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The Messianic Reign in Isaiah 11:1-10: A Message to Foster Children Post-Traumatic Growth

 

Introduction

[1]   Just as warfare was a cultural problem in ancient Israel, traumatizing children and adults, gun violence is a cultural problem in the United States. The impact of gun violence on children and adolescents is not only burdensome but can also be disastrous. Guns are not the only means to perpetrate harm but “the significance of gun violence is that its fatality rate is much higher than that of assaults with other weapons.”[1] Over 1.2 million Americans have been shot in the past decade,[2] millions more have witnessed gun violence in their social network and nearly every American will know at least one victim of gun violence in their lifetime.[3] 36,000 Americans are killed by guns each year—an average of 100 per day.[4] 100,000 Americans are shot and injured each year.[5] 1,500 children are shot and killed each year.[6]

[2] Gun violence is rooted in the social and economic structure of the United States, including poverty, race, and the war on drugs. Gun violence does happen everywhere, but its heavy presence is located in low-income areas, where 80-90% of children and adolescents experience violence in their community and school.[7] Black children are ten times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than white children.[8] Black children and their communities are disproportionately hurt by gun violence as it hits underserved and underprivileged communities of color much more than wealthy and middle-class white communities.

[3] This paper is not interested in discussing the gun debate and gun safety laws but is focused on the effect of gun violence on children and youth from a biblical perspective. In this paper, we will explore Isaiah’s vision as presented in Isaiah 11. The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 11:1-10, speaks a message of hope not only for his war-traumatized community but also for our community of children traumatized by gun violence. Isaiah speaks to the Israelites traumatized by the Syro-Ephraimite War. He gives confidence to children that they will no longer experience violence and trauma, but that they will play safely in their neighborhood. Isaiah leads his traumatized community to foster post-traumatic growth and to become resilient.

[4] In this paper, we will pay attention to anticipatory trauma that develops from fearing future events and causes potential pre-traumatic symptoms that are like the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. One way to overcome anticipatory trauma is by fostering post-traumatic growth. Studies show a strong association between religion and post-traumatic growth. This work aims to illustrate the role of religion in helping traumatized children to find meaning for their future and have hope for their life. It also seeks to demonstrate the part of the church in tackling the root of gun violence on political and social levels

Trauma in a Culture of Gun Violence

[5] It is unhelpful to discuss childhood trauma and gun violence without defining trauma. In this paper I will discuss two types of trauma: trauma as a result of an adverse event and anticipatory trauma. The English word trauma is derived from the Greek word meaning “wound.” In academic conversation, trauma refers to injuries of the most severe physiological and psychological kind.[9] Old Testament scholar, David M. Carr, describes trauma as an “overwhelming, haunting experience of disaster so explosive in its impact that it cannot be directly encountered and influences an individual/group’s behavior and memory in and direct ways.”[10] A traumatic event, according to Judith Herman, is one that “overwhelmed the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning.”[11] Usually, traumatized people feel helpless and dehumanized, which impacts negatively on their interpersonal relationships. “Traumatic events destroy the victim’s fundamental assumptions about the safety of the world, the positive value, and the meaningful order of creation.”[12] The traumatic experience whether minor or major leaves a great impact on the victims and can ruin their lives if the victims are left untreated.

[6] However, trauma is not only a result of a single event that happened in the past, but it can also be a process of anticipatory trauma. Children who hear about traumatic events of gun violence from their family, watch the news, [13] or lose a family member to gun violence often suffer what is called  secondary trauma. Media plays a crucial role in intensifying children's and youth stress, depression, and anxiety. Madison Armstrong and Jennifer Carlson, in their article “Speaking of Trauma,” describe secondary trauma also as “anticipatory trauma” an anticipation of continued traumatic events rather than a memory of the events. It emerges “from routinized harm perpetrated against a subordinated group when it is recognized in the public arena and sanctioned or reinforced by government and the legal forces.”[14]

[7] Anticipatory trauma causes children to live in constant fear, often agitated and hyper-alert in order to be hypervigilant.[15] They are continually on guard, scanning their surrounding for potential danger.  The slightest noise may agitate them. Tanya L. Hopwood, et al termed this psychological reaction as an “anticipatory traumatic reaction (ATR).”[16] They argue that ATR’s symptoms are similar to PTSD with one crucial difference; the victims of ATR are not always directly exposed to an adverse event. In comparison, people living with PTSD are involved in a past traumatic event.[17] In other words, the victims of ATR develop anxiety towards the future, whereas the people with PTSD are living in the past.

[8] Anticipatory traumatic reaction affects children quality of life. They develop negative thinking and deal with higher anxiety and stress. Out of fear, children may avoid certain areas at certain times or avoid going outside at all to avoid gunfire.[18] Some become emotionally desensitized to violence, and this can lead to  violent, anti-social behavior and decreased empathy.[19] Youth and children who are continually anticipating violent events or witnessing violenceto to end up carrying guns to protect themselves. But evidence shows that carrying a gun for protection increases risk to both suicide and homicide among children and adolescents.

[9] Another example of anticipatory trauma connected  to gun violence relates to police brutality and racial bias against black citizens and their communities. Armstrong and Carlson illustrate, black parents have with their children “the race talk,” and white parents have “the gun violence talk.”  Black parents use the race talk to help their children to mitigate the risk of generating gun violence and exposing themselves to the risk of incarceration or death.[20] The race talk makes children anticipate trauma, but this talk is very important for black children’s survival.  Journalist Ron Thomas accuses black parents of a negligent act if they do not have the race talk with their children.[21]  The big difference between the race talk and the gun violence talk is that black parents describe police as the enemy, and explain their children’s behavior might provoke police violence. Even the most innocent behavior may be understood as a threat or criminal. Unlike black parents, white parents present the police as friends of their children, and explain that their behavior is not the cause of violence but the behavior of the perpetrator.[22]

Using Bible Study to Think About Trauma

[10] Study of trauma is not exclusive for sociologists, doctors and therapists. Biblical scholars and pastors have benefited from trauma studies and used it in their ministry. Biblical trauma hermeneutic has emerged in conversation with diverse discipline such as psychology, physiology, sociology, and comparative literature. Trauma hermeneutic connects the traumatic experience with historical events and uses biblical texts to explore the impact of trauma on individuals and communities.[23] Primarily, the biblical hermeneutic of trauma “is attuned to the fact that language can encode and respond to traumatic experience in ways that correspond  to the effects of trauma as well as to mechanism of survival, recovery, and resilience.”[24]

The Context of Isaiah Chapter 11

[11] The major traumatic experiences that influenced the writing of the Old Testament were the crisis of the Syro-Ephraimite War in 735-732 BCE (2 Kings 16; Isaiah 7-8), the exile by the Assyrians in 701 BCE (2 Kings 15), Babylonian exile in 587 BCE. (2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 39–4; and Lamentations), and the persecution of Jews during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167–164 BCE. These were the major communal disasters that shaped the Israelites identity and history.  Assyrian and Babylonian military invasion of Judah and Israel had terrorized people.  “Sieges could be prolonged, causing starvation and prompting the consumption of human waste and cannibalism, including the eating of one’s children (2 Kings 18:27; Lamentations 4:10).”[25] There are stories of killing children and the elderly, horrifying accounts of rape and the ripping open of pregnant women’s wombs. These accounts in Scripture have drawn biblical scholars to trauma theory to understand these stories. In this context, Isaiah 11 is one text that can be read as an account by a person trying to construct their trauma to find meaning for their survival and resilience.

[12] Israelite children grew up in an environment that would cause anticipatory trauma. Military threats and raids were expected at any moment. Israelite children were afraid to be separated from their parents, and so they were hypervigilant. The children in antiquity experienced violence at the hands of adults. They were victims of slavery when their parents failed to pay off their debts or when their enemies deliberately took them as captives and turned them to slaves. Assyrian military conquest involved massive deportation and resettling of the conquered population on different lands causing massive trauma for individuals and the collective group. Children lived in constant fear. Their lives were sadly similar to the lives of some children in the United States.

[13] In the book of Isaiah, the first ten chapters tell of constant danger that has disrupted not only the well-being of the individual but the fabric of the entire community. The Assyrian Empire threatened the existence of the small state Judah and controlled their destiny. The Israelites were afraid of the Assyrian imperialism and suffered at the hands of the Assyrians’ corrupted leaders. Yet, the prophet Isaiah also accuses the kingdoms of Judah and Israel of exploiting the poor, having a corrupt political system, and maintaining  an unjust economic system (1:21-26). The rich were getting richer, and the poor were getting poorer (3:13-4:1). The corruption of the political leaders and socio-economic inequality evoke God’s anger. The angry voice in Isaiah’s text here represents a voice of protest of the trauma caused by the politics of the governing elite in Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesies a divine judgment against these two kingdoms.

[14] Isaiah 6:1-9:6 provides historical information about the Syro-Ephraimite War, and “also adds to the understanding of the traumatic climate as a precursor and indicator of traumatic events.”[26] It also provides a picture of Judaeans' life in the pre-exilic period. In the eighth century BCE, the Neo-Assyrian Empire was a superpower under the leadership of Tiglath-Pileser III, and its dominion reached Syria, Israel, and Judah. These states became vassal-states to the Assyrian Empire and were obligated to pay tributes. Tiglath-Pileser III required more taxes from these states. Pekah, king of Israel (often called Ephraim, the main tribe in Israel), and Rezin, king of Aram-Damascus, formed a coalition against Assyria. They coerced King Ahaz of Judah to join them, but he refused. King Ahaz asked Tiglath-Pileser III to help him to maintain Judah’s independence of action. As a result, King Pekah and Rezin put Jerusalem under siege (1 Kings 15-16).

[15] The prophet Isaiah in Chapter 7 gives more detailed information about the Syro-Ephraimite War and narrates his encounter with King Ahaz. Isaiah asks King Ahaz not to worry because the coalition and invasion will be unsuccessful. God will not let this happen. Isaiah assures him of God’s salvation, and he encourages Ahaz to ask God for a sign. Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign not because he does not want to test God, but because he trusts only in Tiglath-Pileser III to rescue him. To explain, the anticipatory trauma has resulted in a feeling of hopelessness and fear that war and deportation were imminent. The constant anticipation of and exposure to war influenced the Israelites lives, so they were  hypervigilant. They had lost trust in God.  To respond to traumatized Ahaz and to give him hope, Isaiah announces to him that God will give a sign, “Immanuel,” God is with us (Isaiah 7:14-16). The name carries a metaphorical meaning of hope and salvation.

[16] God is with Judah, but before Judah experiences the saving act of God, God will punish Judah for its social and economic injustices.[27] Later in the next chapter, Isaiah mentions another child, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, “hurry to the spoils” to assure Ahaz that God will direct Assyria to plunder Syria and Ephraim. Rather than fearing the political powers and military threats, Ahaz should fear God (8:11-15). Isaiah envisions an ideal future where the two kingdoms are reunited under a glorious ruler from the Davidic dynasty (8:23-9:6). Isaiah also envisions God punishing Assyria for its evil and aggressive behavior. All people will rejoice in their liberty from Assyrian tyranny (Isaiah 9). Isaiah describes their joy as moving from darkness to light. The images of punishment and joy aims to give hope to the traumatized people and help them to find meaning for their suffering.

[17] But Isaiah repeats that God will also punish Israel for creating an unjust economic system that steals from the defenseless and needy (9:7-10).[28] The militarist Assyria will be the means of God punishing Israel and Judah, and eventually, Assyria will experience a great defeat (Isaiah 10). At the end of chapter 10:33-34, Isaiah gives hope to his traumatized community by assuring them that God’s judgment and rejection of Israel is not permanent. The remnant of Israel will be reunited with the remnant of Judah, and they will exercise dominion on the surrounding nations. These last two verses function as a bridge to Chapter 11, where Isaiah shifts away from the reality of political and military threats to an idealistic vision of the future.

The Vision of Peace: The Righteous Reign of the Messiah

[18] Too many people have the wrong assumption that the entire Old Testament is a violent book. Indeed, the best images and visions of peace are in the Old Testament not the New Testament (Eg. Psalm 23; 31; Ezekiel 37:25; Isaiah 8:23-9:1 (9:1-2); 9:6,7; 32: 16-17; Jeremiah 31; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 7:14-20). It seems that the Old Testament has two traditions: one is promoting war in the name of God and the other is promoting peace. Those who were traumatized by war and understood its impact on people, particularly children; they envisioned a righteous and just Messiah who would bring peace.

[19] The spectacular vision in the book of Isaiah 11 sounds like a fairytale. Isaiah describes an unprecedented and glorious ruler who is full of divine wisdom, rules people with righteousness, and protects the poor.  The vision of Isaiah Chapter 11:1-10 is related to the crisis of the Syro-Ephraimite War. Verses 11-16 are associated with the post-exilic period because they describe the restoration of the deportees to their homeland.[29] Isaiah 11 can be read as an expression of anti-war sentiments even as it certainly comes from a tradition that announces punishment of Assyria and restoration of Davidic monarch.[30]    

[20] Chapter 11 is an example of a vision of peace. This vision attests that God rejects violence and wants people to live in harmony with one another and creation. Amid darkness and fear of Assyrian threat, God, through the prophet Isaiah, gives a word of assurance to the remnant of Judah, who will survive the judgment by trusting in God’s saving power. Isaiah describes a “messianic” vision and a promise devastated by war. The word "messiah" is not mentioned in the text, but the vision speaks of a new David, not just another king from David’s line, [31] who will meet God’s criteria of a righteous King in a way King Ahaz does not.[32] The messiah is the beacon of hope for traumatized Israelites. Ahaz failed to be a just and righteous King, but the future king will execute justice to the poor and the humble. Shawn Zelig Aster explains that “the expressions of the ‘belt of the hips’ and the ‘belt of the loins’ (verse 5) refer to locations in which battle equipment was kept so that girding the hips or the loins is often a reference to preparing for conflict. Yet here, the metaphoric imagery describes righteousness, rather than weaponry, in this location.”[33] God’s problem with the kings of Judah and Israel is a lack of comprehension about their responsibility for the dire situation the citizens are facing. Justice and righteousness are essential to the stability of the two kingdoms and healing traumatized people.

The Edenic Elements of the Messiah’s Realm

[21] Isaiah takes his audience back in time to the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve committed their first sin and the world fell under the curse. The world of Isaiah was chaotic, and he reversed the order. The creation is transformed and renewed. Isaiah talks about reconciliation between animals: prey and predators (v. 6.) The peace is secured so that a child can control the wild animals.[34] This transformed and peaceful nature of animals point to Genesis 1:29-30. Isaiah's vision illustrates the removal of the curse and the enmity between woman and serpent (v. 8). The holy mountain, Zion, is the new Eden. Children will be safe on this mountain as Adam and Eve were safe in the garden of Eden. Isaiah 11 sensitively merges the imagery of children, and by doing so, intentionally identifies the source of a critical trauma of Israelites parents losing their children. What is clear is that they wish for a righteous king and a safe environment for their children.

[22] Isaiah ends his vision talking about the remnant of Israel and Judah, who will be reunited. The conflict and animosity between them will end and they will work together to exercise dominion and control over their enemies (vv.10-14). God will destroy the enemy (v. 15) and will also prepare a highway from Assyria (v.16) to bring the remnant of Israel and Judah back to their home. This is similar to Isaiah comparing this saving act of God with the act of deliverance from slavery in Egypt and leading one united Israel to the Promised Land.

Post-traumatic Growth

[23] Isaiah 11 is an excellent example of Judah’s post-traumatic growth. Psychologists like Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun explain post-traumatic growth (PTG) as a positive psychological change resulting from a struggle with a traumatic experience.[35] This positive change takes from days to years and produces positive thinking and attitudes after the realization that the victims cannot return to the time before the trauma.[36] Tedeschi and Calhoun assert that change is transformative. The positive change occurs on the cognitive, emotional, and social-behavioral lives of the survivors.[37] In other words, survivors create meaning amid trauma. In sum, “PTG occurs as a result of a struggle with the aftermath of a major life crisis. The struggle that leads to PTG is not usually at first a struggle to grow or change, but rather to survive or cope.”[38] Even though Tedeschi and Calhoun argue that PTG happens in the aftermath of trauma, I believe that growth can happen to the survivors of an anticipatory trauma, too. Survivors of anticipatory gun violence trauma can grow and thrive amid their fear of gunfire, if they find help.

[24] Tedeschi and Calhoun also argue that the growth might occur without intervention. However, growth can be led by specific interventions.[39] One of these interventions is religion. Faith facilitates growth among survivors, even with children and adolescents.

“Religion acts as a trigger for PTG. One key element that provides the foundation for PTG is a challenge to one’s fundamental core beliefs. Religious beliefs can be one such core belief framework. A highly stressful event, especially an unexpected one, may shatter or shake one’s religious beliefs. Serious challenge to one’s central religious beliefs may lead to emotional distress, which in turn activates the cognitive processing that may foster PTG.[40]

The Old Testament is a product of traumatized Jewish scholars who survived Assyrian and Babylonian oppression and exile and used their faith to confront their trauma and to foster post-traumatic growth. The image of a safe environment for children in Isaiah 11 is a result of attempting to make sense of the traumatic events of the Syro-Ephraimite War and the Assyrian invasion of Israel and Judah. Isaiah encourages his traumatized community to dare to hope and he turns their hopeless situation around. The messianic vision of peace invites parents to imagine a scenario in which their children enjoy life without fearing Assyrian weapons of war. From the perspective of Isaiah, the failure of total destruction of Judah means survival. Isaiah dares to confront the traumatic event of the Syro-Ephraimite War and encourages his community to do so. Isaiah understands that his community is yearning for a better world to grow after trauma. He enhances his community resilience by inviting them to imagine a peaceful kingdom out of the traumatic devastation. By doing so, Isaiah restores his community resilience and identity and puts them on a healing path without forgetting the cause of suffering.

[25] Survival and resilience are a painful process. They do not happen quickly and easily. Isaiah’s community worked together to survive and heal. Likewise, a community that lives in an anticipatory trauma environment needs each other to survive. When individuals and community are facing trauma such as war or gun violence, anxiety or depression, the values of community working together becomes a candle of hope and a tool to cope with the attack of trauma.

The Role of the Church in Post-traumatic Growth

[26] Religion creates an environment to help survivors to find the meaning of their suffering, providing coping strategies, and above all, spiritual and social support.[41] The church focuses on God giving hope to the survivors. Those who have experienced traumatic events or are dealing with anticipatory trauma endorse a set of negative core self-beliefs. The first question that comes to the survivors’ mind is why God allowed this to happen. The second question may well be to wonder where God is. The survivors of gun violence may believe that God declined to protect them or that God put them in a traumatic situation because they were unworthy of God’s love and protection. God placed them in a dangerous neighborhood, where gun violence is the norm. The Israelites faced the same problem. They faced a spiritual crisis and believed that God punished them for their sins by allowing the Assyrians to attack them and deport them. Today this crisis is exacerbated by political rhetoric that suggests victims, communities, and neighborhoods are themselves criminal or dangerous and by security training that suggests that proper behavior can prevent one’s own victimization.

[27] To create the meaning of their trauma, Isaiah 11 corrects the Israelites’ cognitive self-belief errors and reconciles them with God. The role of religion is to shift the negative effect of trauma as a cause for feeling unworthy of God’s love and protection to a message of love and value in God’s estimation. The church provides spiritual counseling to traumatized children and adolescents by focusing on their feelings and helping them to look to God for strength and support.

[28] In Christianity, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most traumatic event. Christian theologians use the story of the crucifixion to speak to the victims of trauma. They identify Jesus with all survivors. Because Jesus was able to transform his pain and suffering to greater growth, survivors of the trauma can do the same. Jesus Christ is the central point to help survivors to experience PTG. Christians who hold on their faith are more likely to experience PTG.[42] The use of confession, prayer, meditations on Scripture, and worship help the survivors to foster PTG.  This growth does not deny the existence of violence and death but preaches hope of resurrection from death.

[29] And yet, while spiritual counseling can contribute significantly to PTG,  it does not tackle the roots of gun violence. Children receive spiritual and social support from the church, but many of them are living in the context of violence. They do not have the means to move to a safer neighborhood and school. The church needs to do more than spiritual counseling to foster change and a new reality for children.

[30] The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) tackles the roots of gun violence by providing resources to change and confront the culture of gun violence. The ELCA engages with communities to create awareness of the effect of gun violence on our children and adolescents. In 2019, the ELCA launched a resource “A 60-day Journey towards Justice in a Culture of Gun Violence.”[43] It provides church teaching, prayer, and advocacy to encourage readers to face the painful truth of gun violence and to work to prevent it. The 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a resolution to establish June 17 as the “Emanuel 9 Day of Repentance,” commemorating the death of nine victims of gun violence at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal on June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina.  The 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a gun violence prevention social policy resolution concerning legislation on background checks and gun violence. The resolution does not reject gun ownership, or the recreational activities associated with guns as morally wrong. In 1994, the ELCA issued a social statement on community violence, calling for advocacy to end the cycle of violence in the United States of America. “From 2013 to 2019, at least eight public messages from the Presiding Bishop have responded to gun attacks on police and mass shootings at synagogues, mosques, churches, nightclubs, and schools.”[44]

[31] The ELCA has spoken out in different ways through social statements, teaching, social-policy resolutions, and advocacy. The ELCA national advocacy office in Washington, D.C. and public policy offices in various states work for change in public policy based on the Lutheran faith and Scripture. They work through political channels to reform gun laws and to advocate to build relationships with legislators to issue just laws that reflect our faith values. The ELCA works with ecumenical, inter-religious partners, and organizations that share the ELCA’s goals to help legislators to focus on protecting our children instead of protecting weak gun laws.

This Essay Leads to the Following Conclusions:

[32] First, children traumatized by gun violence are not necessarily exposed to a specific traumatic event. Children and adolescents living in gun violence environments are suffering from secondary trauma that is anticipatory trauma. They are living in fear of a possible traumatic event. The symptoms of a traumatic event are similar to the symptoms of anticipatory trauma. Both kinds of trauma create PTSD-like symptoms. Children and adolescents experiencing anticipatory trauma need health care and social support equal to their peers exposed to an actual traumatic event of gun violence. Anticipatory trauma and stress have long-term health complications for children and adolescents if they are left untreated.

[33] Second, religion plays a crucial role in preventing the long-term effects of anticipatory trauma. Religion can foster post-traumatic growth and put traumatized children on the healing path. It also nurtures their faith and restores confidence in themselves and God’s love. Prayer and meditation on Scripture calm the anxious mind. Isaiah 11:1-9 helped traumatized Israelites to trust in God’s presence in their life and the life of their traumatized children. Isaiah 11 assisted the Israelites in experiencing post-traumatic growth and finding meaning for their future.

[34] Third, the role of the church—clergy, lay leaders and congregants—is more effective when the church tackles the roots of gun violence by working with legislators to create laws to protect children, not guns. The ELCA continually urges congregations to advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence. The ELCA provides educational resources to create awareness of gun violence and make it available. The advocacy work of the ELCA is instrumental in uprooting the problem of gun violence and laying the groundwork for safer communities.

 

The Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras was born and raised in Bethlehem, Palestine. She is the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church of Wausau in Wausau, WI. Rev. Sarras earned her Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and Master of Divinity from the Pacific Lutheran theological Seminary. Rev. Sarras continues to participate and presents academic papers in academic conferences and publish articles.



BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

Armstrong, Madison, and Jennifer Carlson. “Speaking of Trauma: The Race Talk, The Gun Violence Talk, And The Racialization Of Gun Trauma.” Palgrave Communications 5, no. 1 (November). http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0320-z.

 

Aster, Shawn Zelig. Reflections of Empire in Isaiah 1-39: Responses to Assyrian Ideology. Atlanta: society of biblical Literature, 2017.

 

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   Cook, Philip J., and Jens Ludwig. “The Costs of Gun Violence against Children.” In Children, Youth, and Gun  Violence. Vol. 12. The Future of Children, 86-99. Princeton: Princeton University, 2002.

 

Esterhuizen, Elizabeth. “A Study of the Tension between Despair and Hope in Isaiah 7 and 8 from a Perspective of Trauma and Posttraumatic Growth.” PhD diss., University of South Africa, 2016.

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[1] Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, “The Costs of Gun Violence against Children,” in Children, Youth, and Gun Violence, The Future of Children (Princeton: Princeton University, 2002), 12:89.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “Fatal and Non-Fatal Injury Reports,” accessed August 7, 2020,  https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars

[3] Bindu Kalesan, Janice Weinberg, and Sandro Galea, “Gun Violence in Americans’ Social Network During Their Lifetime,” Preventive Medicine 93 (2016): 53–56.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “Fatal Injury Reports,” accessed August 7, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars. Figures represent an average of the five years of most recently available data: 2013 to 2017. 

[5]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “Nonfatal Injury Reports,” accessed August 7, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars. . Figures represent an average of the five years of most recently available data: 2013 to 2017. 

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “Fatal Injury Reports,” accessed August 7, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars. Calculations include children ages 0–17 and were based on the most recently available data: 2013 to 2017.

[7] Sylvie Mrug, Anjana Madan, and Michael Windle, “Emotional Desensitization to Violence Contributes to Adolescents’ Violent Behavior,” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 44, no. 1 (February 2017): 75, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10802-015-9986-x.

[8] United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Supplementary Homicide Reports, United States, 2016 (Icpsr 37064),” Institute for Social Research University Of Michigan, June 28, 2018, https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37064.v1.

After car crashes, gun violence is the second-leading cause of death among children.  Among people of color, black people had the highest rate of death by firearm.  For more information read Marc A. Zimmerman, Rebecca Cunningham, and Patrick Carter, “Commentary: The Facts On the Us Children and Teens Killed by Firearms,” The University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, August 6, 2019, https://ihpi.umich.edu/news/commentary-facts-us-children-and-teens-killed-firearms.

[9] Brent A. Strawn, “Trauma, Psalmic Disclosure, and Authentic Happiness,” in Semeia Studies, special issue, Bible through the lens of trauma (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature Press, 2016): 144.

[11] Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery,  rev.ed. (New York: BasicBooks, 1997), 133.

[12] Ibid., 51.

[13] Tanya L. Hopwood, Nicola S. Schutte, and Natasha M. Loi. "Anticipatory Traumatic Reaction: Outcomes Arising From Secondary Exposure to Disasters and Large-Scale Threats." Assessment 26.8 (2019): 1427.

[14] Madison Armstrong and Jennifer Carlson, “Speaking Of Trauma: The Race Talk, The Gun Violence Talk, And The Racialization Of Gun Trauma,” Palgrave Communications 5, no. 1 (November),4,  http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0320-z.

Madison Armstrong and Jennifer Carlson define anticipatory trauma as “a mechanism by which certain acts of gun violence are defined as ‘really’ about certain social problems (e.g., race or gun violence) and not others; it is a method by which the experiences of gun violence become hypervisible versus invisible; and finally it is a mechanism by which policies are rallied and policies drafted.” see Armstrong and Carlson, 3.

[15]Black and white parents teach their children to hide under beds or in bathtubs at the sound of gunfire. At night, children need to put their mattresses on the floor because the bullets would come through windows. In this hostile environment, children grow up with a high level of anxiety about their future, afraid to play outside, and fearful of gun violence at school and their communities.  see Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, “The Costs of Gun Violence against Children,” 12:91.

[16] Tanya L. Hopwood, et al, "Anticipatory Traumatic Reaction,”1428.

[17]Ibid., 1428-29. 

[18] Traumatized children feel like prisoners in their homes and neighborhood. In low-income areas, families tend to leave to live in a safer community and school which comes "at the cost of economizing on space, enduring a long commute, and losing easy access to the cultural amenities of the central city." See Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, “The Costs of Gun Violence against Children,” 91.

[19] Sylvie Mrug, et al, “Emotional Desensitization to Violence Contributes to Adolescents’ Violent Behavior,” 75.

[21] Ron Thomas, “The Talk’ Has a Double Meaning for Black People,” Huffpost, September 23, 2013, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-talk-has-a-double-mea_b_3645809?guccounter=1.

[22] See Madison Armstrong and Jennifer Carlson, “Speaking of Trauma,”6-10. 

[23] Elizabeth Boase and Christopher G. Frechette, eds., “Defining “Trauma” as a Useful Lens for Biblical Interpretation,” in Bible through the Lens of Trauma, Semeia Studies (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2017), 86:13.

[24] Ibid., 13.

[25] Christopher G. Frechette, “The Old Testament as Controlled Substance: How Insights from Trauma Studies Reveal Healing Capacities in Potentially Harmful Texts,” A Journal of Bible and Theology 69, no. 1 (2015): 27, file:///C:/Users/Niveen/Downloads/The_Old_Testament_as_Controlled_Substan.pdf.

[26] Elizabeth Esterhuizen, “A Study of the Tension between Despair and Hope in Isaiah 7 and 8 from a Perspective of Trauma and Posttraumatic Growth” (PhD diss., University of South Africa, 2016), 75.

[27] John Goldingay, The Theology of the Book of Isaiah (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 16.

[28]  Ibid., 18.

[29] Marvin A. Sweeney, Reading Prophetic Books: Form, Intertextuality, and Reception in Prophetic and Post-Biblical Literature, Forschungen Zum Alten Testament 89 (Heidelberg: Mohr Siebeck, 2013), 50.

[30] Ibid., 53.

[31] J. Alec Motyer,  The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary ( Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 121.

[32] John Goldingay, The Theology of the Book of Isaiah, 20.

[33] Shawn Zelig Aster, Reflections of Empire in Isaiah 1-39: Responses to Assyrian Ideology (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2017), 234.

[34] J. Alec Motyer,  The Prophecy of Isaiah, 124.

[35] Richard G. Tedeschi et al., Posttraumatic Growth Theory, Research, and Applications (New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis, 2018), 297, Kindle.

[36] Ibid., 351. Kindle.

[37] Ibid., 355-356. Kindle.

[38] Ibid., 362-363. Kindle.

[39] Ibid., 367. Kindle.

[40] Ibid., 564-567. Kindle.

[41] Ibid., 570. Kindle.

[42] Ibid., 614. Kindle.

[44] Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, “A Sustained Journey How the ELCA Has Addressed the Issue of Gun Violence,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, accessed July 31, 2020,




Articles published in the journal reflect the perspectives and thoughts of their authors and not necessarily the theological, ethical, or social stances of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


© October/November 2020
​Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 20, Issue 6