Friends Journal review of “Resurrecting Wounds”

BY TOM PAXSON on January 1, 2019

Christianity was born in trauma, but do we recognize its implications? The psychological‐social‐spiritual trauma, which is Rambo’s focus, disrupts pre‐trauma patterns of experience: the dead live on, as it seems, and the pre‐traumatized self dies. But neither the living nor the dying is final, as both recur unexpectedly against one’s will. The experience of time is disrupted, with the past interrupting the present and haunting the future, with recurrences or flashbacks adding terrifying new detail to conscious memories.

The event or events initiating the trauma are often obscured by sensory and emotional overload, resulting in confusing, emotion‐laden memory fragments. The sense of self may shatter in the chaos of confused time, memory, and alienation. Debilitating estrangement from one’s earlier life and from the lives of others intensifies persistently raw wounds, desperately hidden from and by oneself and others. It is well‐established that such trauma can be passed from one generation to another when the wounds underlying the trauma are not fully acknowledged and integrated into the individual’s or the community’s self‐understood history.

How is it that a religion born in trauma no longer speaks to the traumatized? Rambo suggests that Christian theology over time came to hide the wounds, and with them a central part of the gospel narrative of resurrection, by shifting attention to a triumphant, flawless, otherworldly existence after death. Without challenging the eschatology, Rambo focuses on the afterlife of trauma in this world as seen through the lens of the Gospel of John. In re‐envisioning resurrection to include resurrection in this earthly life, she builds on trauma studies, encounters with those living in and with trauma, and the work of feminist, womanist, and Black theologians, among others. For me, reading Resurrecting Wounds brought Quaker history and thought into dialogue with the rich collection of voices Rambo assembles in addition to her own distinctive account.

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