I’m reading through Marva Dawn’s Reaching Out without Dumbing Down this afternoon. In a section on praise in the church she quotes Walter Brueggemann from his The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary (pp. 51-52):
It is my judgment that this action of the church [overemphasis on upbeat worship to the exclusion of other types of worship] is less an evangelical defiance guided by faith, and much more a frightened, numb denial and deception that does not want to acknowledge or experience the disorientation of life. The reason for such relentless affirmation of orientation seems to come, not from faith, but from the wishful optimism of our culture. Such a denial and cover-up, which I take it to be, is an odd inclination for passionate Bible users, given the large number of psalms that are songs of lament, protest, and complaint about the incoherence that is experienced in the world. At least it is clear that a church that goes on singing “happy songs” in the face of raw reality is doing something very different from what the Bible itself does.
I thought this was profound. The Bible is a very “real” book; there are more lament Psalms than any other kind. In a world that believes Christianity is less and less relevant, one way to reverse that is to return to Biblical patterns of worship, i.e. lament, petitions, and other songs that deal with the difficulties of the world we live in.