Connecting with Culture
It’s been said that culture is ‘what we make of the world’, but what does that look like as Christians? How can we begin conversations about what’s goin...
Trigger Warning: This blog post makes reference to domestic violence and trauma.
For most people, the Euros are undoubtedly a positive affair – I only need to note my parents’ cheering emanating from the room below as I write. But as the Euros occur alongside an extended lockdown, there’s a cultural refrain which, as a teacher, I struggle to ignore.
Around the 2018 World Cup, a campaign raised awareness of spikes in domestic violence reports during England games. Similarly, a sustained surge of reporting occurred throughout the first lockdown. For the one in seven children who will witness domestic violence before the age of 18, perhaps the Euros and continued lockdown are profoundly negative.
As a teacher, I support and interact with students who constitute that statistic. So as we move out of lockdown, I wonder how I can ensure that my classroom is that safe place if home is not? Similarly, how can church leaders, congregations, and all Christians respond pastorally, following Christ’s example, for those leaving lockdown perhaps bearing trauma?
Looking to Jesus’ pastoral approach to the outcast, those likely dealing with their own traumas, we see a Christ who meets people where they’re at – whether at Zacchaeus’ tree or the Temple. We see a Christ who, in John’s Gospel, meets a Samaritan woman who, suspicious of his Jewishness, doesn’t trust him, but is overcome by his non-judgemental response to her circumstance. We see this affirming teaching in the Parable of the Lost Son, when the loving Father unceremoniously runs to his son with outstretched hands. And, of course, we see it in that unconditional self-giving of Godself, Christ crucified for all humanity.
In attempting to imitate Christ, an approach which I have found uniquely transformative is that of trauma-informed practice (TIP). It is the intentional practice of being informed about, and sensitive to, the possible trauma of those under my care. TIP comes to the fore in contextualised pastoral circumstances – for example, avoiding shouting to prevent mentally transporting a student back to a place of terror. In conversations it promotes a compassionate and affirming disposition whilst discarding judgement, seeing the person not the action. In classrooms, it looks like carefully chosen words of persistent and honest welcoming acceptance. It’s a practice with a clinical name, yet rooted in transformative agape love.
TIP has practical outworkings for all contexts. So, as we physically return to workplaces, churches, and schools, it’s as important as ever that we, as Christians, ensure that trauma informs our next steps.
Josh is an RE Teacher in Sussex and was a finalist in Theology Slam 2021