When I wake up in the afternoon
Which it pleases me to do
Don’t nobody bring me no bad news
‘Cause I wake up already negative
And I’ve wired up my fuse
So don’t nobody bring me no bad news
When you’re talking to me
Don’t be cryin’ the blues
‘Cause don’t nobody bring me no bad news
You can verbalize and vocalize
But just bring me the clues
But don’t nobody bring me no bad news
These lyrics were sung by the bad witch Evilene in one of my favorite theatrical productions “The Wiz”. As she rules over her evil kingdom also known as the “Sweat Shop” Evilene insists that those in her charge reframe from giving her any news that will make her already foul mood worse. Rather than seeking truth, wisdom, justice, information, or liberation Evilene is only interested keeping her power and authority secure over her minions who work and sweat around her. Over the past several months I have found myself humming this song in my head as meeting after meeting, zoom after zoom and gathering after gathering devolves into one huge gripe fest. From time to time, I’ll admit that I’ve wanted to plug my ears and declare, “don’t bring me no bad news”, but most often I’ve wondered how we the body of Christ have become so fragile and resistant to the people and situations that Jesus himself care so much about.
While many of the observations, complaints and problems have been warranted and legitimate I have found myself overwhelmed by the negativity and sense of hopelessness expressed by clergy and church leaders alike that these conversations engender. I have wondered what happened to our collective ability to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn and care for the least and the lost? At what point did we become so focused on institutional viability that we neglected discipleship, evangelism, and ministry to the dispossessed? At what point did we decided that our response to the trials and tribulations that plague this present age should be, “Don’t nobody bring me no bad news?”
Contemplating these questions, I have been drawn to the work of Soong-Chan Rah in “Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times” wherein Rah asks the question, what happens when the church losses its ability to lament, which he answers by stating
“The absence of lament in the liturgy of the American church results in the loss of memory. We forget the necessity of lamenting over the suffering and pain. We forget the reality of suffering and pain.”
Perhaps our issue is more than apathetic congregants, diminishing tithes and offerings and aging buildings but rather a church that has forgotten communal lament. When we forget lament, we become blind to the suffering, pain and injustice that is supposed to weigh on our hearts as it did Jesus’. When we forget lament, we no longer recognize our neighbors seeing them as “other” and oppositional to us. When we forget lament, we become immune to the least and the lost and see their lack as a result of personal choice instead of systemic injustice. We become consumed with our own well-being and lose the ability to come alongside and weep, wail and mourn with those who are crushed in spirit. When we forget lament, we focus instead on celebration characterized by concerns of proper management and celebration. When we forget lament, we seek to maintain the status quo and minimize people and perspectives that advocate for change. When we forget lament, we reject anything that rains on our parade and join in the chorus singing, “Don’t nobody bring me no bad news”.
Perhaps in this thanksgiving season we ought to make the countercultural and counterintuitive move of reacquainting ourselves with lament because when we lament, we remember the reality of suffering and pain no longer making mountains out of molehills. When we lament, we come alongside those who are lost, lonely and outside of our circles and comfort zones. When we lament, we upend unjust systems liberating captives. When we lament, we become burden bearers and those who mourn and weep with our neighbors. When we lament, we are humbled crying out to God who alone can deliverance us. When we lament, we develop an appetite for truth, wisdom, integrity, freedom, spirituality, and yes even bad news.
 Soong-Chan Rah, “Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times” (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015), 22.