Title: “Bearing Witness as Social Action: Religious Ethics and Trauma-Informed Response”
Written from a standpoint of religious ethics, this article interprets the work of trauma response and recovery in transcendent and moral terms not always apparent to the practitioner or institution. The article provides a broad understanding of spirituality, transcendence, and faith as these concepts relate to Judith Herman’s stages of trauma healing and the characteristics of trauma-informed response articulated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. These features are then mapped onto specific modes of transcendence and moral themes identifiable in a wide range of religious traditions. The connective framework for this mapping is provided by utilizing the concept “bearing witness,” as synthesized from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, to describe the work of trauma-informed response. The article concludes by recognizing bearing witness as a form of social action, a moral response with implied if not explicit religious dimensions and spiritual implications, for which an understanding of religious ethics is a helpful ally. Thus, this article concludes that religious ethics can be a valuable resource and partner in addressing the personal, systemic, and political aspects of trauma response and recovery, enabling attention to spiritual well-being of both the trauma survivor and the one responding to the survivor.
Keywords: psychological trauma; trauma-informed care; interpersonal trauma; spirituality; bearing witness; religious ethics; solidarity; social action; Judith Herman; relational model; pro-cess theology
Table: Bearing Witness in Four Moments
|Perspectival Moment||Mode of Transcendence||Moral Theme||Practices of Social Action||Trauma-informed Response (SAMHSA)||Stages of Trauma Recovery (Judith Herman)|
|I. Existence||recognition||dignity||grounded being||realize||overcoming relational barriers|
|II. Present||empathy||love||attentive presence||recognize (identify and name)||safety|
|III. Past||memory||justice||historical clarity||respond||reconstruction of narrative|
|IV. Future||imagination||solidarity||meaningful participation||resist||reconnection and restoration|
Bearing Witness in the Kin-dom: Living into the Church’s Moral Witness through Radical Discipleship. New York: United Methodist Women, October 2020. ISBN: 9781952501043.
“Trauma-Informed Pedagogy for the Religious and Theological Higher Education Classroom.” Special issue Reflecting on the Possibilities of Religious Education Research. Religions 11, no. 9 (2020): 449. doi:10.3390/rel11090449.
“Reenvisioning Christian Ethics: An Introduction and Invitation.” In Religions 2020, 11(2), 74; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020074.