Contemporary spirituality or prayer life does not seem to offer much space for the idea of complaining to God or demanding some form of divine accountability for injustices that we witness or suffer ourselves. We may reverently ask God for our petitions and of course offer prayers of thanksgiving. I certainly encounter the phrase “God is good” sometimes followed by the response “all of the time.” But the human condition is not all about experiencing the good. Everyone experiences suffering; we all know that injustice is part of our social and personal experience, yet somehow it is considered taboo to or spiritually audacious to bring this to the attention of God. I will admit that there has been times when I have been tempted to respond to the “God is good” phrase with my own scandalous response, “not today.”
And yet our scripture offers a number of prayers to God that offer complaints and at times demanding divine accountability. We find many of these in the psalms and lamentations. The book of Job is a complaint to God by one who has experienced a horrible injustice. Jesus himself takes part of this tradition when in the midst of being crucified he cries out the beginning of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22 is a cry of deep anguish and desolation, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;” (psalm 22: 14). While towards the end of this psalm there is a recognition that God will vindicate the suffering servant, others like Psalm 88 are not so optimistic. The psalmist here cries out his anguish to God and wonders if God is indeed present. Daniel Harrington, SJ writes:
Psalm 88 is often called a dialogue with an absent God. The psalmist calls out to a God who appears to have abandoned him and to be hiding from him. Yet the absent God is still somehow present – present enough to be addressed in prayer, to be criticized, and to be angry at.
Whereas our contemporary spirituality may not offer us a place to offer today’s lamentations nevertheless this continues to be part of the human condition and we can see this being expressed in areas of popular culture. The Gothic genre of punk music seems to be a place where one can find expression for this traditional prayer. The band Evanescence offers a powerful lamentation rich with the symbolism and expressions of the Biblical psalms in many of their song. One in particular is their song “tourniquet” which can be found in the album, “Fallen.”
Like Psalm 88 this song is offered by one who is on the verge of facing death. In this case the suffering victim has attempted to take her own life out of desperation. In the process of dying however she recognizes her mistake and is seeking salvation in two ways. Can God, functioning for her in this desperate moment as both a spiritual and actual tourniquet, save her both physically and spiritually? Is God present and can He bring salvation to her in this most desperate hour? Consider the lament in Psalm 22:14 above and this lamentation from what I now am calling the “tourniquet psalm.”
I lay dying; And I’m pouring crimson regret and betrayal
I’m dying, praying, bleeding and screaming
Am I too lost to be saved? Am I too lost?
My God my tourniquet; Return to me salvation
Do you remember me? Lost for so long
Will you be on the other side; Or will you forget me?
As the song is ending it seems that she has lost her physical battle, now she wonders if Christ, her tourniquet, will be there to offer her salvation in the next life. This Gothic song is a powerful contemporary lamentation. For me the “tourniquet psalm” and other lamentations that come out of the Gothic punk genre allow us to continue to express this traditional form of prayer, at least until our own religious communities and Christian spirituality can move beyond their more sanitized version of “God talk.”
Below I offer a youtube video of this song being sung in a concert in Lisbon.
 Daniel Harrington, SJ “Why do we suffer: A scriptural approach to the human condition,” (Sheed & Ward, Lanham, MD, 2000) pp. 10