A Lament for America

On this third day after our most recent presidential election, I remain sorrowful and deeply disappointed (both in and for us as a nation). I am gravely concerned about what this next season will look like for individuals and communities who are dear to me. And, frankly, I am grieved and ashamed that so much of the white American church has either embraced or accommodated truly hateful, un-Christlike rhetoric and behavior from the person who is now poised to fill our nation’s highest elected office.

I am moving into the “we have work to do” camp—because we certainly do. As has ever been the case (only now amplified and validated in a devastating way through this election process), racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and a host of other discriminatory and violent ideologies are alive and well in our society. Those of us who recognize the harm and evil in that fact (whether we have long been painfully aware of this reality or have just had a very rude awakening) have an ongoing responsibility to fight for transformation in how members of various oppressed groups are viewed, valued and treated.

But while gearing up for what lies ahead, I have also felt the need to lament what we have witnessed this week and in the months (and decades, even centuries) leading up to November 8, 2016. And so, with the words of Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah ringing in my ears (and very much aware of how guilty I am of not loving all my neighbors and how much I still need to learn and grow), here is an attempt to communicate some part of the anguish, anger, and sorrow, as well as the (sometimes very fragile-feeling) hope I carry in my heart in these days:

A Lament for America

Oh, America.
So beautiful in myriad ways:
land of innovation and imagination
a place where dreams run wild
     and many that are chased are caught
a lofty experiment
     boldly declaring the possibility
          of unity in diversity
adopted home of many a weary sojourner
     desperately in need
          of a safe place for a fresh start

But we have been that whitewashed sepulcher:
externally shiny and bright
adorned with every form of advanced technology,
     with breath-taking talent
     and jaw-dropping wealth
self-proclaimed greatest nation in the world
self-righteously pointing the finger
     at those we deem less moral than ourselves
but on the inside, stained with every “ism” in the book
prejudiced and prideful
fearful and furious
willing to take out our anxieties and disappointments
     on those already vulnerable in our midst
the privileged among us feasting on the forbidden fruit
     of stolen land
          stolen labor
          stolen lives

And now here we stand, with our feet in a most precarious place
for God has been down this road before
     with many a generation of stiff-necked people
and His anger burns white-hot
when the poor find no justice in the courts
when the foreigner is not welcomed,
     the widow and orphan not provided for
when people who bear His Name bow down
     before those who have no claim to their allegiance

Lord of mercy,
be near to the broken-hearted and bind their wounds
bring the oppressor to justice—
     and contrition
stand in the gap for those whose worth and dignity are denied
     whose health and well-being are recklessly cast aside
teach us, O God, to search our own souls
     and lay them bare before you
then fit us for the crucial work ahead—
     the never-ending labor
          of loving our neighbors—
               and (Lord, help us!) even our enemies—
               as ourselves.

© 2016
Alexis Spencer-Byers


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