Trauma isn’t the explanation for everything

I am getting weary of hearing that “trauma” is the explanation for everything.


Periodically the world, and the church, swallows a new perspective that promises to answer all of our problems, explain why our programs aren’t working, and show the way to health and happiness. The winds of these fads blow every 5 to 10 years, sometimes two or three rolling in and out at once. It is not that these topics have no value at all. Sometimes they have some important things to teach us. But they can take on a collective inertia, that leads to a blinding group think. Once these social science fads become popular, they are often associated with weak or shoddy science, a host of buzz words, careless definitions, unwarranted implications, a new army of “experts” to show us the way, and dog pile of lab coats pushing shoddy research that resists any criticism. 

Sadly, in the church this can result in a new hermeneutic that uncritically reads these ideas back onto scripture. I was not surprised to see see an article in Christianity Today calling for “trauma-informed bible reading”. I won’t be surprised if there is a whole study bible devoted to the idea somewhere in the pipeline.


I have been recently reading the book “The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills” by Jesse Singal. The author explains in detail the ways in which many of these social science trends (e.g. the self esteem movement, the implicit association test, positive thinking, the judicial concept of super-predators, etc) have persisted throughout the last 30-40 years in spite of being scientifically discredited. It feels like the current emphasis on trauma is in danger of following suit. I don’t think I had heard about experts on “trauma” before 5 years ago. But recently I seem to hear about them every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I am sure that understanding trauma is important, but also pretty sure that it is not the silver bullet to explain all our unhappiness and insecurities.  When ideas like this become popular there is a greater need for healthy skepticism.

By the way, the author is a science writer for the New York Times. He is obviously really smart, and is politically on the left. He is really adept at pointing out the bad judgment of many of the authors tied to these bad ideas, but he seems unaware of the force of his own political and philosophical assumptions about the world. 

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