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Constantine’s Sword


I just finished watching Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll. It was not what I expected from a seminarian and ex-Catholic priest. I expected more of a documentary explaining theology behind the peace movements. Carroll, during his priesthood, while a chaplain at Boston University, was a big part of the Christian anti-war movement. What the move actually is was very different. Part of my expectations were based on a lecture I saw that Carroll gave during the Religion & Violence Conference given last February at Trinity Church in Wall St. New York City. In that lecture he gave a fantastic analysis of the American civil religion and violence, heavily based on biblical themes though in no way actually backed by it. I got a story about primarily about anti-Semitism throughout the Christian ages. On its way through that story was the interaction with state-backed religion, and a smart bit of theology about it. The stories were incredibly moving. One of the most moving images was seeing the erection of a Cross directly outside the walls of Auschwitz by the then Pope. It is unfathomable to me that the institution of the church could be so insensitive. I highly recommend this film for all to see.

When the theme first hit me, I immediately had an interesting thought. In reconstructing the history surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion we knows “the Jews” is a highly misleading construct. There is no single party, Jewish or Roman to blame. And any party that could ever be called “the Jews” would only ever contain the aristocratic conservative wing of those in power. In my mind, it would have been just as easy to write “the politicians” crucified him. Imagine what two thousand years of that thought would have done throughout history.

Carroll’s journey as a priest, backward in time finding the origins of Christianity peaceful led him to join the peace movement as a priest during the Vietnam era. It led him to leave the priestly order as well. He remarks an amazement to now find that religion is once again a driving force towards hatred and war in our time. All at the service of the state.

I want to leave with just one quote, from a current Catholic priest:

If you want to make religion a constructive force in society, religions must begin with an honest admission of those moments when they haven’t been a constructive force, but a destructive force. The thing that frustrates me [to] no end is when religious leaders get up and suggest that religious leaders have always been on the side of good and virtue. Let’s be honest. Fr. John Pawlikowski

2 Responses to “Constantine’s Sword”

  1. on 07 May 2009 at 1:12 pmJ.J.

    I picked up the book a couple months ago, but I haven’t started reading it.

  2. on 07 May 2009 at 6:09 pmrobert

    Constantine has murdered more souls than anyone through out history and sits at the right hand of satan right now. before him the Body of Christ was saving souls.
    He brought christianity into the worship of the sun god which is where the trinity started, christmas, easter and the belief that Jesus died upon the cross. before him none of this existed in the Church and if you disagreed with this you would be executed.
    he also polluted definitions in the greek lang to make sure.


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