February 6, 2019

'Boycott Bowl' as Prophetic Lament

As a couple of teams played in some sort of football game on Sunday, the people of New Orleans responded with a form of prophetic lament. This "Boycott Bowl" came after the now-infamous blown call that kept the New Orleans Saints out of the big game.

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In the face of a clear injustice, thousands of people took to the streets for their own party - kind of like an early Mardi Gras. Sure, they were angry and upset, but rather than sit silently at home (and, even worse, sit at home and watch that corrupt game), they instead gathered to publicly lament and protest as a community. In doing so, they captured a biblical idea of prophetic lament (seems appropriate for a team called the "Saints").

"The laments in the books of Psalms and Lamentations are all an expression of grief but they are also an expression of hope," explained Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. "They are an insistence that things cannot remain this way and they must be changed. Such prayers are partly an address to God but they are also a communal resolve to hang in and take transformative action. Unless that kind of grief and rage and anger is put to speech, it can never become energy. So I believe the transformative function of such prayers is that it transforms energy and rage into positive energy."

The Saints fans proved this well. They drew attention to the injustice with their massive event, which was apparently more interesting that the boring game they protested (I didn't watch it either). They also raised more than $65,000 to support parks and recreation programs in their city. Far more than just a pity party, this gathering brought healing to the city and told the powers that be that the people of New Orleans refuse to just accept the broken reality.

In the face of injustice, may we find the faith to come together as a community for creative, prophetic lament.

Walter Brueggemann

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