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The Spirit’s Witness: An Interview with Shelly Rambo

The theologian Karl Barth admonished Christians to pray with “the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”[1] Shelly Rambo, the author of Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining and a professor at Boston University, might add that our ways of doing theology must be responsive to the human suffering and trauma we encounter in those headlines or in the troubled faces we see all around us. Divine love meets humanity in our deepest and most lingering traumas, and... Read More

When Helpers Get Sick: Making Meaning after Secondary Trauma

Secondary traumatic stress disorder: the emotional duress that results from firsthand exposure to the trauma experiences of another. People with secondary trauma have symptoms that mimic those of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); those symptoms include intrusion, hyperarousal, and avoidance.   I. Intrusion: the inability to keep memories of the event from returning.   I was in a chilly movie theater when I had my first flashback. I remember rubbing my bare arms to... Read More

Naming the Animals

I found the video of the lambing to be a bit gross, with the blood and amniotic fluid gushing onto the hay and dirt. I was OK with the elephant birth as long as the sound was off. Two-year-old Clara couldn’t get enough of either. When I first showed her a video of a human birth—a peaceful home water birth—she watched mesmerized and then cut in, “All done! All done! All done!” eyebrows furrowing and voice wavering. “Was that scary?” I asked, surprised. She nodded... Read More

Invisible Grief? Theological Reflections on Miscarriage

It is the hard work of mothering always to remember. —Walter Brueggemann   About six minutes into what will become a ninety-minute conversation, the woman on the other side of the kitchen table begins to cry. As I fight—and fail—to hold back my own tears, I am struck that so far in my research, I’m five for five in reducing these women, some of them strangers to me, to tears. As they tell their stories of having suffered one or more miscarriages, I realize also that... Read More

The Other Side of Normal

“Fearlessness is better than a faint heart for any man who puts his nose out of doors. The length of my life and the day of my death were fated long ago.”1—I read these lines in the Norse epic poem For Skirnis as a child and have remembered them often since. I steeped myself in Norse and Celtic mythologies, and I remain impressed by the fierceness of those warriors whose legendary tales forged cultures. I always wanted to ride out, meet the enemy, slay the dragon. Well,... Read More

Evil Is What Humans Do: An Interview with Christian Wiman

Christian Wiman is one of America’s most important poets. He is the editor of Poetry magazine, the author of several poetry and essay collections, and a revered contributor to such prestigious publications as the Harvard Divinity Bulletin and the New Yorker. His forthcoming book, My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer, explores the central themes of his work, including frailty, illness, and the love of God. In this interview, Wiman discusses his work, his attention... Read More

Randomness and Assurance: Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

The Blueprint Worldview On August 1, 2007, a highway bridge several miles from my house collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people and wounding 144 others. That night, a well-known local pastor blogged about a discussion he had with his eleven-year-old daughter as he put her to bed. He asked her what purpose God might have had for not “holding up that bridge,” even though he could have done so with “his pinky.” He affirmed her when she responded that God “wanted all... Read More

Suffering and the Love of God (A Tribute to My Wife)

A little over a year ago my wife was diagnosed with a rare, cancer-like disease called pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP). This disease begins with an appendiceal or ovarian tumor that ruptures and begins to spread thick mucin throughout the abdominal cavity. The tumorous cells multiply, attaching themselves to organs and slowly filling the abdomen with a bright yellow Jell-O. If left unattended over a long period, the slowly reproducing mucin will begin to crush organs and shut down... Read More

Though the Earth Give Way: Haiti, Suffering, and the Crucified God

Paradox before the Ruins Jack Gilbert’s poem “A Brief for the Defense” is a haunting meditation on a central contradiction: that profound suffering and extraordinary joy—each apparently unaccountable in light of the other—so pervade a world ascribed to the work of God. In the poem (Job-like in its honesty of language), Gilbert sets the stark horrors of poverty, violence, and natural calamity side by side with portraits of beauty and laughter in the mundane habits... Read More

Why Lord? Haiti and the God-Question

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake, the same strength quake that rocked San Francisco in 1989, brought the little island nation of Haiti to its knees. Some news outlets have reported that nearly one-third of the nation’s population, or somewhere in the neighborhood of about 3 million people, have been affected either by being killed, maimed, or left homeless. It is not an exaggeration to say that the devastation strains one’s abilities to describe. And it is just... Read More