Bo Karen Lee / Trauma and Spirituality: From Bystander to Beloved, From Alarmed Aloneness to Gazing Upon the God Who Gazes Upon Me With Love
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How do you heal from trauma—whether individual, familial, or collective? Can Christian spirituality help?
The tumultuous time we find ourselves in serves up regular doses of the suffering and pain of others—war wages destruction, migrants are left to die of heat exposure, hate crimes based in bigotry and fear of ethnicity or orientation or identity leave us all feeling numbed to our humanity; and with the aid of our phones, we even risk a dependency relationship with that trauma. It's constantly leveraged for political gain, power, money, or ugly fame. If we see the game of human culture as a zero-sum struggle for power, someone's political gain is always another's loss. Someone's joy another's sorrow.
How are we supposed to find our human siblings? Add to this the unspoken trauma that haunts so many of us—myself, you listeners, that person in your life who seems strong and impervious to harm—we all carry our lifetime's worth of trauma even if we act like it's not there. But as Bessel Vander Kolk's best selling title captures so well, even when your conscious mind does that surreptitious work to ignore, deny, suppress, or forget trauma—"the body knows the score." But perhaps so too the spirit knows the score.
Today, Bo Karen Lee joins Ryan McAnnally-Linz for a conversation on trauma and Ignatian spirituality. Bo is Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology and Christian Formation at Princeton Theological Seminary, and has written and taught contemplative theology, prayer, and the connection between spirituality and social justice.
This conversation is a beautiful and sensitive—and sometimes quite raw—exploration of trauma and the human experience. But the clarity and courage reflected in Bo's presentation of how trauma threatens the human mind and body is matched by a powerful empathy and peace, as she reflects on moving through a spiritual journey from victim or bystander of trauma to a beloved, seen, known, and loved by God and other deeply caring helpers. The discussion that follows offers a concise introduction to the Ignatian spiritual tradition, as well as a holistic comment on how trauma at the individual, genetic, family, and national level can be acknowledged, addressed, and acted on.
This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of the Tyndale House Foundation. For more information, visit tyndale.foundation.
Bo Karen Lee, ThM '99, PhD '07, is associate professor of spiritual theology and Christian formation at Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned her BA in religious studies from Yale University, her MDiv from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, and her ThM and PhD from Princeton Seminary. She furthered her studies in the returning scholars program at the University of Chicago, received training as a spiritual director from Oasis Ministries, and was a Mullin Fellow with the Institute of Advanced Catholic Studies. Her book, Sacrifice and Delight in the Mystical Theologies of Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon, argues that surrender of self to God can lead to the deepest joy in God. She has recently completed a volume, The Soul of Higher Education, which explores contemplative pedagogies and research strategies. A recipient of the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise, she gave a series of international lectures that included the topic, “The Face of the Other: An Ethic of Delight.”
She is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women, and the American Academy of Religion; she recently served on the Governing Board of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, and is on the editorial board of the journal, Spirtus, as well as on the steering committee of the Christian Theology and Bible Group of the Society of Biblical Literature. Before joining Princeton faculty, she taught in the Theology Department at Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland, where she developed courses with a vibrant service-learning component for students to work at shelters for women recovering from drug addiction and sex trafficking. She now enjoys teaching classes on prayer for the Spirituality and Mission Program at Princeton Seminary, in addition to taking students on retreats and hosting meditative walks along nature trails.
- This podcast featured Bo Karen Lee and Ryan McAnnally-Linz
- Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
- Hosted by Evan Rosa
- Production Assistance by Annie Trowbridge and Luke Stringer
- Special thanks to the Tyndale House Foundation for their generous support.
- A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School https://faith.yale.edu/about
- Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: https://faith.yale.edu/give