SUMMARY: Associate professor at North Park Theological Seminary (Chicago, IL) Soong-Chan Rah meticulously goes through the five chapters of Lamentations providing a theological framework for lament while simultaneously critiquing the American church . He argues that American exceptionalism and its theology of praise has pushed out the important practice of lament in the American church.
“American exceptionalism embraces a work-centered soteriology, believing that the United States of American has earned a special status before God, attaining favor through her exceptional actions,” Rah says. “This assumption stands in stark contrast to the humility and dependence on God revealed in the book of Lamentations.”
At times his line by line analysis is intense, but necessary as he provides context to what the prophet Jeremiah is writing about. Soong-Chan Rah does a superb job at the end of each chapter summarizing what he talked about and connecting the lessons in Lamentations with the current events of today.
“Listening to the suffering community does not imply that one party is completely innocent while the other party is completely guilty,” Rah says. “Instead, it acknowledges that the the dead body in the street is once again the body of a black male.”
This intense study is not for everyone, but those willing to invest the time will have a robust understanding of lament and a plethora of wise passages penned by Rah connected back to scripture.
“Lament will not allow us to revert to easy answers,” Rah concludes. “There is no triumphalist and exceptionalistic narrative of the American church that can cover up justice. There are no easy answers to unabated suffering. Lament continues.”
KEY QUOTE: “The term justice is too casually thrown about without the corresponding sacrifice. We want the popularity associated with being justice activists, but we don’t want to lament alongside those who suffer.”