Lament and the Oak Creek Shootings

What can one say? Another mass shooting, this time in a Sikh Temple. It happened on a gloriously beautiful Summer day in Wisconsin. I heard the news just before attending a concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble. As I listened, I was grateful for the power of music. It can convey beauty in the midst of great tragedy and evil. One of the pieces performed was Tim Kramer’s Lux Caelestis, which sets to music texts from five of the world’s religious tradition having to do with light. It was transcendent and in the day’s context, a reminder of what humans can aspire to.

Social media has made our response to such events even more immediate both in the way they affect us and in their encouragement of our immediate reaction in a tweet or a facebook status update. We often seek to explain such events, to put them in categories that we understand, so our horror is contained. It was the work of a mad man. If only we had reasonable gun control laws… But when we leap to such conclusions we often fail to confront the deeper horror and our own fears.

C. Christopher Smith has had a great deal to say about the importance of lament in the wake of the Aurora shootings and his words are even more powerful today:

Recovering lament as a practice of our faith involves, I believe, creating spaces in our congregations where we can share our pains honestly, grieve and bear them together, confess and discuss our complicity in causing these pains and eventually begin to imagine and enact ways of easing the pain. Creating conversational spaces in our faith communities where we can lament together in this way not only deepens our relationships with our fellow congregants, but also draws us deeper into the political life of our neighborhoods. Many times engaging the pains that plague our members involves dealing directly with the source of the pain, whether that be an abusive landlord, an employer that is trimming hours or benefits, failures of public transportation, etc. Maybe sometimes the pains we feel are selfish ones, inflicted upon ourselves out of greed, pride or some other vice, and we need a community that will speak truthfully to us and set us on a course toward healing, even if that journey might take us through deeper pain.

His blogging about lament is here