Prophetic Lament: An Introduction



I had the privilege of hearing Prof. Rah speak last August on Lament. The conference was close to the second anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. It was also soon after the shooting of Philando Castile, which occurred only a few miles from where Rah was speaking.

His message enraptured me. The week before I had written these words to my students, notifying them I’d unexpectedly not be returning to my job. It was another loss for us in the midst of all the turmoil our community was already facing:

“As I write this to you, I can’t help but think about how my experience and time with you has been book-ended by major events. When I started two summers ago I walked into our leaders’ week to find myself swallowed by the news of Ferguson. I’m now leaving under the weight of the news of the Falcon Heights tragedy. So much of that has shaped my time and work.

These events, no doubt have put us on a journey of figuring out a new meaning of being colored and finding community. I wouldn’t have wanted to do that journey with anyone else. I have loved learning with you as we’ve found our voices together– what it means to be a person of color. We’ve learned to lament, protest, challenge and find ourselves. We’ve learned to wrestle through and love each other in the face of death. You all inspire me with your bravery.

Lament. This is the word I needed to help frame the last few months of my life, the last couple years of turmoil in this country, the unexpected loss of my job and relationships. To top it off, my Grandmommy had just passed away, too. Then there was the political turmoil of another officer involved shooting a couple miles from where I lived. What do you do when the news around you causes you to need to grieve ones very being? I can’t put words to the shift of consciousness that has slowly formed my soul in the last couple years.

Lament. This book is positioned in a series of publications called Resonate and its call, I believe, is a challenge for the United States as much as it is for our book club. The line of writing comes from the need to engage popular culture and teach our faith values not from an academic standpoint, but from a cultural context. Our communities, our homes, our friendships need to see how we live out our faith in times of hurt, suffering, confusion and unknown. Prophetic Lament shows us a way to do that.

Maybe you’ve heard the word lament a lot, and it behooves you. You feel like it’s just the next “buzz word” in Christianity. Or perhaps this has been a joyous season for you, life has been meaningful and you have many reasons to celebrate. The need for lament seems far away. This book still has value for you.

Or maybe, like me, your 2016 was a dumpster fire and you’re peering into 2017 nervous, and in need of healing and rest. Lament and songs of suffering consume your mind. You’re undone. I am still in the midst of lament. I still have not found a job. I am still finding relational hurts I didn’t know were there. I am skeptical that good will come out of this brokenness. But I want to bravely hope toward healing. I believe this lament will birth praise.

Rah reminds us: “To only have a theology of celebration at the cost of a theology of lament is incomplete. The intersection of the two threads provides the opportunity to engage in the fullness of the gospel message. Lament and praise must go hand in hand. (p.23)”

Come, let’s journey from wherever we find ourselves together. Let’s expand the wholeness of our gospel as we learn to rejoice and lament with each other. Let’s learn about brokenness, so we can dance on despair in this new year.



Lovelys, why are you reading this book with us? What do you hope to find here?


Ruthie Johnson
I’m a kid at heart who found a great job in higher ed doing what I love— crossing cultures & teaching others how to be Jesus through their ethnic identity. I have a Master's in Communication Studies and focus on critical race theory, postcolonial theory/theology & identity studies (yah, I’m a nerd). I believe in God’s multiethnic kingdom (for the now and the not yet). I believe that it takes collaboration from people of all tribes, nations and languages to work towards shalom & reconciliation. When I’m not hanging out with students, I write, read, cook and art. Join me as I navigate the blurry lines of multi-ethnicity and try to find a little Jesus in the midst of it.
Ruthie Johnson
Ruthie Johnson

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  1. Brenda-Lee Sasaki Brenda-Lee says:

    hello all — In January I decided that this year, 2017, I wanted to read some books in community with other like-minded souls. So I connected with Red Couch as the selections looked juicy and expansive. I mentioned it on FB to my little tribes I connect with and about 6 other companions also wanted to join in. So we have been reading all month and tonite we will gather on my grey couch and drink wine and explore lament together.

    Many of our own hearts are so heavy. Creating space to lament and inquire of God and one another will be soul satisfying.

    I have found myself composing and writing my own laments this month as I have worked through lamentations and Rah’s brilliant insights. Ruthie, thanks for cracking this open and inviting us in.

  2. Aria M. says:

    Hi Red Couch community,

    1) I am reading this book to gain a more complete understanding of why Jesus came and what it looks like to follow him in loving justice and mercy. I want to learn how to live a life where hope coexists with suffering and pain. I also want to understand more accurately God’s heart toward people experiencing suffering, oppression, and injustice, that I might receive and exhibit his care and love more richly in the context of community.

    2) Also, Ruthie, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I’m so sorry 2016 was so difficult. Thank you for sharing.
    I’m a graduate student studying Communication with an emphasis in nonprofit management, but I like learning about postcolonial theory and theology. Looking forward to learning from this community as we read these books.

  3. I am reading this book with you! It’s been on my to-read list for ages, and after the end of last year, I knew I needed to move it up. I had read the Next Evangelicalism and so appreciate and respect Professor Rah. Looking forward to diving into this needed discussion.

  4. I was so excited when I saw this book on the reading list for this year, because I read it in the fall of 2015 and its message has been with me ever since. My eyes were opened to our western tendency to live with avoidance of suffering as our over arching narrative, to be slavishly committed to maintaining the status quo so that we can continue in our “theology of celebration,” and to view ourselves as God’s chosen “fixers” rather than allowing ourselves to first sit with those who suffer and to hear their hearts.

    A right view of lament can change the way the church uses resources, the way we implement justice, and even the way we pray!

    I’m looking forward to the conversation!


  1. […] SheLoves Magazine recently studied this book. You can read the intro here. […]

  2. […] sure to catch the INTRODUCTION post to Prophetic Lament by Ruthie Johnson here. You may also want to check out Kelley Nikondeha‘s January post on When We […]

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