In this episode of the text.soul.culture podcast, Dr. J. Derek McNeil, President and Provost, sits down to talk with Dr. Chelle Stearns, Associate Professor of Theology, about her ongoing work and research at the intersection of trauma and theology. Dr. Stearns is a deeply thoughtful, compassionate scholar who often thinks outside of disciplinary boxes and desires for us to see beyond what is evident on the surface. What follows is an insightful conversation between two friends and colleagues about bringing things together that people don’t typically associate with one another—such as trauma and theology—and applying them to our lives.


“To what extent do we think that God actually took on our humanity?” Dr. Chelle Stearns

“God is aware of the wounds of our body, the hurts to our soul, the aspects of our spirits that are downtrodden … God is not simply elevated and distant, but close, and probably we feel the hunger for closeness most when we are in pain. So the sense of aloneness that can come from pain and the sense that god is with us, coming alongside people to engage them in woundedness, in another type and depth of healing.” Dr. J. Derek McNeil

“The presence of God isn’t just solidarity, this is a presence that works on the world constantly. It calls to us into a way of being that doesn’t accept the pain and suffering in the world. And that’s the other side of it – it’s not a given that there is suffering, but there is fierce resistance against it as well.” Dr. Chelle Stearns

“It raises for me … puts me in the mind of thinking not about ‘how does God fix it,’ but ‘how does God live presently in it with us?’” Dr. J. Derek McNeil

“So what body, what kinds of bodies are enough, are full enough, are really human, to the point of imagining Jesus taking on their flesh?” Dr. Chelle Stearns

“Where does our brokenness fit with our hope of restoration?” Dr. J. Derek McNeil

“No wonder people responded to Jesus the way they did. He actually saw their faces, confronted their sorrows. It’s not just that he healed people and touched them, he saw who they were and this deep longing we have as humans, regardless of where we come from, but yet we each have that deep sorrow within us of we just want to be seen for who we are and known more deeply—not just deeply but being known truly, honestly, warts and all.” Dr. Chelle Stearns