been lost in many of our churches in North America We focus on triumph and victory and success We see problems and we go around the world to solve them And we begin to believe we are the answers to the world s problems whether they be the problems of the inner city or the problems of the countries in the majority world.Rah contends that our celebration and praise must be balanced with lament He writesWhat do we lose as a result of this imbalance American Christians that flourish under the existing system seek to maintain the existing dynamics of inequality and remain in the theology of celebration over and against the theology of suffering Promoting one perspective over the other, however, diminishes our theological discourse To only have a theology of celebration at the cost of a theology of suffering is incomplete The intersection of the two threads provides the opportunity to engage in the fullness of the gospel message Lament and praise must go hand in hand Rah seeks to redress this imbalance by an exposition part of InterVarsity Press s Resonate series of the book of Lamentations, a book attributed to the prophet Jeremiah Rah contends that in addition to Jeremiah, the book incorporates the voices of the sufferers left behind in Jerusalem after the Babylonians destroyed the city walls and took into exile the best and the brightest and the wealthiest of the city What were left were women, children, the elderly and other marginalized people to mourn over the death of their city and the loss of loved ones as they struggle to survive.The book is organized according to the five chapters, or laments of the book, with several chapters devoted to each lament Chapter 1 mourns the death of the city Chapter 2 struggles with what it means that all of this has come about by the providence of God Chapter 3 which is three times as long as the other chapters forms a climax to the lament and calls us into deep identification with the suffering Chapter 4 reminds us of the hollowness of all human achievements in the eyes of God Chapter 5 concludes with a corporate lament that looks to God for answers even when their don t seem to be any answers.Along the way Rah provides textual and historical insight into the book, discussing the dirge like character of these laments, appropriate at the funeral for a city, the death of a vision of national greatness He helps us understand the acrostic structure of the first four chapters, including the threefold intensification of this pattern in the climatic chapter 3 Perhaps of greatest value is that Rah helps us identify some of the voices of the marginalized, particularly the women who have lost husbands, perhaps children who often are the voices of suffering.Perhaps the greatest challenge of the book is Rah s pointed applications of the book to the American church, particularly dominant culture, white evangelicalism We have failed to listen to the voices of lament around us, from the native peoples robbed and subjugated and exterminated and marginalized, from African Americans forcibly enslaved, raped, lynched, and then freed to live in a racialized society, and other poor and marginalized in our society Instead of taking their laments to heart and understanding our own complicity and our own paradoxical enslavement to hate and privilege, we deny the problem, or plant our own urban churches or give handups which assumes a certain superiority What we do here, we do around the world, instead of acknowledging the riches of every culture and our partnership with other believers We make enterprises out of even our justice ministries while failing to face either our cultural or political captivities.Lament is the place we come to, according to Rah, when we realize that none of that is really working, when even our well intended efforts contribute to the inequities of the world and that we are deeply impoverished in the midst of our affluence It is a place of both repentance and the grace of God.This is an uncomfortable book, and like Rah s The Next Evangelicalism reviewed here , an incisive critique of American evangelicalism Don t read this if you are looking for a feel good book But if your heart aches because of the predominance of violence and hatred despite so much progress, if the glitzy celebrations of your church life don t seem in touch with the ragged realities of our land, and if your stomach turns with the pronouncements and alliances of some of our religious leaders, then a book on lamenting and making the prayers of Lamentations our own might be timely It was for me. @DOWNLOAD E-PUB º Prophetic Lament ⚞ Missio Alliance Essential Reading List Of Hearts Minds Bookstore S Best Books Of , Social Criticism And Cultural EngagementRELEVANT S Top Books Of , Non FictionEnglewood Review Of Books Best Books Of , TheologyWhen Soong Chan Rah Planted An Urban Church In Cambridge, Massachusetts, His First Full Sermon Series Was A Six Week Exposition Of The Book Of Lamentations Preaching On An Obscure, Depressing Old Testament Book Was Probably Not The Most Seeker Sensitive Way To Launch A Church But It Shaped Their Community With A Radically Countercultural Perspective The American Church Avoids Lament But Lament Is A Missing, Essential Component Of Christian Faith Lament Recognizes Struggles And Suffering, That The World Is Not As It Ought To Be Lament Challenges The Status Quo And Cries Out For Justice Against Existing Injustices Soong Chan Rah S Prophetic Exposition Of The Book Of Lamentations Provides A Biblical And Theological Lens For Examining The Church S Relationship With A Suffering World It Critiques Our Success Centered Triumphalism And Calls Us To Repent Of Our Hubris And It Opens Up New Ways To Encounter The Other Hear The Prophet S Lament As The Necessary Corrective For Christianity S Future A Resonate Exposition Of The Book Of Lamentations I ve been looking forward to this for a while both because I loved The Next Evangelicalism Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity and because of a deep interest in the subject at hand and while I did enjoy it, it wasn t necessarily what I had hoped I think my expectations had been a general exploration of the practice of lament and the theology behind it, as well as the implications that it has and the role it serves within prophetic justice work While that is certainly present, it felt in some way peripheral to the exegetical work happening here, as if the core was the commentary and analysis of Lamentations I did appreciate the way that that element provided some thoughtful framing for his ideas, but at times it also seemed to force redundancy and restrict Rah from going in a intuitive or meaningful direction My other hangup with this text was how thoroughly rooted it is within Reformed theology This likely won t bother many Christians, but as someone recently exploring Process theology and finding fresh air from that I found myself continuing tripping over his assertions and getting tangled up, distractingly so, in the implications Rah does a better job than most at presenting a theodicy justifying the claim within Lamentations that it is God who causes the destruction that catalyzes their lament by connecting it to the Covenant While this is a cohesive framework and he reiterates a few times that it reveals the trustworthy fidelity of God, I couldn t help but cringe at the notion of people begging for help from the very One who caused such devastating destruction I read this directly after Proverbs of Ashes Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search For What Saves Us and imagined a misbehaving child begging her father for help after being abused by him, and while Rah goes to lengths to differentiate God from a capricious and fickle human it doesn t manage to totally do away with those vibes For me, this theodicy ultimately breaks down when Rah presents Ferguson as a modern day parallel to Jerusalem of Lamentations I was thrilled to see him addressing what has transpired there, but the implication which Rah does not name, but exists is that, within a covenantal framework, the Black people suffering in Ferguson have failed to uphold their end and are being punished by God for that His articulation works excellently, if somewhat coldly, when addressing the people of Jerusalem who had committed sins of hubris, injustice, idolatry, and the like and thus found themselves punished in retribution by a just God But when it is the historically and contemporarily oppressed Black community of Ferguson on the receiving end of such devastation, how can they find comfort in a God who is sovereign over their suffering How can Rah escape the implication that those who find themselves immersed in unjust suffering those liberation theologians consider uniquely favored by God are not covenantal failures being punished by an unflinchingly just God Even in spite of that tangential critique, I still consider this book immensely valuable perhaps not always the most engaging or enjoyable to read, but an incredible resource and a necessary corrective to today s status quo within the American white suburban Church I particularly appreciated his scathing critique of the insidious triumphalism that runs rampant in white suburban theology and practice, as well as the considerable variety of specific manifestations of that that Rah names with truth telling boldness. A powerful work challenging the triumphalist narrative of modern American Evangelicalism and a call to recover the lament traditions of the Bible through an exploration of Lamentations both in context and in light of modern American experience.The author rightly exposes the overwrought emphasis on praise and triumphalism in much of modern Christianity it s all positive and successful all the time, and that s not life, and that s not even the lived experience of many Such triumphalism cannot bear the exposure of the witness of those who have suffered or been oppressed so as to sustain that triumphalism The author never denies the place or importance of praise instead, he seeks to balance praise with another prevalent form of discourse in Scripture, the lament.To this end the author leads the reader through a study of Lamentations, which he believes is Jeremiah s response to the destruction of Jerusalem The author does well to show the power, value, and need for the lament tradition, and how it works He speaks of the need to identify that which needs to be lamented, to confess the sin and expose it as such, for as long as the corpse is not identified as such it will continue to cause the room to smell of death He has no difficulty specifically identifying the legacy of racism and white supremacy in American Evangelicalism as something needing confessing and lamenting and has pointed out the rotten consequences of the attempt to minimize, hide, or justify past behaviors which demand lament American consumerist culture also comes under indictment The author continues on through Lamentations, noting the importance of both individual and communal lament, recapitulation in lament, the reason and ground of hope and trust in God, and the ability to persevere in faith through persistence in lament There will be the great ending when justice is served, mercy is displayed, and life is found in resurrection, but there s no guarantee that the lament will have to stop while we are on the earth Lamentations, as the author says, ends in a minor key, and the kind of resolution we all desire and the comfort from that resolution are not guaranteed in this life The lament penned in the epilogue regarding Ferguson and other travails of the early 21st century is compelling and haunting.This is no doubt a challenging read, especially for those who are white Christians nevertheless, it is a powerful and important read, and worthwhile to sit in its discomfort Highly recommended. Powerful and challenging This book felt very different from a lot of the rhetoric that s out there now in Christian circles, and I m really thankful that a friend sent a copy to me out of the blue Our aim with this distinctive genre series of commentary and insight is to have one finger in the ancient Scriptures, another in the daily newspaper and another touching the heart, all the while pointing to Jesus Christ 15 Paul Louis Metzger, book series executive editor Shalom, therefore, does not eschew or diminish the role of the other or the reality of a suffering world Instead, it embraces the suffering other as an instrumental aspect of well being Shalom requires lament 21 Old Testament scholar Claus Westermann situates the Hebrew poetic material into two broad categories praise and lament Westermann asserts that as the two poles, they determine the nature of all speaking to God Lament in the Bible is a liturgical response to the reality of sufering and engages God in the context of pain and trouble The hope of lament is that God would respond to human suffering that is wholeheartedly communicated through lament 21, quoting Westermann s Praise and Lament in the Psalms, 1981 To only have a theology of celebration at the cost of the theology of suffering is incomplete The intersection of the two threads provides the opportunity to engage in the fullness of the gospel message Lament and praise must go hand in hand 23 The first three verses of Lamentations remind the community why lament is necessary a national tragedy has occurred 32 Life continues even as a community struggles with its place and identity Escape from the reality of a fallen world is not an option 34 With their embrace of dispensationalism, evangelicals shifted their focus radically from social amelioration to individual regeneration Having diverted their attention from the construction of the millennial realm, evangelicals concentrated on the salvation of souls, and in doing so, neglected reform efforts 37, quoting Bruggemann s The Psalms and the Life of Faith, 1995 American churches are not supposed to struggle, and they are not supposed to decline, so we believe American ingenuity and know how will solve these problems 43 Withdrawal from the world or accepting simplistic answers reveals human effort or human problem solving, while lament acknowledges who is ultimately in control In the midst of a crisis, Lamentations points toward God and acknowledges his sovereignty regardless of the circumstances 43 the proper response to a broken world lament 43 Lament is an act of protest as the lamenter is allowed to express indignation and even outrage about the experience of the suffering The lamenter talks back to God and ultimately petitions him for help, in the midst of pain The one who laments can call out to God for help, and in that outcry there is the hope and even the manifestation of praise 44 Jeremiah 29 addresses the exiles in Babylon, while Lamentations is written to the remnant in Jerusalem The exiles in Babylon are susceptible to false prophets who promise them what they want to hear the hope that they will soon return to Jerusalem To them, the devastation of Jerusalem is a physically distant reality However, those remaining in Jerusalem are confronted with the painful and visible reality at hand Lamentations is written to this remnant who witness this devastation A funeral dirge is necessary because the dead body of the city lies before them 45 Even if God s people wanted to close their eyes and shut out the suffering around them, Lamentations won t allow it 46 Lament is honesty before God and each other 47 Our nation s tainted racial history reflects a serious inability to deal with reality Something has died and we refuse to participate in the funeral We refuse to acknowledge the lamenters who sing the songs of suffering in our midst 47 Lamentations 1 provides a truthful telling of the dead body in the room 50 drawing connection to the US and racism A contemporary funeral dirge for the twenty first century American church would require the effort to fully understand and learn another s history 51 52 examples include watching films about the slave trade, visiting museums about the history of racism Lament is deeply felt It is not simply a conscious, cognitive exercise 56 Andrew Park defines sin as the wrongdoing of people toward God and their neighbors Han is the pain experienced by the victimized neighbors Sin is the unjust act of the oppressors han the passive experience of their victims 57, quoting Park s Theology of Pain the Abyss of Pain , in Quarterly Review, Spring 1989 The guilt of individual sin leads to individual confession, but the shame of han should lead to social transformation 57 Lament calls for an authentic encounter with the truth and challenges privilege, because privilege would hide the truth that creates discomfort 58 Expressing a theology of celebration in the context of victory and success would lend itself to a voice of triumph reflecting a culturally masculine voice A theology of suffering in the context of pain would call for a culturally feminine voice Lamentations may prove to be the most important book of the Bible with a dominant feminine voice 59 We have a deficient theology that trumpets the triumphalist successes of evangelicalism while failing to hear from the stories of suffering that often tell us about who we are as a community 63 We are forcing a theological famine upon ourselves by ignoring the voices of women 64 Lament leads to petition which leads to praise for God s response to the petition 65 The inability to offer comfort should compel us to acknowledge our total inability and turn to God for the answers 67 68 Lament calls us to examine the work of reconciliation between those who live under suffering with those who live in celebration Lamentations challenges our celebratory assumptions with the reality of suffering 69 Lamentations 2 offers a possibility of the expansion of the American evangelical theological imagination in order to encompass suffering and lament, which a privileged perspective may not allow Lamentations calls us to embrace a narrative of suffering in order to understand the fullness of God s message for his people 72 Hunger, homelessness, and racism are very real injustices, but they can be misunderstood when taken in an abstracted form One of the most effective means of disengaging the church from the work of justice is making injustice a philosophical concept 89 What we surround ourselves with, in our everyday and communal Christian life, should reflect a commitment to hear the multitude of voices The normative Christian faith should arise from a life lived with hearing from a range of voices, experiences and stories 103 104 The church has the power to bring healing in a racially fragmented society That power is not found in an emphasis on strength but in suffering and weakness 106 The suffering narrative that informs the Lord s Table is essential for the unity found in the body of Christ The necessary condition for the celebration of the Lord s Supper, therefore, is lament 106 While the breadth of evangelicalism can encompass the range of worship expressions, worship preferences in the local church tend to reflect whether the congregation arises from the context of celebration versus suffering 107 108 Our warped sense of what it means to be blessed by God and how we perceive human wealth and power as a earned favor from God results in a dysfunctional view of our worth in God s economy 166 One of the problems of dealing with corporate sin is the inability to connect individual responsibility for sin with the reality of corporate sin For example, the easiest way to distance and absolve oneself from the issue of racism is to claim an individual innocence from personal prejudice For example, the now classic retort I am not a racist, I have never personally committed a racist act I have never owned a slave I have never personally taken land away from a Native American reduces racism to an abstraction By reducing racism to a purely individual level, corporate sin is depersonalized and has a higher level of deniability 168 Lament not only operates as the place of grieving over suffering, it is also the place of protest 176 We will pray for bigger churches, larger budgets, slimmer waistlines, purpose in our lives, but we do not pray in recognition of the deepest suffering in our own lives or in the lives of others Or prayers border on idolatry when we expect vending machine type of results 182 A few years ago, I was speaking at a mission conference comprising mainly white suburbanite participants I was listening to the speaker before me, when he dropped this little gem It s not about a handout, but a hand up Actually, it s not about either A handout means you think you re better than me and you re handing me something something I probably don t deserve A hand up means you think you re better than me and you re trying to lift me up from a bad place to your wonderful place Actually, if it s a choice between the two, I d rather have the handout If you re going to be condescending, I might as well get a direct benefit out of it instead of being told that I need to become like you Forget the handout or the hand up Just reach a hand across Let s be equals and partners I don t need you to rescue me, just like you don t think you need rescuing by me 196 Remembering has been a painful experience so far, but this call to remembrance is not a furthering of a pity party It is instead a call for God to remember to take heart, consider, look, see and ultimately act on their behalf Even as God s people lament and draw attention to their suffering, this act reflects the realization that God is the only hope But hope will only arise if God remembers 197 Listening to the previously silenced voices is an essential first step in the practice of lament But a passive lament that fails to confront injustice fails to consider the power of prophetic advocacy in lament 208 Lots to chew on A faithful, earnest reminder that owning our sin, and the consequences thereof even, or especially, generational and systemic sin is the first step toward true repentance and restoration. I want to make this simple This book is brilliant It changed my life.Read it And be changed also. A very good book, but don t read it like I did Read it with people, in a small group The weakness of this book is that it calls to action, but it necessitates a community response, and as an individual, you can feel a little powerless Still, excellent work and especially for Christians who are just starting to venture into the waters of engaging in racial reconciliation to mend our broken world I absolutely agree with what Dr Rah has to say in Prophetic Lament, and I will be chewing on and wrestling with this book for a while There is so much said in the pages that needs to be said I struggled toward the second half of the book as the ongoing chronology of going through the book of Lamentations led to repetitiveness and briefly inserted asides to modern justice thoughts I found myself reflecting on the current state of American society while reading his exegesis but was thrown off every time there was a brief paragraph calling to remember something that did not seem to quite fit.Overall, I highly recommend Prophetic Lament to all Christians as a necessary read We need to learn lament.