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And Then Your Soul is Gone

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The sharp and unforgiving suffering of the morally injured veteran cannot be fully understood, much less effectively addressed, without a comprehensive investigation of moral injury’s underlying causes in American culture and society.

And Then Your Soul is Gone exposes the threads of violence that tie together the naturalized dynamics of U.S. ways of war and militarization with collective practices of national distraction and self-deception. It shows how these same threads of violence are also tightly woven and sacralized in the tapestry of U.S. national identity, tragically concealing moral injury from greater consciousness, and sourcing its toxic growth in the very lives of those the nation claims it most highly esteems, our military service members and veterans.

Drawing on Claudia Card’s philosophical framework, moral injury here is characterized as an atrocity, “a foreseeable intolerable harm caused by culpable wrongdoing.” These atrocities are shown to be flash-points revealing important truths regarding the unlivable consequences of U.S. war-culture and highlighting the urgent need to rethink the meaning of U.S. nationalism, desacralize violence, and support life.

And Then Your Soul is Gone will be of interest to students and scholars of religion and philosophy, military service members and veterans, concerned citizens, chaplains and religious leaders.

Published: Jul 27, 2021

Section Chapter Authors
Preface Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Moral Injury and the Triangle of Violence Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Chapter 1
Moral Injury and U.S. War-culture Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Chapter 2
Moral Injury and Structural Violence Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Chapter 3
Moral Injury and Cultural Violence Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Chapter 4
Moral Injury and Atrocity Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Chapter 5
Toward Building a Different World: A National Swerve Kelly Denton-Borhaug
End Matter
Notes Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Bibliography Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Index Kelly Denton-Borhaug


With a discerning ear for the personal story, Professor Kelly Denton-Borhaug offers an impassioned cultural and political critique of the moral costs of war and an analysis of the role of certain types of religion in undergirding these harms. All too often, as she shows, notions of masculinity and nationalism, along with the rhetoric of sacrifice, obscure the consequences of brutality and atrocity. Moral injury is a thoughtful exploration of structural and cultural violence and its devastating impact on national identity.
Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism

We are a warlike nation. That we let 1% of our citizens do our fighting for us does not alter that fact. We are a violent people, whatever our race, gender, or ZIP code. Professor Denton-Borhaug lifts the veil from these and other unwelcome truths in this brilliant book, distilling decades of scholarship and insight, and dispelling our militaristic delusions. A must read for truth-seekers and peacemakers, and for all who wonder why they experience such confusion and inner pain in our pervasive war culture.
Robert Emmet Meagher, author of Killing From the Inside Out and Albert Camus and the Human Crisis

While I am a cautious reader or advocate of scholarly books – books that are dependent on the intellect over lived experience – Kelly Denton-Borhaug’s effort transcends this tendency. This book is not only insightful, well crafted, sensitive and thoughtful – this book is brilliant.
Claude AnShin Thomas, Zen Buddhist monk and author of At Hell’s Gate, A Soldiers Journey From War To Peace and Bringing Meditation To Life

Through Kelly Denton-Borhaug’s relentless pursuit of the question, “can human morality really be accommodated with war?” she uses the “atrocity” of moral injury as a flashpoint, a lens through which to see realities and truths about war often obscured by U.S. war-culture. Her social, structural, and cultural analysis compels the reader to “revisit and rethink the purpose and meaning of the military, the nation, even citizenship, and especially the (civil) religious underpinnings of U.S. national identity.” Ultimately, the reader will find herself reevaluating everything in light of the atrocity of moral injury. A necessary work for any scholar, caregiver, or person who lives in the United States, immersed in a structure and culture of war.
Rev. Dr. Michael Yandell, Senior Minister at First Christian Church, Greensboro, NC, and author of War and Negative Revelation: A Theoethical Reflection on Moral Injury

The intermingling of sexism, war, abuse, dishonor, and so many other complicated dynamics make and exacerbate moral injury. This is a must-read for all who are inclined to understand these dynamics especially in veterans, in order to banish them from societies now so replete with bellicose ways that there often appears no way out. The author shows some creative solutions and a deep reverence for the lives in the balance.
Dr Mary Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual