Innocence and Violence: The Theology of a Gun Culture


Wed, January 31, 2018, 5:00 - 7:00pm
3335 Dwinelle, UC Berkeley

Dominic Erdozain, Freelance Writer

Gun rights are typically identified with the Second Amendment — a legal, indeed constitutional, prerogative. This lecture argues that they are better understood as part of a culture and a belief system, centering on ideas of innocence and legitimate violence. I argue that this belief system is apparent in the contemporary gun culture’s confidence in the ‘law-abiding citizen’ as a stable and fixed category, and then I seek to explore its origins. The claim is that gun rights, while modern in form and intensity, rest upon older narratives of national righteousness and popular sovereignty, among them, Puritan concepts of salvation and judgment. Although the more sophisticated defenses of gun rights cite natural law and the notion of self-defense as a universal right, I argue that gun rights remain a set of special privileges — almost a code of entitlement. To engage this culture effectively, we need better understanding of the particular theologies from which it has emerged.

Dominic Erdozain earned his PhD at Cambridge. He taught history, for six years, at King’s College London before moving to Atlanta, Georgia, where he works as a freelance writer. He is the author of The Soul of Doubt: the Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx and the editor of The Dangerous God: Christianity and the Soviet Experiment. His next book, Arming Jesus: the Religion of the Gun in America, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2018.

Co-sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, and the History Department.

The Berkeley Public Theology Program invites innovative thinkers and public figures to Berkeley to reflect on the past, present, and future of theological inquiry. Such lectures spark scholarly conversations on campus and place Berkeley at the center of global conversations on religion and public life.