Racial reconciliation has been a major topic of public conversation in recent days. A series of shootings of unarmed black men at the hands of police, along with the negative rhetoric from national political leaders has sparked the most serious debate on this topic probably since the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s. Yet, this issue is not a new one. Since the founding of America, the injustice that has been suffered by minorities especially African Americans is an issue that has plagued our society for more than 250 years. The founders of this nation laid the groundwork for the ideal that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”(see the Declaration of Independence). However, this ideal of equality was not originally enshrined in the Constitution when, in 1789 black men were counted as three-fifths of a person when counting slaves for the purpose of representation in Congress (see Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution). Although this nation has come a long way to ensure the equal rights of all citizens (see Amendment 13 and Amendment 24 of the U.S. Constitution), there is still a long way to go. But how do we get there? As followers of Christ, we are called to be different and show the light of Christ in a world that is full of darkness. Yet, lamentably many times it is Christians who are part of the problem. So, how do we get there? This is what pastor Mark Vroegop discusses in his new book Weep With Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation (Crossway, 2020).
While it is true that no one living today is guilty of owning slaves (referring to American chattel slavery from the colonial period to the antebellum period. A discussion of modern day slavery and sex-trafficking is outside the purview of this review), it is true that we can be guilty of the sin of racism and prejudice. We can also recognize and lament the atrocities of slavery and Jim Crow laws in American history. Speaking primarily to Christians of the majority culture (white/Caucasian), Vroegop discusses how learning to lament can bring reconciliation between Christians in majority and minority culture. Vroegop argues that lament can bring about reconciliation because it allows us to identify with plight and pain of others. Drawing from Romans 12:15-16, he encourages majority culture Christians to lament the racial injustices, not only of the past, but what is currently happening in our culture in an effort to understand and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ from minority culture.
The book is broken up into three sections. Part one provides a history of lament both biblically and historically. Lament is the spiritual discipline of making a complaint before the Lord, but resting one’s hope in God alone to act. Vroegop shows the journey of lament through American history by the use of spirituals (laments set to music for the purpose of corporate singing), which give hope to many in the African American community. Part two is aimed primarily at Christians of majority culture. In this section of the book he shows how lament can allow people from majority culture to “weep with those who weep,” which by the power of the Holy Spirit can change hearts and attitudes towards people with whom we do not share the same experience. For many in majority culture, lament is not something that is often experienced. In part three, Vroegop speaks to believers who are in minority culture. His charge to them is to keep lamenting and speaking out on the issue of racial reconciliation. It is through the experience of people in minority culture that members of majority culture can learn and grow. As Christians from both majority and minority culture cultivate relationships and truly seek reconciliation, God is glorified and church is edified. It is only through the power of the gospel that true reconciliation can occur.
I would recommend Weep With Me to all believers, especially to those from majority culture. It is a great resource that will exhort you to weep with those who weep and lament the tragedies that occur in our culture. The questions at the end of each chapter lend to both group and individual study. Although, this is a resource that is best discussed with fellow believers in a discipleship setting. The prayers of lament at the end of each chapter also provide a great template for the spiritual discipline of lament. More churches and individual believers need to learn the practice of lament as a way to identify with brothers and sisters from minority culture.
Post Script: Weep With Me is a very timely resource. The release date for this publication could not have come at a better time. Just a few moths prior, the nation exploded in protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. People in majority culture tended to become apathetic and shrug it off, while people in minority culture wondered if real change will ever occur. Unfortunately this is often the way believers in Christ respond as well. Yet, the response from believers in Christ should be one of lament. We pray alongside the hurting and look to the Lord as our only hope for change. As believers, we are called to weep with those who weep until the day that all is made new by the power of gospel.
Editor’s Note: This book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.