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Lament in a Divided World by Alex Ferren

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Allow me to state the obvious, 2020 has been a difficult year. 

We are enduring a global pandemic, renewed racial tension, sexual abuse scandals, and escalating political turmoil.  Simply recounting the day’s news can be an anxiety-inducing experience. Potentially, one of the most traumatizing aspects of 2020 has been the exacerbated division of our communities.

Although, ideological differences have and always will exist, we’ve entered a moment in which public discourse is marked by a particularly hostile brand of partisanship.In many ways we have lost our ability to speak kindly and gently to those we disagree with, instead we employ the weapons of generalization and misrepresentation to win a conversation. Grand stereotypes, suspicion fueled by self preservation, and a distrust of inconvenient facts torpedo any opportunity for constructive conversation. As catastrophic as 2020 has been up to this point, the 2020 presidential election has the potential to be the most devastating event in 2020 not only for the American public, but for the American church.  

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Unfortunately, our local faith communities are not exempt from the deeply divided realities of 2020. The Christian Church, residing in the United States, has found itself unequipped to offer an alternative to dividedness of this moment. The body of Christ finds itself bruised and bloodied, not from an external force but from self abuse.

I would submit that these deep divisions that have inflicted the American Church are not new. The fault lines of division have always been there subtly determining where sects of the Church build their most recent foundations. It was not until the earthquake of the 2016 election and the subsequent aftershock of 2020, that those fault lines were revealed. The division we are now experiencing has had decades, if not centuries, to fester and deepen. We must resist any quick solution to reconciliation for it will ultimately be a bandaid over a severed artery. I believe the only way forward is to acknowledge the deep division and lament.

Lament it is the acknowledgement of current and past pain experienced. To lament is to express our deepest anguish generated by the suffering and violence in our world and to petition the God of hope for relief. To lament is to recognize Christ as the God present in pain and the source of relief from pain. It is in mourning that Christ promises comfort (Matt. 5:4)

While it may seem counterintuitive to dwell on the pain of division, it is only in recognizing the wound that healing can take place. We must acknowledge and lament where our preferences, opinions, and positions became rocks thrown at our neighbor.  For this is the danger of Christianity, that Christ calls us to love beyond ourselves by looking to the interests of others first (Phil. 2:5). It is when we prioritize our neighbor, and particularly their pain, we can truly begin to address the practices and systems that inflicted that pain. 

It would be my hope that spiritual leaders across the nation would call their people to lament over the pain in their communities without longing for the “good ol’ days” or leveraging it as a platform for a political movement. Rather, I ask that they make space for anguish to be expressed. We must join in the worry of immunio-compromised neighbors in fear for their life, the elderly at increased risk of exposure and death, those who have suffered unjust bias due to the color of their skin, and the black community which is still wounded by centuries of racist practices. We must lament the ways our ego and hard heart have prevented us from loving our neighbor well. 

I believe that the Church of Christ will see its best days in lament, joining in the pain of another in solidarity and empathy just as Christ did on the cross. 

Lord, forgive us for we know not what we do. Amen.

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