The room was full of thought, but there were not enough chairs to contain it all. Rarely do New Wine, New Wineskins’ lunchtime forums pack out from wall to wall. No doubt, the beloved professor Dr. Domani Pothen of Multnomah University was a key reason for the level of interest. I also think the subject matter of trauma and its placement in fiction was a factor.
The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins’ spring 2017 conference Saturday, March 18th is titled “Trauma and Resilience.” So many people have expressed interest in this interdisciplinary conference theme. No doubt, it is because there is so much trauma in our world today. Its appearance in fiction and in many other disciplines serves to highlight how real the subject is in people’s experiences and imaginations.
Dr. Pothen stated that trauma is so pervasive generationally and socially. It also manifests itself in literature, as with the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Toni Morrison titled Beloved, which Dr. Pothen referenced. During her lecture, Pothen added that unless we find a language for this we might not be able to connect with one another. Hopefully, the New Wine conference will help us find words to express some of our deep emotions so that we can truly empathize with one another in the midst of widespread pain.
My colleague requested that we not tape the session because the content was and is so personal for people. I appreciated (and honored) her request. You could feel how personal the subject matter was in view of the pensive mood. The theme was palpable.
Trauma is not mere feeling. It can lead to the dissolution of identity. It rewires our brains and bodies, reframes our experience and outlook on life, and reconfigures our views of God.
For many people, trauma appears to be the new normal. Road rage, social media rampage, the red color of terror, rape. However, trauma is not simply a part of our cultural experience today. It goes way back to ancient times, including the origins of the Christian Faith. Jesus was traumatized on the cross, as he entered fully into our plight. The good news of Jesus for us spelled very bad news for him.
Jesus does not simply solve our ultimate sinful problem, which involves isolation, suffering, wrath, darkness, and death. He lives out our problem with us, being dissolved with us in the harsh, numbing struggles of life, helping and transforming us from within the depths of our existence. Jesus offers us hope through his presence in addition to his powerful resurrection, even as we seek to navigate the abnormality of the new normal. We are not alone.