Monday, January 16, 2012

Screwed By God? (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Our God’s favor is not exhausted,
                   nor has God’s compassion failed.
                They rise up anew each morning,
                   so great is God’s faithfulness.
                “Our God is all I have,” I cry.
                   “So I will wait in patience.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

For me, the scriptures can be summed up in three words: “God is faithful.” This seems to be the testimony of the many voices that speak in holy script. Lamentations, the great counter-testimony, even affirms that God is trustworthy. Yet, it must be noticed that Lamentations’ affirmation is neither glib nor hollow.

As the name of this book indicates we are in the midst of a collection of sorrowful songs. According to The Inclusive Scriptures, the Hebrew name for this work, ‘√™kah, is a cry of anguish akin to us wailing a frustrated “aaugh!” Jerusalem is in deep mourning for her destruction. “A city, how desolate you lie, you who once swarmed with crowds!” (1:1).

The voice raised here is from one who has experienced the full weight of God set against her, “I am the one who has known grief under the rod of the Most High’s anger” (3:1). Certainly queer folk find ourselves among these words, as time after time we are told that we are an abomination in the eyes of the Sacred.

We have had to bear the full burden of being sexual sinners in the hands of an angry church. Our experience is like that of the lamenter, “God lies in wait for me like a bear or like a lion prowling its prey, forcing me to the ground and leaving me in anguish” (3:10-11). Crushed and demoralized we feel defenseless against judgmental religion.

The sorrowful song lifts up the cry of those who have felt, to use the vernacular, screwed by God. Those who have experienced affliction and desolation, those torn to pieces in the name of the Holy and who feel that “Everybody laughs at me” (3:14a). Lonely we are when taunted by others and abandoned by the Sacred.

If God is faithful it is in anger towards queers. An anger in which there is no mercy or hope of tenderness. At least this is what some expressions of religion want us to think. A simplistic God is faithful to reward the “good,” and to punish the “bad.”

Lamentations moves us beyond this simplicity, for it is the one being “punished” who sings the songs of lament. While the relationship between Jerusalem and the Sacred has been strained and tried, it has not been broken.

In the midst of her sorrow the lamenter affirms the faithfulness of the Sacred. Tenderness, compassion, grace are the images that define God for the lamenter. Which is why even in the midst of the jeering of others the lamenter turns to God as “all I have.”

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