The Problem with Refusing to Mourn and Lament to “Continue the Work of the Lord”

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”-Matthew 5:4​

Death is an inevitable reality that we must all face, both from a loss of loved ones and our own mortality. As a part of death, we mourn to express our deep sorrow for a loss of life. Mourning is a healthy and necessary response to death, yet so many feel ashamed to mourn and others suggest that mourning prevents people from moving on with their lives.

One common phrase that I hear at churches after a loss of a loved one is “our hearts are heavy, but the work of the Lord must go on.” The problem with this phrase is that it suggests that mourning in some way contradicts and conflicts with doing God’s work. Furthermore, the phrase is touted, primarily by men in the church who see constant mourning and sorrow as a sign of weakness and a fuel for laziness.

Much of the resistance to mourning is a part of the toxic masculinity that discourages the expression of sorrow or pain, especially for men. Yet those who discourage and refuse to express sorrow are being unauthentic and are failing to show their real feelings. Furthermore, those who refuse to cry and mourn are exposing their own weakness and insensitivity to the pain and suffering that exists within their own lives and in the world.

Mourn, similar to lament is biblical expression that is found in both the Old and New Testament. Approximately one third of the Psalms of David are laments and the Gospels in the New Testament indicate that Jesus mourned and provided blessings for those who mourn. To refuse to mourn and lament is to be silent to the pain and suffering that exists in our world today, both among church communities and the larger society. Mourning and lamenting is a part of doing the work of the Lord, because they are expressions of sorrow and sadness of the evils that persist and are gestures of compassion for those who are hurting. In a world where deaths from natural causes, diseases, and accidents are prevalent we must mourn. Furthermore, in a society where victims of state violence and extreme poverty die regularly, we must mourn and lament. Both for the losses of life and against the persistence of evil. To disregard the mourning of these things for the purpose of “continuing the Lord’s work” is to reject a fundamental nature of God.


The toxic masculinity and aversion to mourning and lamenting is detrimental to one’s spiritual life. To truly draw close to God and be a presence in the world as a Christian, mourning and lamenting is necessary. We cannot accept the evils and injustices of our world and reject the pain, the hurt, and the loss of so many. Let’s continue to do the work of the Lord by mourning with those who mourn and lamenting the evils that kill countless people daily.

5 reasons why Black Lives Matter is essential and necessary: Lessons from Pienel Joseph’s article “Why Black Lives Matter Still Matters”

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University of Texas historian Peniel Joseph recently wrote an article for the New Republic entitled Why Black Lives Matter Still Matters. In this article, Joseph explores how the Black Lives Matter movement is establishing a new and unique form of civil rights activism and organizing that builds on the strengths of both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement of the 1960’s. He responds to criticisms of Black Lives Matter that suggest that the movement is devoid of goals and leadership by highlighting the intersectional nature and focus of this new movement. This article provides a timely and thoughtful analysis on the relationship between Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights and Black Power movement in the 1960’s. Furthermore, this article, while not targeted specifically for Christians, provides some necessary and essential lessons for Christians interested in engaging in the struggle for racial justice in their church…

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5 reasons why Black Lives Matter is essential and necessary: Lessons from Pienel Joseph’s article “Why Black Lives Matter Still Matters”

University of Texas historian Peniel Joseph recently wrote an article for the New Republic entitled Why Black Lives Matter Still Matters. In this article, Joseph explores how the Black Lives Matter movement is establishing a new and unique form of civil rights activism and organizing that builds on the strengths of both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement of the 1960’s. He responds to criticisms of Black Lives Matter that suggest that the movement is devoid of goals and leadership by highlighting the intersectional nature and focus of this new movement. This article provides a timely and thoughtful analysis on the relationship between Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights and Black Power movement in the 1960’s. Furthermore, this article, while not targeted specifically for Christians, provides some necessary and essential lessons for Christians interested in engaging in the struggle for racial justice in their church communities. There are 5 important lessons from this article.

  1. The necessity and impact of the Black Power Movement: In this article and in his book Dark Days Bright Nights, Joseph dispels the myths surrounding the Black Power movement of the late 1960’s. Many people refer to the Black Power Movement as the evil twin of the Civil Rights Movement and argue that the movement was violent, leaderless, and disorganized, accomplishing nothing. Furthermore, people canonize and embrace Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement while completely demonizing and rejecting Malcolm X and the Black Power Movement without any evidence or analysis of the movement. The Black Power Movement, like every other movement had many serious flaws and disorganized aspects. However, the movement was essential and had a significant impact on American society. The Black Power movement, which included the Black Panther Party for self-defense (not to be confused with the contemporary New Black Panther Party), forced a dialogue and understanding of racial consciousness and political power. The movement inspired black people to embrace their culture and identity, which created a space to advocate for greater black representation and value throughout society. The Black Power Movement inspired and fought for black representation in literature, art, politics, and intellectual scholarship which helped establish black studies programs throughout the country, black history month, and greater political power within the black community. The election of Barack Obama can be attributed to the push for greater black influence and representation in society by the Black Power Movement. This push has helped society better integrate black literature, art, and intellectual scholarship into the mainstream. While our academic institutions and public spaces are far from being inclusive and fully engaging of black intellectual, political, and artistic value, the movement forced a recognition of black achievement. Furthermore, the contemporary discussions around mass incarceration and police reform were in part inspired, not by Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, but by groups like the Black Panther Party within the Black Power Movement. Christians who are passionate about celebrating black culture and taking a stand against prison and mass incarceration must understand the vital role the Black Power Movement played in this discussion.
  2. The lack of inclusivity in the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement: One of the biggest flaws of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement was its lack of representation and value of minorities within the black community. Leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X harbored some of the most vicious sexism of their era, where women were not valued and were reduced to submissive and inferior roles in the movements. Martin Luther King had once suggested that women had no place in the front line of the Civil Rights Movement. Furthermore, gay Civil Rights champion Bayard Rustin critiqued the Civil Rights movement for it’s lack of inclusivity and extreme homophobia. In fact, Rutstin was often shamed and disrespected by other Civil Rights leaders for his sexuality. Many Christians look to the Civil Rights movement as a model for faith-based work around racial justice and other social justice issues. What many ignore is how the movement, with all its glories, failed to address other systemic issues including sexism and homophobia, and in so many cases, contributed to the oppression of marginalized groups within the black community.
  3. Why the intersectionality of Black Lives Matter matters: The Black Lives Matter movement embraces and values intersectionality, which highlights and focuses on the intersection between different social identities and the struggle against oppression. This focus has inspired Black Lives Matter to focus its policy agenda on issues that impact all of black identity. Rather than focusing exclusively on the voices and perspectives of black men, like movements of the past have done, Black Lives Matter engages with and addresses issues impacting black women, LGBT blacks, and others who have been traditionally excluded and ignored by the heterosexual patriarchy within the black community. The Black Lives Matter movement was founded by 3 queer women, which is far more inclusive and democratic than the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement. This intersectionality matters because a fight for racial justice must include fights against sexism, homophobia, classism, and other social injustices. One cannot be fully committed to racial justice if he/she is unwilling to recognize the complexity of structural racism and how it intersects with other forms of oppression.
  4. The need for multiple approaches: The Black Lives Matter movement rejects the either/or fallacy that suggests that they must adopt one perspective of black liberation. Many black Americans have tried to align themselves with one philosophy for racial justice, generally comparing Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The reality is that both perspectives are necessary and valuable and there needs to be multiple approaches to addressing racial issues. The Civil Rights Movement emphasized things that the Black Power Movement did not and vice versa. For Christians, this means recognizing the value of different perspectives in fighting racial justice and understanding their role in this struggle.
  5. Why Black Lives Matter is necessary: Black Lives Matter is necessary because it offers a new and unique approach to Civil Rights activism and represents a critical movement in the fight against institutional racism. This movement forges the nonviolent approaches of the Civil Rights movement and the substantive critiques of systemic racism in the Black Power Movement, upholding the strengths of both movements. While there are legitimate and understandable critiques of Black Lives Matter, the movement is necessary and essential.

Peniel Joseph’s article provides a solid understanding of Black Lives Matter and dispels many of the myths and misunderstanding surrounding the movement. This is an important article for Christians to read in understanding a significant movement to fight against injustices that black brothers and sisters face. The movement is not perfect and without flaws; however, it is necessary and it must be understood.

7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t be a Voice for the Voiceless

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I majored in Social Work in college because I wanted to help people who were marginalized and discriminated against by society. I wanted to live out my Christian faith and “do justice” in our world. When speaking to many in my Christian college circle, I talked about my desire to be a “voice for the voiceless.” The phrase “voice for the voiceless” is a common cliché in both religious and secular communities that is used to express a deep desire and conviction to help others. It sounds like a good and noble thing and those in helping professions are often commended for using their career to help others. However, there is one problem. Attempting to be a “voice for the voiceless” is a toxic and counterproductive mission.

Many people who desire to be a “voice for the voiceless” are well-meaning and good-hearted. They are genuinely concerned about the plight of…

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7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t be a Voice for the Voiceless

I majored in Social Work in college because I wanted to help people who were marginalized and discriminated against by society. I wanted to live out my Christian faith and “do justice” in our world. When speaking to many in my Christian college circle, I talked about my desire to be a “voice for the voiceless.” The phrase “voice for the voiceless” is a common cliché in both religious and secular communities that is used to express a deep desire and conviction to help others. It sounds like a good and noble thing and those in helping professions are often commended for using their career to help others. However, there is one problem. Attempting to be a “voice for the voiceless” is a toxic and counterproductive mission.

Many people who desire to be a “voice for the voiceless” are well-meaning and good-hearted. They are genuinely concerned about the plight of the disenfranchised in our world. Unfortunately, many of them are ignorant about how paternalistic and oppressive social justice and mission work can be. They fail to recognize that their desire to save and “speak” for the “voiceless” can further harm the very communities that they want to help. As I mentioned in 6 Wicked Ways of the White Savior, many people who attempt to do good work domestically and abroad end up doing more harm than good because they reinforce systems of oppression. Being a voice for the voiceless is a good example of doing more harm than good. Below are 7 reasons why you should not be a voice for the voiceless:

1. Being a voice for the voiceless censors the voices of the oppressed: When people say that they want to be a voice for the voiceless, they mean that they want to stand up for the rights of those who cannot stand up for themselves. The problem with this idea is that it suggests that marginalized people are somehow incapable of speaking about their conditions in an articulate and concise way. Furthermore, it sets up a strategy that ignores the real perspectives, ideas, and worldviews of the oppressed. When you speak on behalf of a critical social injustice without actively engaging and connecting with people directly affected, you are using your privilege to achieve a social good through your own means.

2. Being a voice for the voiceless reinforces poverty and powerlessness: Many people define poverty exclusively through material lenses. What people fail to realize is that much of poverty is the feeling and reality of powerlessness. The very nature of oppression is to marginalize people in a way that they have little power. Systems of racism, sexism, classism, and imperialism are designed to marginalize and oppress people. Unfortunately, much of the charity and social justice work does little more than reinforce poverty. While social justice advocates and missionaries offer articulate and brilliant critiques about systemic issues (domestically and internationally), they are often unwilling to recognize how their very presence contributes to the oppression and marginalization. When you claim to be a voice for others who are suffering, you are reinforcing the very system that you want to fight.

3. Being a voice for the voiceless ignores and undermines that activism of oppressed communities: One of the biggest problems specifically with some of the mission work around the world is that many missionaries are ignorant of the actual work that is being done by communities overseas. Such assumptions result in many white missionaries going to other countries and advancing their own agendas. The same goes for churches that seek to do church planting in poor neighborhoods without understanding the dynamics of particular communities and learning about the churches that are centralized in key neighborhoods. When you ignore the work that is already being done to a dismantle a problem, you undermine, and in many cases, disrupt any movement and momentum to address a social problem. Furthermore, you prevent yourself from being an effective advocate with those who are affected by the injustice.

4. Being a voice to the voiceless prevents you from building relationships: When you try to simply be a voice for someone else, you are preventing yourself from building relationships and getting to know the “voiceless” people. Without relationships and actually understanding the problem, your work is meaningless. One of the problems with a lot of public policy work today is that proposals to fix a particular problem (criminal justice, homelessness, sex trafficking, ect.) is being proposed without any input, information, and instruction from people who are directly affected. When that happens, laws become passed without any meaningful impact.

5. Being a voice for the voiceless is selfish: It is selfish because it assumes and suggests that you are the right person and most moral human being to be that voice. People who think this way do not consider how they may be perceived (and the unintended consequences of their platform) or the reality that those who are marginalized need to be heard and valued. It so frequently becomes an attempt to show how committed you are to achieving a social good.

6. Being a voice for the voiceless is not necessary: It isn’t necessary to be a voice for others. It does not make you a more moral and passionate person nor does it remedy social ills. Do what is necessary to stand for justice. Don’t try to censor others voices and control the conversation around an injustice.

7. Being a voice for the voiceless is not effective: The bottom line is that being a voice for the voiceless is not effective. It merely does not work. It does not work to speak for others and share experiences that you aren’t qualified to share. What works is being effective partners with marginalized communities and learning from them.

It is important to understand that this critique is not suggesting that you shouldn’t want to help others or be vocal about injustices. It does not mean that mission work and advocacy is inherently harmful. There is absolutely a need to use your platform to speak out against injustices. It is important for white people to use their platform to call attention to white privilege within their own circles and ranks. It is important for Christians to support and call attention to the egregious injustices both domestically and internationally. It becomes a problem when white people censor the voices of minority communities and suggest that they have the answers to racial justice. It is a problem when pastors do church planting in poor communities and undermine the great work that established churches have been doing in such neighborhoods for decades. As a Christian and an advocate by profession, I think it is essential for people to stand up against injustices (through education, information, and involvement). It just needs to be done in a way that does not reinforce oppression. Advocate, educate, inform, and use your platform to do good. Just don’t try to be a voice for the voiceless. It is harmful.