Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Middle

Shelly Rambo
“The structure of trauma introduces what I refer to as the ‘middle’—the figurative site in which death and life and no longer bounded. Instead, the middle speaks to the perplexing space of survival. It is a largely untheologized site, because the middle is overshadowed by the other two events. Because of its precarious positioning, the middle can easily be covered over and ignored. It is subject to the elisions of time, body, and language and therefore is difficult to witness. The good news of Christianity for those who experience trauma rests in the capacity to theologize this middle. It does not rest in either the event of the cross or resurrection, but instead in the movements between the two—movements that I identify through the concept of witness. The good news lies in the ability of Christian theology to witness between death and life, in its ability to forge a new discourse between the two.” (Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, 7.)

The middle.

Theology often focuses on death (the cross) or life (the resurrection), but rarely the middle. Yet, that’s where we spend most of our time. We are not dead but we are not yet risen.

What do you think? Do you typically think more of death (the cross) or life (the resurrection)? What does a healthy theology of the middle look like?

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Gospel and Re-Framing Stories

Shelly Rambo
In Spirit and Trauma, Shelly Rambo recounts a meeting with Paul Womack, a minister in New York and a military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Womack lamented the church’s inability to address the intense grief he experienced since serving. Rambo writes:

“In the few moments that I spoke with Paul, I realized that he had a longing to have the sacred story meet his story. He wants the gospel—the good news—that he preaches and teaches to speak to his story and not erase it. He wants it to be heard for the truth that it speaks, a truth that he cannot fully bring into words.” (Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, 2.)

I like where Rambo is going with this. I don’t think we handle trauma very well. It's tempting to "erase people's stories" with the gospel.

By focusing on the hope of the future, we can inadvertently communicate to traumatized people “You shouldn’t feel this way.” But the reality is that we often do feel that way, and until the return of Jesus grief and pain will remain normative parts of the Christian experience. The last enemy to be defeated is death and he is still fighting back hard.

But I love what Rambo says here—Paul wants the gospel to speak to his story; he doesn’t necessarily want people to re-frame ("erase") his story in light of the gospel (“You shouldn’t feel this way because gospel”).

What do you think about that? Is there a difference between re-framing people’s story according to the gospel and allowing the gospel to speak to someone’s story?