Transforming Toxicity: A Psalm of Lament

If you know me, you know my love-hate relationship with what we Christians call biblical text – The Bible. Words that can comfort, liberate, and empower. Words that can be used to wound, divide, and justify hypocrisy and hatred. One of the books that has inspired me is the Book of Psalms, especially now that I transform the masculine and patriarchal language. Most of the psalms in the biblical canon are psalms of lament. In a class on the psalms, we were asked to write a psalm of lament and I share it with you today. To lament to God is to cry out in the hope that being aware of the sources of our pain and injustice, including our own roles in it, and to express it openly in words can lead to healing, forgiveness, protection for the future, and a closer relationship to our Creator. I pray that my sharing will encourage you to give time and expression to your own laments and your own journeys of healing and hope.

Transforming Toxicity

Most Gracious Spirit,

You are my source of strength, my healer, my comforter, my friend.

I speak to you from the depths of my heart,

a place you know well,

a place where you reside.


I plead for your guidance – let me hear and follow your words

How shall I deal with the anger, the hurt of being aware of things I cannot control

To have been uprooted so long ago and planted in such toxic soil,

a delusional land founded on greed, theft, slavery, and genocide

that calls itself a beacon of freedom and democracy, a land of justice for all,

From childhood, infused with pledges of allegiance to a flag, a government, a nation

that has never been loyal to me or to anyone who is not rich, white, male, and

idolized on Wall Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Capitol Hill.

A place that spreads hatred all around the globe,

that takes your name in vain as it sinks colonial Christianity to new depths of depravity.


Shall I find solace in the institutional church? Most certainly not.

It may bear your name, display symbols and speak words in honor of you

Yet it is the source of so much personal hurt, so much pain,

maybe more than this nation in which I was born

Help me, Loving Spirit, to free myself from the hurt and pain of the past,

from the agony and anger that will continually be awakened,

Remind me, Spirit of Life, that my roots go deeper than any church structure,

deeper than any nation, than any poisonous words or deeds,

Remind me that my roots are in you,

a God of life, of love, of creation,

Convert what is evil within me to what is good,

Focus my thoughts and feelings on what comes from you,

The energy and creativity, the intelligence and inner strength,

the sensitivity and spirituality that can help heal my wounds and

those of so many others,

that can bloom for your glory,

In you and you alone rest my hope.

To you and you alone do I give allegiance, honor and praise.


Christ First

For Christians, it is Christ First, not America First. And no, it cannot be both. People have asked me why I get so upset about having American flags in the sanctuary, singing patriotic hymns, or recognizing military service during worship. It is because our indoctrination as Americans renders us highly susceptible to ignoring or attempting to justify the horrendous acts that have been and continue to be committed in our name. Our society encourages us to equate being a Christian with being an American. Our communal worship must be a time to remind us that our loyalty goes first not to America, but to Christ.
As Americans, we are taught from childhood that the United States is the greatest country that ever existed, the world leader in democratic values, and a place founded by people seeking religious freedom. What is often left out of our education is the fact that before there was ever a Declaration of Independence or a Constitution, there were Africans and African-Americans being sold on auction blocks and Native Americans being slaughtered. What is often left out is that our history speaks less to the search for religious freedom than to the search for land, less to the desire to worship Christ than to worship greed. While there were Christians who spoke out against atrocities and died because of their beliefs, there were others who used Christianity as a tool to justify those atrocities. Our faith has too often been used as a means of distraction, division, and affirmation of what is wrong about our nation than as a force for what is right, just, and affirming of all life.
During this season as we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, may we remember our commitment as Christians to the principles for which Jesus stood. Instead of getting distracted with calls for cashiers to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” or to bemoan who or what institution did not place a manger scene on the lawn, may we focus on the things Jesus, God in human flesh and blood, cared about. May we remember the child whose parents were turned away from reputable establishments, who was targeted by the government for execution, who was carried out of his homeland to seek asylum and who lived as a refugee, and who called on his fellow Jews to follow God’s way regardless of doctrines, traditions, or laws. May we speak out against any American policy, including the closing of our borders and the tear gassing of people seeking asylum, that does not welcome the stranger or treat our neighbors as ourselves. May we not gain secure borders at the cost of losing our souls. May our minds, our voices, and our hearts always be guided not by America first, but by Christ first. Amani.