From the concrete experience of war, Michael S. Yandell constructs a phenomenology of “negative revelation” in which false or distorted claims of goodness and justice disintegrate, becoming meaningless. Yandell argues that the disintegration of meaning in war is itself a meaningful experience; “revealing” comes to signify the presence of goodness and justice through the profound experience of their absence. The heart of this work adds a layer of complexity or depth to the term “moral injury” as a negative revelation. Yandell emphasizes the context and logic of war itself beyond the actions of individuals, paying specific attention to the U.S. led Global War on Terror. Moral injury as a negative revelation is a disintegration of false normative claims of goodness and justice, as well as a disintegration of one’s sense of self oriented toward those normative claims. This disintegration is prompted by the recognition of life in the midst of war’s diminishment of life.
Michael S. Yandell (Ph.D, Emory University) is senior minister at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Chapter 1: Anti-life: The Logic of War
Chapter 2: Domination as Freedom: Anti-life and Global War
Chapter 3: Moral Injury as Negative Revelation, Part I
Chapter 4: Moral Injury as Negative Revelation Part II:
Chapter 5: Negative Revelation and Turning to Life
This is the theological work we need for a cultural moment marked by the realities and justifications of perpetual war. Filled with testimonies and stories about war, deep engagements with theological discourses and thinkers (Levinas, Bonhoeffer, Arendt, Tillich, and others), and new formulations of the notion of moral injury, Michael Yandell tells the truth about war—a theological truth that lays bare the moral impact of the mythology, ideology, and logic of the U.S. global war on terror. In his capable hands, the concrete experience of war becomes a theological and moral revelation that dismantles distorted claims of justice and points toward life-giving formulations of God, goodness, and human relationships.
In this moving and challenging theoethical analysis, Michael Yandell traces the negative revelation of moral injury in his own life, exploring the violence spawned by the anti-life orientation and program of The Global War on Terror. We can’t avoid seeing how moral injury sprouts from a twisted and pervasive U.S. nationalist “morality that dupes,” that was spurred on by leaders such as Donald Rumsfeld, where dominance masquerades as life, and claims to goodness and truth turn out to be a kind of hatred for the other. Yandell calls us all to wake up from this nightmare, and work alongside the morally injured, not primarily for forgiveness, but for justice – “a shift from seeing and acting on the world and others as they are defined by war's terms.” I hope this book is read not only by moral injury researchers and practitioners, theologians and ethicists, but also by citizens of the U.S. who care about getting to the bottom of the perfidy of the last twenty years’ delusions, and charting a different pathway forward, because as Yandell reminds us, in contrast to the anti-logic of U.S. war, “the real lives of real people exist, and they matter.”
In this extraordinary book, Michael Yandell offers us an honest, compelling journey from war and moral injury to the revelation that truth can be found in the paradox of knowing justice and goodness in their absence. In the failures of the war on terror, he unpacks his faith in its claims of certainty, examines his demoralization in the wake of his participation in it, and guides us on his journey toward an infinite, indeterminate future that finds Christ not in a principle but in a desire for just and loving relationships, in attention to real human suffering, and in an openness to life, where joy, beauty, and love are possible.