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Constantine's Sword
October 2, 2008 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Constantine's Sword (google video) A former priest's personal journey through the tangled and sometimes violent history between Christians and Jews.
posted by empath (14 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's not really a violent history between Christians and Jews... It's more like a violent history by Christians to Jews.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 11:51 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is based on a very good book. (Didn't know it was "controversial" though! Thanks, Wikipedia.)
posted by grobstein at 11:55 AM on October 2, 2008


Well, we did eat a lot of babies.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:55 AM on October 2, 2008


it's a good film - and it's available to "watch now" at netflix, for those who'd like a higher quality version.
posted by moxiedoll at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2008


I watched the first few minutes. It looks pretty interesting, but I'm kinda dubious of watching it online when the filmmakers are trying to actually sell the DVD...
posted by greatgefilte at 2:17 PM on October 2, 2008


I read the book a couple of years back. A very satisfying read for this love of religious histories.
posted by tcv at 4:44 PM on October 2, 2008


James Carroll relies heavily on John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope. Cornwell has been forced to retract his more outrageous positions.

Another favored source is Elaine Pagels, who has faced heavy and persuasive criticism.
posted by Jahaza at 6:39 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had a fiction seminar with Jim at Emerson College--but I think his nonfiction is better.
posted by brujita at 10:42 PM on October 2, 2008


Anti-semitism has nothing to do with the gospels. People will use any excuse to hate and kill. Hating and killing are what people do (see Cain and Abel). The rhetorical strategy of this movie is particularly sleazy, with all the close-ups of Carroll's pained, "concerned" face, and the careful establishment of his Christian "bona fides" (the pope whispered in his ear!). The question is not the depth of his concern, but whether the facts support his argument -- which they do not

Then he trots out Elaine Pagels, which should more or less end the discussion right there. This shameless self-aggrandizer is happy to stick her face into any attack on the gospels. She throws a sheaf of gnostic scriptures in your face, and says "See, all ancient writings are confetti," or pulls out the crappy Gospel of Thomas, with its one original saying ("If you don't bring forth what is inside you, what you don't bring forth will destroy you") but otherwise vague, unoriginal and pointless content, and implies that its mere existence somehow obviates the authority of authorized scripture (which, in fact, could earn their authority on comparative literary merit alone).

The vast majority of Christians are like the vast majority of Jews, in that they know and care little about their religion, devote most of their spiritual energies to devising conscience-preserving means of evading religious strictures, and have little interest in the historical or theological premises of their supposed beliefs. The idea that men and women who can barely muster the energy to follow the commandments, could rouse themselves to the point of murder over a scriptural punctillio is ridiculous. People hate and murder not to avenge Jesus, but because they enjoy hating and murdering, and circumstance will provide victims, Jews, Armenians, Canaanites... who ever.

Now the interesting question is not "why are Jews persecuted?" but "why have they persisted?" even as all other ancient peoples and religions have long vanished from the spiritual and genetic map. No one persecuted the ancient Egyptians and their immensely detailed, comprehensive and politically well-supported spiritual beliefs, yet the descendents of ancient Egyptians have no impact on the world, and you could barely find a single worshipper of RA outside of some California cult. And the genes of the ancient Greeks have assimilated into the Mediterranean masses, and their gods have persisted as mere literary figures, without actual followers. But the Jews... Shana Tova!
posted by Faze at 5:33 AM on October 3, 2008


So, wait, is your argument that religious doctrines simply can't be a contributing cause of violence?
posted by grobstein at 8:20 AM on October 3, 2008


Faze, there's plenty of anti-Semetic material (especially in John) to be found within the Gospels, just as there's plenty of precedents for religious violence in the Old Testament. That doesn't mean that there aren't usually plenty of contributing factors (socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural), but come on. For some of the more serious fanatics, scriptural texts can act in a causative role. Although, as you point out, there are plenty of folk who aren't all that fanatical about their religion otherwise - for these it probably just provides a set of ready excuses for the actions they undertake for other reasons or under other pressures.
I speak, by the way, as a committed Christian. And someone who has read Carroll. And while there are some points I'd argue against (and that I have heard professors and other more-knowledgeable folk argue against) there's also a lot of truth to what he says. The texts are ambiguous and sometimes directly contradictory in their representation of what is acceptable practice towards those who lie outside confessional boundaries.
Not all violence that is undertaken under religious aegis is, in fact, at root religious. I would even argue that most of it isn't. But that does not mean there is none, and Christianity, with its two millennia and more of history, has its share of brutality, both fanatical and opportunistic.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:48 PM on October 3, 2008


Does this have anything to do with the Jewish Revolt, when the Jews killed perhaps upwards of a million Romans?

Or is it more like the Stern Gang, where merely hundreds of Christians were killed by Jews?
posted by Sukiari at 8:02 PM on October 3, 2008


I'm failing to see your point, Sukiari, unless you're trying to make the case that an armed insurrection against an invading army and a tiny, armed band of militants are the moral equivalent of an Inquisition or a Holocaust.

Of course, such a position would be preposterous, so I assume it's not the case you are trying to make.

Also, what do you mean by the Jewish Revolt? Are you talking about the First Jewish-Roman War, in which the Romans killed 1,100,000 Jews, according Joesphus, and enslaved an additional 97,000? The one where the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and fed survivors to wild beasts in the amphitheatre of Caesarea as a birthday celebration?

I'm curious about your history sources.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 AM on October 15, 2008


I'm talking about the Kitos War (ie the "second" Jewish revolt).
posted by Sukiari at 3:29 PM on October 19, 2008


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