We Should Listen To Louis C.K. – By Cindy Brandt

louis-ck
(H/T)

 

Louis C.K.’s rant on texting and sadness made the rounds on the internet a couple of months ago. He says the reason people pick up their phones to text is because they begin to feel the “forever empty” underlying our lives and we interrupt the path to experiencing true sadness with our gadgets. “Sadness is poetic, we’re lucky to feel sad,” he says. This youtube clip got more than 5 million views and was reported  by major media outlets such as USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post. Sadness resonates with people because it is such a universal human experience.

I’m not sure if Louis C.K. is religious or not, but he has incisively touched upon a profound truth – if we do not allow ourselves to go to the deep, dark place, we deny ourselves the fullness of life and survive with superficial satisfaction. If church is to be a place where we invite people to meet with God, we must provide a space to plunge past  the urges to placate those initial nagging thoughts of sad, and immerse ourselves in full-blown lament. This is often not the case in church communities. The Church is filled with resurrection Sunday people and not many Good Friday folks. Any hints of negativity or complaint is quickly shut down with a call to thanksgiving. We sing songs like, “When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will bless your name!” The taboo attached to swear words within Christian culture is a terrible barrier to true lament, because “gosh darn it, my wife just got diagnosed with cancer”, doesn’t do justice to the depth of sorrow. When our God given compassionate hearts encounter stories of abused children, it warrants a “F*&k it” in expression of our righteous rage. Like the kitschy Kincade paintings, the church masks over authentic suffering of the soul with pithy sayings and pat answers until all that glows is an artificial light, while true fire dies out. 

Walter Brueggeman, an Old Testament biblical scholar and modern prophet, accuses the church of broadly ignoring one third of the Psalms and calls the church to recover the language of biblical lament. If Christians are not given the permission to rail against God, we are invited into either great guilt (for feeling angry with God) or great denial. Solidifying a place of lament allows a community to address that which is not right and demand change. The character of brutal honesty must mark a true covenantal relationship between us and God. 

Let’s be clear: biblical lament is not First World Whining or pretentious accusations of false persecution. It looks more like the genuine cry of a bereaved widow; the desperate pleas for rights long denied; the collective sighs of marginalized peoples. Lament liberates the depressed to express their pain, and bring to surface the pain of those who think they are well. Peter Rollins says, “I’m not trying to get people depressed. I’m telling them they already are.”

It’s not comfortable to be sad. We have figured out ways to avoid it with our stuff, our feel-good testimonies, and our Scripture quips. The greatest irony lies in this: the frantic rush to redemption stirs up a flurry of dust which buries our sadness deeper, until all that’s left is a bunch of church people trying to make people feel good, and the truly sad people are pushed further and further out.

Let’s put away our phones. Let’s live into the tension of longing for hope in the midst of pain. Let’s embrace the inevitable suckiness of life and as Louis C.K. says, “be grateful to feel sad.”

 

Like what you read? Make sure you check Cindy Brandt’s blog for more!

 

11 Comments
  • Flower Patch Farmgirl
    November 25, 2013

    Fantastic post, Cindy. Church never made sense to me until I found people willing to travel the dark miles with honesty and gentleness.

    if
    we do not allow ourselves to go to the deep, dark place, we deny
    ourselves the fullness of life and survive with superficial
    satisfaction. – See more at:
    http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=11156#disqus_thread
    if
    we do not allow ourselves to go to the deep, dark place, we deny
    ourselves the fullness of life and survive with superficial
    satisfaction. – See more at:
    http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=11156#disqus_thread
    if
    we do not allow ourselves to go to the deep, dark place, we deny
    ourselves the fullness of life and survive with superficial
    satisfaction. – See more at:
    http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=11156#disqus_thread
    if
    we do not allow ourselves to go to the deep, dark place, we deny
    ourselves the fullness of life and survive with superficial
    satisfaction. – See more at:
    http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=11156#disqus_thread

    • Cindy
      November 26, 2013

      Thank you! It’s such a precious thing to have someone we can be real with. I’m glad you found some people.

  • Karissa
    November 25, 2013

    Thank you for this. I believe we should be sad about our world sometimes. And finding joy and peace in Christ, while genuine and wonderful, doesn’t negate that sadness or the tragedy of living in a sinful world.

  • pastordt
    November 25, 2013

    Thank you so much for this, Cindy. I wrote a similar piece (minus the Louis C.K. reference!) a couple of months ago over at A Deeper Family – got more response/comments than any other thing I’ve ever posted. There is a yawning, gaping, seeping wound in the church that needs to be let out into the fresh air for healing. And lament is the only language that can contain it. Thanks so much for this.

    • Cindy
      November 26, 2013

      awesome! I love when truth is spoken from outside of church, like Louis C.K. Who knew he was as profound as he is funny?!

    • Shoshana Lund
      November 27, 2013

      I read that post you mentioned, and LOVED it!

      I remember how caring and compassionate you and others were to me when I shared about my brother’s death, and my desire to lament. I created a Facebook page called Church of Lamentations that I hope will be a comfort to other hurting people.

      https://www.facebook.com/churchoflamentations

      • pastordt
        November 27, 2013

        I remember that Shoshana, and how very brave and vulnerable you were. So glad you’ve opened a FB page for others who need those strong words to get through the tough times. Thank you!

  • Maggie Bair
    November 26, 2013

    Cindy this is incredible! This understanding was deepdown in me but it never saw the light till now. Thank you for writing this. It is so needed in the church.

    “The greatest irony lies in this: the frantic rush to redemption stirs up a flurry of dust which buries our sadness deeper, until all that’s left is a bunch of church people trying to make people feel good, and the truly sad people are pushed further and further out.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. Sadness, grief and pain are not pretty and are hard to be around- but God said to comfort one another…. not make each other happy.
    Much love to you sis.

  • 2GreatCommandementPreschooler
    November 26, 2013

    Cindy, this piece is so powerful and resonant. I’m reminded of the quote (but not reminded of the source unfortunately) that church is meant to be a hospital for the sick, those that need healing; not a club for the well (my paraphrase). As Brennan Manning said, “What is denied cannot be healed” and too often, as you so eloquently point out, especially in church environments encouraged to mask and skip that vital first step of being “real” in order to heal. Thank you for this wonderful post.

  • Shoshana Lund
    November 27, 2013

    This is amazing. I was inspired by your insights, and I created a facebook page called Church of Lamentations because of it 🙂

    https://www.facebook.com/churchoflamentations

  • Paul
    November 28, 2013

    While this post says things that should be said, I think it lacks balance. If pithy
    sayings and pat answers serve to deny the pain and sorrow of real life ordeals,
    it should also be noted that expletive expressions serve to deny us the humbling experience of realizing we are not in control nor were we meant to be. While I would never condemn or chastise anyone for their frustration with life or for the language they use to express such frustration, such expressions are normative only for those beginning their journey and generally reflect a lack of eternal perspective.

    If our response to the unpleasantness of life is &%#!, we are refusing to enter “the deep dark place;” neither are we humbling ourselves nor positioning ourselves to transcend our present circumstances. At best we will return to our previous state having left wisdom and progress on the table, and at worst degraded our position in our failure to seize the day.

    “Brutal honesty” is good if it means authentic expression of the soul’s pain and hope for deliverance, but too often it is used as a cloak for indulgence in self-pity and bemoaning one’s lack of control over his/her circumstances. Perhaps we should note that in the depth of his sorrow, Job did not curse God despite his wife’s urging to do so.

    While bad things may be turned to a good purpose, so also can good things be marginalized and turned into a negative by improper use or context. To the unbelieving, the life-giving words of Christ fall as flat as a symphony on the tone deaf; they are merely “pithy sayings” and “pat answers.” And unfortunately
    his words are often passed on as just that. But taken in context as spoken by the Son of God, his words are spirit and life. His word is truth, and it is truth that sets us free.

    God is patient and kind and is present with all in their suffering. And while the wisdom, depth, and healing power of his word is hidden from those who avoid him, those who trust him and lean on him find in his words help beyond all earthly means.

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