Readers Reflect on “Not Numbed Inside” by Walter Brueggemann

Last week, CGC featured a piece from Walter Brueggemann, where he wrote about refusing to become numb. We reached out to a few friends and asked for brief reflections to continue the discussion. What struck you about Walter’s work? Here are four responses, each working around the bodily nature of neighborly solidarity.

Our human inheritance, writes Walter Brueggemann, is our ability to awaken from the inside out to live in bodily solidarity with one another. It’s through our bodies, our guts, our wombs, our innards, that compassion moves in, compelling us to feel our neighbor’s suffering, and respond. Here, Brueggemann shares profoundly good news: our empathy is both purposeful and divine.When we deepen our capacity to feel the pain and joy of one another, we are not only moving closer to God, we are also enlivening the God within us. – Shannon

Having spent my formative years in a reformed church, I’ve always been suspicious of anything bodily or natural. But the more I learn, the more I realize that our humanity was constructed by God, for us to share in the experience of being. God equips us to understand Him in and through not only our spirits, but our bodies as well. And this shared experience with God and others knits us together into a people who can be His emissaries of compassion, and enact the love that scatters death. – David

Wow. Walter Brueggemann’s piece reminds me of the amazing Henri Nouwen book, Compassion, where he has a similar translation —- choosing “to suffer with” rather than “to feel with”. Either way, the writers powerfully reframe what we typically see as a reaching “down” to help someone in lowly position. No! It’s a reaching “out” and being “with” others in our common humanity. It is us doing what we see the Father doing when we encounter our neighbors, especially those suffering or cast aside. Compassion is also needing those in the body of Christ to do the same when we are suffering, too, instead of the individualistic, self-help style of trying to deal with things alone.  – Corrie

Brueggemann deftly reorients us back to focus on compassion and empathy as inseparable bedfellows, amplifying and grounding us in the two greatest commandments in the Bible: Love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. The latter of the two, so often forgotten or disregarded, needs continual and fresh light shined upon it, especially in the face of a choking and cold individualism—and that the commandments, though hierarchical, are inseparable. The guttural nature of loving others is supposed to come from a deeper place than our head and stronger place than our will—it must come from the root of the Imago Dei instilled in all humanity to connect all humanity to both God and each other. Through that connection, our true source of compassion and empathy arise, blossom, and burn like a fire that does not consume the bush but illuminates the holy ground of loving each other as God loved us first. – John

Walter will be considering questions and reflections from readers next week, please submit your thoughts or questions to be shared with Walter.

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