Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation is an exploration of the role that physical pain and trauma play in inhibiting moral development and personal relationships; it further asks how the Christian liturgy, as a central act and pedagogical tool of the church, might respond to the crises brought about by pain and trauma. More specifically I demonstrate how pain and trauma create conflict between mind and body, the consequences of this conflict, and how the liturgy might engage and heal a person by serving as a site for the re-imagination of mind and body. I argue that the physical history of the body plays an instrumental role not just in one's ability to perform physical acts but also in one's ability to imagine social relationships. To make this argument I use scientific and theological resources to show how deeply pain and suffering can alter a life. In addition, I provide a critique of the redemptive role that suffering has had in the Christian tradition. This is done through an examination of the theology of Simone Weil, Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain, and the medical literature that documents the role that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) plays in veterans' lives. Then I examine some recent work on liturgy and ethics to show how liturgy engages the body and serves as a site of transformation; and, I argue for the need to develop an ethic of compassion within the context of the liturgy in order to better encounter those with PTSD. Finally, I suggest what the implications of this argument are and provide constructive ways forward.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.