“Lamenting the Loss of Lament”

Brent Strawn, in The Old Testament is Dying, utilizes a linguistic analogy to describe the Old Testament as a dying language, undergoing various stages of pidginization and creolization. I apply his language of pidgin and creole to contemporary worship music, the American evangelical corpus (henceforth AEC) in order to assess the shift in conceptual worship language in the last decade.

I argue that our current culture has pidginized the conceptual language of worship by coopting lament language to therapeutic categories (here, I rely on Phillip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic and Sacred Order/ Social Order and Christian Smith, Souls in Transition). Lament language, long cast in rich theological grammar, has begun to disappear from Christian “vocabulary” and is replaced by a new idiolect.

To demonstrate this point, I structure my argument as follows: (1) I overview the genre of Laments in the Psalms and highlight their key features (depending upon Gunkel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship and Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms); (2) I explore the AEC, for lament language; (3) After examining the AEC for lament language, I enquire as to why our own culture exercises an allergy toward laments, and what that might mean for local church theology and worship; and (4) I sketch what could be a way to recapture an appropriate grammar for laments, leading to a vernacular for Christian worship closer to our native tongue.

3 thoughts on ““Lamenting the Loss of Lament””

  1. Good goal (Not sure about starting point)
    I welcome a paper on the Psalms, lament, and current worship practices.

    But Gunkel and Westermann are very dated resources to start with, considering the explosion of Psalms research in recent years.


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