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Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World

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This substantive collection of essays by Serene Jones explores recent works in the field of trauma studies. Central to its overall theme is an investigation of the myriad ways both individual and collective violence affect one's capacity to remember, to act, and to love; how violence can challenge theological understandings of grace; and even how the traumatic experience o This substantive collection of essays by Serene Jones explores recent works in the field of trauma studies. Central to its overall theme is an investigation of the myriad ways both individual and collective violence affect one's capacity to remember, to act, and to love; how violence can challenge theological understandings of grace; and even how the traumatic experience of Jesus' death is remembered. Of particular interest is Jones's focus on the long-term effects of collective violence on abuse survivors, war veterans, and marginalized populations, and the discrete ways in which grace and redemption might be exhibited in each context. At the heart of each essay are two deeply interrelated faith-claims that are central to Jones's understanding of Christian theology: first, we live in a world profoundly broken by violence; second, God loves this world and desires that suffering be met by words of hope, of love, and of grace. This truly cutting-edge book is the first trauma study to directly take into account theological issues.


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This substantive collection of essays by Serene Jones explores recent works in the field of trauma studies. Central to its overall theme is an investigation of the myriad ways both individual and collective violence affect one's capacity to remember, to act, and to love; how violence can challenge theological understandings of grace; and even how the traumatic experience o This substantive collection of essays by Serene Jones explores recent works in the field of trauma studies. Central to its overall theme is an investigation of the myriad ways both individual and collective violence affect one's capacity to remember, to act, and to love; how violence can challenge theological understandings of grace; and even how the traumatic experience of Jesus' death is remembered. Of particular interest is Jones's focus on the long-term effects of collective violence on abuse survivors, war veterans, and marginalized populations, and the discrete ways in which grace and redemption might be exhibited in each context. At the heart of each essay are two deeply interrelated faith-claims that are central to Jones's understanding of Christian theology: first, we live in a world profoundly broken by violence; second, God loves this world and desires that suffering be met by words of hope, of love, and of grace. This truly cutting-edge book is the first trauma study to directly take into account theological issues.

30 review for Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    It was just a year ago that I read the first edition of Trauma + Grace. I wasn't reading it for review, so my reading might have been a little less focused than this time around with the second edition of the book. In recent years a growing number of theologians have explored the reality of trauma. It might be as a result of violence or severe illness (such as cancer). How might we believe in God in the context of trauma-producing events. In this case, how does trauma interact with grace? As Ser It was just a year ago that I read the first edition of Trauma + Grace. I wasn't reading it for review, so my reading might have been a little less focused than this time around with the second edition of the book. In recent years a growing number of theologians have explored the reality of trauma. It might be as a result of violence or severe illness (such as cancer). How might we believe in God in the context of trauma-producing events. In this case, how does trauma interact with grace? As Serene Jones, the author of this book notes in the introduction to this Second Edition, "The Bible is one long series of traumatic events and accounts of how people struggle to speak about God in the midst of them." (p. xi). Standing at the center of this story is the crucifixion and its effect on those who experienced with Jesus. The author is Serene Jones, the President of Union Theological Seminary in New York. She is a member of a UCC congregation, but grew up in a Disciples of Christ home (her father is Disciples theologian Joe R. Jones). She is a Feminist theologian who engages with John Calvin and the Trinity. This edition contains the original essays, some of which were new at the time and others had been published elsewhere. To this original core, is added a foreword written by Kelly Brown Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School, and a new introduction to the Second Edition, in which she resets the book. She writes that while her thinking from the earlier work hasn't changed, she is more aware of 1) "of the impact of collective traumas that get passed down from generation to generation." (p. xii). 2)She is "more aware of secondary trauma, or the effects of trauma on the lives of those who haven't directly undergone the trauma." (p. xiii). 3) she notes that she appreciates in a way she did not earlier the way in which "the different forms of violence I was describing have also been perpetrated against the earth itself" (p. xiv). With these new insights she has concluded that trauma studies are essential not only to the understanding of Scripture, but the theological task itself. This resource brings theology out of the realm of the abstract into the reality of our lives. It is in this context that she seeks to understand the grace of God. The books is dived into three parts. Part 1 is titled "Traumatic Faith. She has chapters that delve into the concept of trauma and grace. There si a chapter that brings the Emmaus story into conversation with 9/11, and finally a chapter in which she engages with Calvin's Psalms as a means of pursuing healing. This section is followed in Part 2, titled Crucified Beginnings, with three chapters exploring the cross. There is a chapter on the alluring cross, while brief, it invites us to consider why the cross, despite its repulsive nature calls out to us. From there we move to a chapter on "The Mirrored Cross," which moves to a more embodied conversation about the cross and its message to those experiencing trauma. In the mirrored cross, the cross reflects back to us our own suffering. Finally there is a chapter on the "unending cross." She points us to Mark, the gospel without an ending as a place to explore the connection of trauma and the cross. In Part 3, she builds on what has gone before. It's titled "Ruptured Redeemings." She has a chapter on "sin, creativity, and the Christian life." There is a chapter on reproductive loss titled "hope deferred." Finally, there is a chapter on "Mourning and Wonder." Throughout the book Jones weaves story of her own life, but more often of others she has encountered in life. She tells the story, as she walked with them. These are not disembodied stories. Their real life stories of people, mostly women, but not only women, who have experienced trauma and are seeking ways of remaining persons of faith, even as they seek healing grace. To these nine chapters, Jones adds two new closing pieces. Both are conversations. The first is a conversation with Kelly Brown Douglas on the relationship of trauma and race. This conversation emerged out of a greater realization of the role that race plays in trauma, especially that trauma that is passed on from generation to generation. The closing piece is a conversation/interview of the author by David Maxwell, her editor at WJK Press. Issues of race figure here as well, though she speaks of other causes of trauma. It is a compelling book. I think we often do theology in an abstract manner. Perhaps that's because much published theology is written by white/Euro-American men. While there are points of trauma we have experienced, especially in times of war (not my experience though), we do not deal with the same realities of trauma as a person of color. The one critique of this conversation is that Jones often speaks of "white people" in the abstract, as if, for instance, she's not a white woman. If whiteness is spoken in generalities, then it would important for her to own her own whiteness. It's not that what she shares is incorrect, it just seems disembodied. Overall, this is an important contribution to our theological conversation, which brings concepts like the Trinity and sin out of the realm of the abstract into the realm of real life. That is the key to theology being of earthly value as well as heavenly value!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beth Jarvis

    A somewhat difficult read but well worth it - especially for anyone in ministry. The first book I've read that deals with how trauma can affect our ability to trust, especially trusting God and the Church. Serene Jones does an excellent job of bringing together trauma theory and theology. I appreciate her definition of sin including sin committed against us and how redemption imagery is vital for healing this as well. "Expecting the world to be broken and expecting grace to come--it is the air o A somewhat difficult read but well worth it - especially for anyone in ministry. The first book I've read that deals with how trauma can affect our ability to trust, especially trusting God and the Church. Serene Jones does an excellent job of bringing together trauma theory and theology. I appreciate her definition of sin including sin committed against us and how redemption imagery is vital for healing this as well. "Expecting the world to be broken and expecting grace to come--it is the air of gravity of sin-grace imagination. That's what makes Christians such inveterate hopers. In our minds, something is always about to happen. And then it does."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I started reading this a few weeks ago to prepare for 9/11 worship. Jones recapitulates the sin-grace narrative through the lens of trauma. Jones writes brief essays exploring corporate trauma (9/11 and the Emmaus Road passage), through the cross, and then through individual trauma of a friend who was abused, reproductive loss, and her own journey. My favorite chapter was her chapter on Calvin's reading of the Psalms. I started reading this a few weeks ago to prepare for 9/11 worship. Jones recapitulates the sin-grace narrative through the lens of trauma. Jones writes brief essays exploring corporate trauma (9/11 and the Emmaus Road passage), through the cross, and then through individual trauma of a friend who was abused, reproductive loss, and her own journey. My favorite chapter was her chapter on Calvin's reading of the Psalms.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kate Davis

    Such a helpful book! Each chapter points to an intersection between psychology and theology and offers a starting point that is so helpful for practical, lived, trauma-informed theology.

  5. 5 out of 5

    E.

    An excellent book, introducing theological thinker to trauma theory and how it intersects with our disciplines. The most surprising chapter is that on John Calvin's Commentary on the Psalms and how Jones has used the reading of that classic text with women's support groups to respond to trauma. I feel as if I am in the midst of a big revision of my thoughts on Calvin, based on this and other reading I've done recently. The chapter on women and reproductive loss was quite good, providing me a rich An excellent book, introducing theological thinker to trauma theory and how it intersects with our disciplines. The most surprising chapter is that on John Calvin's Commentary on the Psalms and how Jones has used the reading of that classic text with women's support groups to respond to trauma. I feel as if I am in the midst of a big revision of my thoughts on Calvin, based on this and other reading I've done recently. The chapter on women and reproductive loss was quite good, providing me a richer understanding of this common trauma. The closing chapter on "Mourning and Wonder" raised some questions for a fundamental aspect of my preaching the last few years. Building on St. Irenaeus ("The glory of God is a humanity fully alive") and the works of Catherine Keller and Wendy Farley, I've emphasized how God dreams for us to be our best selves and how that is possible for us. But reading Jones I realized that the best self may not be possible for the deeply traumatized. They've lost that future, which is part of their grief and on-going trauma. Books that compel me to rethink some central to my thought excite me. Now I face the challenge of incorporating this into my worldview, teaching, and preaching.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Elaine Berbec

    In this book’s defense, I read it after finishing Precarious Life by Judith Butler. Which is to say, while these two books are not comparable in terms of agenda—they both write around the topics of trauma and violence, and what we do with that—I found Trauma and Grace to be a bit too surface level for my taste. I think I would have benefited from it more had I read it five years ago. I had to push myself to finish as I was mostly bored throughout the read, but I’m glad I did as the final chapter In this book’s defense, I read it after finishing Precarious Life by Judith Butler. Which is to say, while these two books are not comparable in terms of agenda—they both write around the topics of trauma and violence, and what we do with that—I found Trauma and Grace to be a bit too surface level for my taste. I think I would have benefited from it more had I read it five years ago. I had to push myself to finish as I was mostly bored throughout the read, but I’m glad I did as the final chapter, and a bit of the second to last chapter, was better. And better as in, we’re finally getting somewhere. Perhaps this says more about me than about the book. If Jones’ agenda was to provide a general introduction to the intersection of trauma theory and theology; to offer a practical guide for how we talk about trauma and violence in the church; and to illustrate how the church might more appropriately respond to trauma, then the book serves well. Despite not enjoying it, I do think it is a necessary read for the aforementioned intent, and I would recommend it to pastors, church leaders, and laypeople.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scott Harris

    This is an excellent resource that explores the impact of theology and faith on the lives of people who have experienced trauma. Ultimately, the book is a collection of reworked sermons and papers that Jones has prepared over numerous years exploring the topic of trauma. Experientially, It is rooted in the experiences of those who have been traumatized whom Jones has pastorally supported in various ways over many years. It is informed by a health academic engagement with the psychological and cl This is an excellent resource that explores the impact of theology and faith on the lives of people who have experienced trauma. Ultimately, the book is a collection of reworked sermons and papers that Jones has prepared over numerous years exploring the topic of trauma. Experientially, It is rooted in the experiences of those who have been traumatized whom Jones has pastorally supported in various ways over many years. It is informed by a health academic engagement with the psychological and clinical research on the topic of trauma. It is equally grounded in a respect for the Reformed tradition. She particuarly draws upon Calvin's exploration of the Psalms in a way that adds texture and depth to her study. Finally, it reflects her perspectives from a liberal theological perspective. All told, her thesis about invites the reader to hold humility in understanding trauma and the events that cause them, while still maintaining a profound and deep sense of hope based in grace.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sadie

    I love Serene Jones book and the theology she presents within it. I especially appreciate her chapter addressing reproductive loss. Beautifully written, a well thought out theology, a book that really speaks to me. This was a re-read of sorts as I've read selected chapters many many times, but it's a book I'll go back to many more times I would imagine. I love Serene Jones book and the theology she presents within it. I especially appreciate her chapter addressing reproductive loss. Beautifully written, a well thought out theology, a book that really speaks to me. This was a re-read of sorts as I've read selected chapters many many times, but it's a book I'll go back to many more times I would imagine.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Stoeckel

    “…The essays do not offer answers—at least not in any straightforward way—to hard questions about the relationship between violence and redemption. Instead, they are a collection of epiphanic stories in which narratives of trauma, tales of grace, and the wisdom of doctrine are evocatively juxtaposed to provoke insight and stir imagination. As such, they are best viewed as a series of theological poems, albeit of a rather scholarly variety. Woven together, they exemplify the scattered, rich ways “…The essays do not offer answers—at least not in any straightforward way—to hard questions about the relationship between violence and redemption. Instead, they are a collection of epiphanic stories in which narratives of trauma, tales of grace, and the wisdom of doctrine are evocatively juxtaposed to provoke insight and stir imagination. As such, they are best viewed as a series of theological poems, albeit of a rather scholarly variety. Woven together, they exemplify the scattered, rich ways people grapple with the profound existential and moral questions raised by experiences of overwhelming violence and their long-term effects on communal and personal formation—and the reality of the grace that exists in the midst of it all. The first edition is here, all nine chapters, Jones adds two new pieces. Both are conversations. The first is a conversation on the relationship of trauma and race. This conversation emerged out of a greater realization of the role that race plays in trauma, especially that trauma that is passed on from generation to generation. The closing essay deals with racial, society and personal responses to the abuse left by the predicating incidents. In these essays, the author addresses trauma as an excercise that attempts to educate, not placate society. Morality and violence against a people has a long term effect on them personally as well as professionally, and it’s effects spill over into the safe havens churches have historically been, seeking the power and grace within, but finding the going just as bad inside as outside. It’s a valiant attempt at trying to find answers but to also find the peace we are promised as children of the G-d that weeps with us, that overturns wrongs with righteousness, supports the downtrodden and seeks justice: true recognition and respect for all of us, I read the first edition of this book while I was an interim minister dealing with the closure of a century old semi-rural church and the traumatic impact it had not only on the small number of members left, but the generational response, and finally the last minute community response when the building was sold and the new owners plans were presented to raze the building and replace it with a small strip mall. It seemed that every step that was taken was blocked by the members that no longer attended due to health a/o age:the building was not accessible, but were blaming those few left who glared at one another at a Sunday service instead of celebrating their common union. I spent months holding hands and listening as well as angry hang-up calls blaming me for the situation. I had been trained in dealing with interim situations ( clearing the bridgework between settled pastors) having no idea that this church closure would lead to specialized ministry in church closings ,I turned to books like this, and another older business text on burnout in closed systems for some support. Hindsight being 20-20,with the help of these foundations and the tacit support of my Conference, I think I can say it was as successful as it could be at the time. I highly recommend this book and thank John Knox press for an advanced updated copy. 5/5

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joni

    This book is a series of Serene Jones published and new essays dealing with trauma studies and their relation to religious understandings of the nature of self and salvation. Serene is very straightforward in saying this book does not offer answers, but does hope that it will help readers find a way to better understand the reality of "trauma" and "grace" in our own lives. This was not an easy book for me to read, not because it was poorly written or hard to understand, but the experiences and s This book is a series of Serene Jones published and new essays dealing with trauma studies and their relation to religious understandings of the nature of self and salvation. Serene is very straightforward in saying this book does not offer answers, but does hope that it will help readers find a way to better understand the reality of "trauma" and "grace" in our own lives. This was not an easy book for me to read, not because it was poorly written or hard to understand, but the experiences and situations were so real and thought provoking that it often required re-reading of passages, or whole pages.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Foll

    A beautiful, well-written, theologically-profound collection of essays about trauma. Serene Jones uses her training as a systematic theologian and her study of trauma theory and feminist theory, as well as her own interactions with men and women who have experienced trauma, to ground these essays. I will certainly return to his book again and again. The only downside to this book is that it's not written for lay readers or at a "popular" level. That being said, this book could be great in a smal A beautiful, well-written, theologically-profound collection of essays about trauma. Serene Jones uses her training as a systematic theologian and her study of trauma theory and feminist theory, as well as her own interactions with men and women who have experienced trauma, to ground these essays. I will certainly return to his book again and again. The only downside to this book is that it's not written for lay readers or at a "popular" level. That being said, this book could be great in a small group setting with a member who is trained in theology and pastoral care to assist and/or facilitate the conversation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert A. Renix

    Powerful insight and thought-provoking Jones offers insights into a world of trauma that lacks voice in the world and in the church. She unfolds a world men will never fully understand and rarely consider as it lies far outside our being male. Yet, every theologian, clergy, lay and care provider can learn to see trauma and it’s impact anew. Jones’ discussion of trauma, sin, Trinity and grace is one of hope.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    It is rare that I come upon a theologically rich and deeply pastoral book such as this one and I highly recommend it. She is a great writer and its a thoughtful integration of healthy, life-giving, grace oriented theology and trauma studies. I was deeply moved the stories in several of the chapters.

  14. 5 out of 5

    K Tan

    Such excellent and profound book not only shed insights in trauma and pain, but with new perspectives on some that is refreshing. For new theology students, please beware though, since Jones is a feminine theologist, which means they refer to "Mother God" instead of "Father God." A good read for pastors and counselors alike. Such excellent and profound book not only shed insights in trauma and pain, but with new perspectives on some that is refreshing. For new theology students, please beware though, since Jones is a feminine theologist, which means they refer to "Mother God" instead of "Father God." A good read for pastors and counselors alike.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I appreciate that in this book, Jones conveys her own journey as both an academic and a Christian, weaving together people in her life and her own experiences with her profession as a Reformed and feminist theologian. I was particularly taken with her chapter on Calvin and the psalms, a theological resource I’m now interested in exploring further!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melinda Mitchell

    A good overview of trauma and how it informs and reframes our theology. I would like to see more about collective trauma--the author shares about 9/11 and different responses to trauma. The book was written before Sandy Hook, and I wonder if she would spend more time on collective trauma in today's world of mass shootings. It's a good start and helpful framework in thinking of trauma and grace. A good overview of trauma and how it informs and reframes our theology. I would like to see more about collective trauma--the author shares about 9/11 and different responses to trauma. The book was written before Sandy Hook, and I wonder if she would spend more time on collective trauma in today's world of mass shootings. It's a good start and helpful framework in thinking of trauma and grace.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy Morgan

    The imagery in this book is beautiful. I especially enjoyed chapter 1, the middle section on the cross, and the last chapter on sin and grace.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aeisele

    This is really a marvelous book because Jones takes on something that is prevalent but rarely spoken of in theology: the lived reality of trauma. If you were to capture the entire book you could look at the last section of the last chapter, called "Mourning and Wonder." Throughout the book she points out how the Jesus' crucifixion is at once horrific - the image of a man mangled and broken as the central image of redemption - but also "alluring" (the title of chapter 4 is "The Alluring Cross"). T This is really a marvelous book because Jones takes on something that is prevalent but rarely spoken of in theology: the lived reality of trauma. If you were to capture the entire book you could look at the last section of the last chapter, called "Mourning and Wonder." Throughout the book she points out how the Jesus' crucifixion is at once horrific - the image of a man mangled and broken as the central image of redemption - but also "alluring" (the title of chapter 4 is "The Alluring Cross"). This is what she says about this duel perspective: "The cross trains us in these dispositions of body and imagination. It narrates for us, again and again, two paradoxical stories about who we are: God's inevitably broken children, and God's constantly renewed beloved; these two stories run down parallel tracks of flesh and soul. They are not, however, driven toward evolving resolution. We are not becoming better or worse: we just are these two things, in the juxtaposed tension of everyday life." The cross shows us the fact that the reality of trauma is unlikely to go away, but that at the same time there is a persistent possibility of wonder in spite of it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emmy

    I read this for an Ethics class. If I read this at any other point in my life, I would not appreciate it as much as I do now. I'm luckily taking a Mental Health nursing class, which gives me great insight and appreciation into topics like PTSD and effects of abuse, war, and violence. There's so much to explore with this topic and people really need to be more open-minded about these issues. I read this for an Ethics class. If I read this at any other point in my life, I would not appreciate it as much as I do now. I'm luckily taking a Mental Health nursing class, which gives me great insight and appreciation into topics like PTSD and effects of abuse, war, and violence. There's so much to explore with this topic and people really need to be more open-minded about these issues.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dee Michell

    Engaging with trauma studies is an important response when in a position of service to community, so I appreciated this aspect of the book. Not being a Christian however I struggled with the constant need to pull everything back into that one story. It seems limiting rather than expansive, and hopeful.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Gail O'Dea

    This is a very moving book by a feminist theologian who clearly gets the decimating long-lasting impacts of trauma and the failure of much mainstream religion to meet it or heal it adequately. Really a poignant read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Turnage

    Really good work. I didn't agree with everything she said, but I learned a lot, and it confirmed my sense that storytelling is an essential part of healing and growth. Really good work. I didn't agree with everything she said, but I learned a lot, and it confirmed my sense that storytelling is an essential part of healing and growth.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lee F.

    Very close to home

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    Interesting and a needed contribution/background for those in pastoral care. It seemed a bit academic and less about feelings. Felt cut off from that part.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    Thoughtful, grounded, and very moving

  26. 4 out of 5

    Denee Kinnemore

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Bergren

  28. 4 out of 5

    Glenn

  29. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Loftus

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kory Capps

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