Constantine’s Sword

Posted on April 16, 2008


I began reading this book years ago (and am newly invigorated to pick it up again) and it has just been made into a film. Visit for news, trailer, etc.

Constantine\'s Sword Movie Graphic

Here’s the Synopsis:

Constantine’s Sword is the story of James Carroll; a former Catholic priest on a journey to confront his past and uncover the roots of religiously inspired violence and war. His search also reveals a growing scandal involving religious infiltration of the U.S. military and the terrible consequences of religion’s influence on America’s foreign policy.

Carroll focuses on Christian antisemitism as the model for all religious hatred, exposing the cross as a symbol of a long history of violence against Jews (and, most recently, Moslems). The film brings the history of religious intolerance to life, tracing it as a source of the fanaticism that threatens the world today. At its core, Constantine’s Sword is a compelling personal narrative — a kind of detective story — as one man uncovers the dark areas of his own past, searching for a better future.

Here is the book:

While the movie is in limited release, watch James Carroll discuss Constantine’s Sword at Washington’s National Cathedral (with links to other articles). What he communicates regarding Christian-Jewish relations is extremely important. What we need to hear regarding how ideologies develop in the context of history is vital to our belief systems and inter-faith relations. What we need to do about it is tantamount to being followers of Jesus. Further reading and questions in a discussion guide format can be found here.

Links referred to by Carroll: John F. Kennedy’s American University Commencement Speech, June 10, 1963; Nostre Aetate from Vatican II, October 28, 1965.

Here are some really poignant tidbits:

(min.8:06)What do we do [if] our sacred text is historically inaccurate, but it’s telling the most sacred story of Christian people?” asks Dean Lloyd. “It’s a problem we share with all religious people. Every sacred text is rooted in a moment in history, a moment in time. Every sacred text reflects the human condition. Two points:

1. Every Christian must develop the habit of hearing the ‘anti-Jewish’ texts as if they were Jews. If you’ve ever brought a friend to a Good Friday Service, you have to squirm as you hear that phrase, “the Jews,…the Jews,…the Jews,…let his blood be upon us and on our children.” Which of course it has been. So we have to learn to hear the texts as if we are Jews, just as we male Christians have to learn to hear the anti-female texts as if we are women.”

2. Preachers especially have an obligation to learn to preach against these texts, to explain how they came to be written the way they did, but also to lift them up, now, not to deny them, not to whitewash them, not to pretend they are not there, but to lift them up and preach them as the source of a 2,000 year-long sin of the church, which is the first note of the Good News. Because the Good News, of course, is not that God comes to people who are holy, sinless, flawless, but that God comes to those people who are human beings of the human condition. And in the church, the most important note that we have to strike upon ourselves is that we, too, are of the human condition, which is not what disqualifies us, it’s what prepares us to preach the Good News.”

(at min.43:49) “The way to measure the authenticity of the reading of a text is to see what it leads to in the world. And if it leads to violence and cruelty it’s an inauthentic reading of the text. If it leads to compassion and love; that’s the standard. How do we measure the truth of our theology?–if it leads to compassionate love. If it leads to attacks, it’s wrong. The theology that says that Jews are no longer in God’s favor that led to attacks, that theology is wrong–similarly with the violence of the millennial passages in the apocalypse or the book of Revelation.”

(at min.52:37) “i do believe the Lord’s revelation is necessary. Revelation of what? … That we are all already beloved of God. Jesus did not come to save us, but to reveal to us that we all are already saved.”

Posted in: Culture, Religion