Lament for a Racist Nation

summer institute 2019

I am currently in Nashville, TN attending the Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative’s Summer Institute at Vanderbilt Divinity School. I was tasked with the assignment to offer a Morning Centering for the group and did so on the need to recover the liturgical practice of lament in American worship. Much of what I said, I drew from Soong-Chan Rah’s book Prophetic Lament:A Call for Justice in Troubled Times. I highly recommend the book to any theologically-minded folks who read this blog. I closed our Morning Centering with the following lament. My 19-year-old daughter, Natalie Cushman and I collaborated to write this piece, drawing heavily from Lamentations 1.

Lament for a Racist Nation
(based on Lamentations 1)
by
Natalie Cushman and Cindy Cushman

How fractured is the nation,
that once boasted its harmony.
How elusive has become “the Dream,”
that once made anything seem possible.
She that once called for the tired, the poor,
and the huddled masses yearning to be free,
has become a false idol.

But how was there ever harmony
when she was given to a people selectively labeled
human?
And the dream was denied to those not swaddled
in layers of comfort and privilege
And the call for the tired, the poor and the huddled masses,
was meant only for those hailing from the white Western
world.

For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me. (Lam. 1:16a)

Her origins were rooted in the sin of slavery,
with no thought to the road of dead bodies left behind.
Her evil was in the God complex
that justified humanity blanketly denied.

“Oh Lord, look at my shame,
for I have made an enemy of myself.”

The deep veins of racism
in this enemy of our own creation
continues to disallow free breaths.

The safe places for black and brown bodies
keep dropping like flies,
as they are being killed in schools, killed in worship,
killed in the streets, killed in their homes.

For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me.

Strangers have crawled, hands and knees,
toward all her promised possibilities.
She has heard the cries, refusing them her sanctuary,
these whom we greet with bars and cages.

For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me.

See, O Lord, how distressed I am;
my stomach churns,
my heart is wrung within me,
because I have been very callous.
In the street the people bleed; in the home they face their death.

Let all my evildoing come before you;
and deal with me
as I have dealt with many,
because of all my transgressions;
for my groans are many
and my heart is faint.

 

bench 2

Natalie Cushman is a sophomore at Western Kentucky University double-majoring in Film Studies and Diversity and Community Studies.

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