Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 55

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE (as well as many others who suffer and grieve) from the language they need to both hear and speak in the corporate worship of God’s people. In a world of pervasive trauma, the church’s exclusion of lament is nothing short of tragic. According to Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, “Research suggests that among people experiencing significant psychological distress, approximately 25 percent will seek help from professionals.”22 This means “the majority of trauma victims rely upon informal sources of support.”23 The Christian community has a tremendous opportunity to be just such an “informal source of support,” having been gifted by God with a wealth of inspired prayers and songs that invite survivors to face God with their traumatic experience. But rather than observing biblical lament in our gatherings, “we have blown up balloons, danced in the aisles, marched behind banners; we have turned to jazz and we have sung ditties whose theological content makes a nursery rhyme sound like Thomas Aquinas.”24 Randy Becton identifies the “refusal to pray honestly, and inattention to the Father’s written Word” among a list of “chief enemies of the faith.”25 Unfortunately, in much of the contemporary church, the exclusion of lament from the rhythms of corporate worship is granting each of these enemies a large victory. Lament, Trauma, and Scripture Susan Marie Smith has described interpersonal trauma as “injustice, degradation, unfreedom, hatred, falsehood and dishonor [that challenges] the very possibility of living in relationship with self or God or one another . . . cases in which ritual action is most needed.”26 The psalmists and prophets knew this well, and they have left us with a rich collection of prayers and songs that express a full range of emotion in the wake of traumatic experience: 22. Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, Shattered Assumptions: Towards a New Psychology of Trauma (New York: The Free Press, 1992), 161. 23. Ibid. 24. Leander E. Keck, The Church Confident (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993), 42. 25. Randy Becton, Does God Care When We Suffer? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988), 90. 26. Susan Marie Smith, Caring Liturgies: The Pastoral Power of Christian Ritual (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012), 96 (emphasis mine). 54