No Greater Love? Moral Injury and Sacrifice

On this episode of Nonviolence Radio, Stephanie and Michael are joined by Kelly Denton-Borhaug. Kelly teaches in the Global Religious Department at Moravian University and has written extensively on issues of war culture, moral injury and the ways that sacrifice can be used as a means to dehumanize and oppress marginalized people. Kelly traces the celebration of sacrifice — so pervasive in America today — back to the Bible, back to Ancient Greece and Rome, revealing the deep roots of this powerful and destructive rhetoric. Her work encourages us to think seriously about the damaging consequences of this kind of thinking and to be aware of how religious language can be misused to support, sustain and normalize a culture of war. 

We need, Kelly insists, to listen to the voices of those who have been unjustly pushed into lives of violence and battle. More broadly, we need to push back against this worldview and reckon with the impact it has, not only on soldiers but on all of us, collectively, as human beings.

What I would like to call for is for members of the nonviolence community to really become much more sophisticated in terms of seeing these kinds of dynamics and calling them out, calling out the exploitation of the use of sacrificial verses in the Bible and the way that they are used in war culture; calling out the language and the logic of sacrifice, and actually lifting up the destructive consequences of actual sacrificial dynamics that are endemic to war culture.

I think that as people who care about nonviolence and who are, frankly, so often characterized as naïve about the world and about the dangers of the world — nonviolent actors — I would love to see them become much more sophisticated about calling out the naivety of those who claim that violence works, and those who unashamedly resort to these kinds of references to religion, to sacralize, undergird, and frankly, conceal the real process and the real consequences of the use of violence.

Transcript archived at Waging Nonviolence

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