Living in the Afterlife of Trauma
Imprint: Baylor University Press
196 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 1 b&w illus
- Published: October 2018
The Gospel of John’s account of doubting Thomas is often told as a lesson about the veracity and triumph of Christian faith. And yet it is a story about wounds. Interpretations of this Gospel narrative, by focusing on Christ’s victory in the resurrection, reflect Christianity’s unease with the wounds that remain on the body of the risen Jesus. By returning readers to this familiar passage, Resurrecting Wounds expands the scope of the Upper Room to the present world where wounds mark all of humanity.
Shelly Rambo rereads the Thomas story and the history of its interpretation through the lens of trauma studies to reflect on the ways that the wounds of race, gender, and war persist. Wounds do not simply go away, even though a close reading of John Calvin reveals his theological investments in removing wounds. This erasure reflects a dominant mode of Christian thinking, but it is not the only Christian reading. By contrast, Macrina’s scar, in Gregory of Nyssa’s account of her life and death, displays how resurrection can be inscribed in wounds, particularly in the illumination of her body after her death. The scar, produced in and through a mother’s touch, recalls a healing, linking resurrection to the work of tending wounds. Much like Christ’s wounds and Macrina’s scar, racial wounds can be found on the skin of America’s collective life. The wounds of racial histories, unhealed, resurface again and again. The wounds of war persist as well, despite a cultural calculus that links the suffering of a soldier with that of Christ. Again, the visceral display of Jesus’ wounds, when placed at the center of Thomas’ encounter in the Upper Room, enacts a vision of resurrecting that addresses the real harm of the real wounds of war.
The powerful Upper Room images of resurrection—encounters with wounds, the invitation to touch, and the formation of a community—present visions of truth-telling and of healing that grapple with the pressing questions of wounds surfacing in the midst of human encounters with violence, suffering, and trauma. While traditional accounts of resurrection in Christian theology have focused on the afterlife, this book forges a theology of resurrection wounds in the afterliving. By returning again and again to Christ’s woundedness, we discover ways to live with our own.
Introduction: Reenvisioning Resurrection
1. Erasing Wounds: John Calvin and the Problem of the Resurrected Body
2. Touching Wounds: Macrina’s Scar and the Balm of Resurrection Flesh
3. Surfacing Wounds: Christian Theology and Resurrecting Histories in the Age of Ferguson
4. Discovering Wounds: Veteran Healing and Resurrection in the Upper Room
Conclusion: Communal After-Living
Resurrecting Wounds is challenging—Rambo requires us to face the social and personal traumas and woundings that reveal the fraying edges of our theologies and life together. Her writing is elegant and painful. Old scabs of the past reveal the woundings in the present. There is no hiding place from the ravages of racism and violence of the soul-shattering effect of untold stories. Hope and the potential for healing may be in the community gathered together as witness without recovering the scabs. Such witnessing does not remove scab or wound; it makes us reread the Gospel narratives, in community, with the reality and theology of wounding in the foreground.~Phillis Isabella Sheppard, Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology and Culture, Vanderbilt University
Shelly Rambo combines theology, philosophy, feminism, and trauma studies in this highly original reading of wounds and scars. Ranging from Macrina of Nyssa and Calvin to contemporary veterans and trauma victims, she shows how the resurrection of bodies is more about this life than the next, more about communal survival than private salvation.~Richard Kearney, Charles B. Seelig Chair of Philosophy, Boston College
Shelly Rambo forges a powerful—and necessary—theology of resurrection wounds that unflinchingly addresses the trauma of contemporary woundedness even as it celebrates and claims the victory of life that followed the cross. In so doing, she presents a profound vision of the resurrection, bears witness to suffering, and offers hope for healing.~Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary
An important and beautifully written contribution to current theological discourse on trauma.~Hannah Jones, Reading Religion
…Rambo exceeds expectations with a masterful and surprisingly daring venture to reconsider theologies of resurrection in the ‘afterlife’ or ‘ongoingness’ of trauma.~Amy McLaughlin-Sheasby, Homiletic
The breadth and creativity of Rambo’s intertextual analysis is exciting, and her multivalent reading of John 20 will undoubtedly spur reflection on suffering, resurrection, and salvation.~Jessica Coblentz, Horizons
Rambo pushes the theological envelope in order to give us space to breathe, rest, and heal. Her writing is so delicately constructed that even the most resistant reader will be forced to stop and consider her groundbreaking interpretation of the encounter between Jesus and Thomas and the reality of wounds. Both this book, as well as her earlier one (Spirit and Trauma), should be required reading for seminarians, clergy, counselors and others who minister to people navigating the aftermath of trauma.~Paula Owens Parker, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology