Shelly Rambo, Boston University
Funded by the Louisville Institute
North American religious leaders are responding to collective trauma on a weekly basis. Whether mobilizing to provide basic support services to community members in the aftermath of a hurricane or tailoring a sermon for the Sunday after a mass shooting, they are ‘first responders’ to trauma. The once exceptional incidents are reshaping the rhythms of public ministry. Rather than incidental, they reveal something of the ongoing conditions impacting neighborhoods and nation. Something of the fabric of everyday existence has changed. Without normalizing the devastation or violence, it is important to take seriously these conditions of ministry. This project takes this “new normal,” a term associated with trauma, as the grounds for writing a theological primer. Organized around three central questions—Who are we that we can wound and be so wounded? Where is God in the suffering? Who are we to be in the ongoingness of trauma?—this book-length project follows a familiar (doctrinal) arc for theology courses while situating them within three distinctive arenas of textual and ethnographic study: 1) the literatures of trauma, survival, resilience, and moral injury; 2) comparative religious theodicies; and 3) first-hand narratives of working chaplains (religious ‘first-responders’).