A theological treatment of war, trauma, and the fundamental character of human existence
In Full Darkness theologian and wartime veteran Brian Powers argues that the Augustinian concept of original sin can illuminate the nature of wartime violence, particularly through the lens of veteran trauma. He shows precisely how sin and war both cause human identity, agency, and hope to be lost.
Powers explores sin as a pathogenic disfigurement that shapes cultural values and ethical ideas, frequently resulting in moral injury. Combat veterans experience a humanity deprived of grace and are devoured by the forces of war, often suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. But Powers provides a ray of hope and a path towards healing.
Ideal for veterans, chaplains, and pastors, Full Darkness offers a new perspective on the cultural understanding of military violence, provides theological help for those drowning in guilt and shame, and paves the way for reclaiming positive human agency and identity.
It is rare indeed to find a theological work that so powerfully combines analytical rigor with pastoral depth as this volume does. Full Darkness is a book about many things, from nationalism and violence to sin and guilt. But it is at bottom a profound reflection on the redemptive power of the gospel—and the ways in which we all too often thwart it.
—Ian A. McFarland, Cambridge University
Brian Powers here shines new light on the darkness of broken humanity. From his personal experience with the dehumanizing violence of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Powers offers a bracing defense of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin as uniquely able to describe the real distorting effects of war on the human psyche. All of us who live in this world plagued by human violence and unending war, and all who care about the redemption of real, wounded human beings, need this book.
—Martha Moore-Keish, Columbia Theological Seminary
Full Darkness is extraordinary! In and through his profound analysis of the ways the sanctioning of war pervades American history and contemporary public life, Powers articulates a socio-cultural and theological understanding of original sin and the violence that lies within us—realities that so distort our human relationships that our very nature is profoundly damaged. Drawing on his own and others’ experiences in war, he provides scores of vivid narratives and careful analyses of the multiple ways in which religiously and culturally sanctioned violence corrodes the very fabric of our humanity. Full Darkness is essential reading, certainly for theologians and ethicists, but perhaps more importantly for our nation’s political and military leaders, for thoughtful citizens and religious leaders, and for healers and care-givers who seek by God’s grace and mercy to help bind the wounds from which, because of our blind capacity for destructive violence, we all suffer.
—Craig Dykstra, Duke Divinity School
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