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The documentary "Constantine's Sword," directed by Oren Jacoby, grapples with the age-old question of why, throughout the course of human history, so much bloodshed and violence have been committed in the name of God.
In this case, the person making the inquiry is James Carroll, a former priest turned author who wrote the book on which the film is based. Raised a devout Roman Catholic, Carroll came to question aspects of his religion during the height of the anti-war movement of the 1960s a movement which the Church officially condemned and when he began to research the role the Church itself had played in fostering and implementing anti-Semitic violence in the almost two thousand years of its existence (he doesn't go much into the Catholic-on-Protestant/Protestant-on-Catholic violence occurring at the same time). He cites the conversion of Constantine as the moment when Christianity turned into a violent religion and notes how the portrayal of the Jews as "Christ-killers" set in motion centuries of Church-sanctioned and Church-fueled anti-Semitism. He points to the crusades of the early 1000s, the widespread persecution and extermination of Jews during the Middle Ages, and even the far more recent cozy relationship between the Vatican and the fascist dictators of the 1930s and '40s and the Church's lack of effort in halting the Holocaust - as evidence of his thesis.
Interestingly, Carroll focuses almost exclusively on acts of violence perpetrated by Christians on Jews and Muslims and ignores acts of violence perpetrated by those groups against others (i.e., the Hebrew genocide of the Canaanites found in the Book of Joshua, modern-day Islamic jihadist attacks on Israel and the West). Perhaps, due to his papist background, Carroll simply feels more personal responsibility for Catholic-approved atrocities and doesn't feel comfortable examining the other side of the religious-violence coin. However, even if that is indeed the case, it still results in a strangely unbalanced look at the subject. Then again, since when is it the job of every documentary to cover every single aspect of the subject it's documenting? Plus, he does make the case that, until Christianity owns up to its violent history, conflicts with other religions will only intensify in the years to come.
Currently, one place in which Carroll sees religion and military power coming together is in the United States Air Force, where officers and cadets including Jews, Muslims and nonbelievers - are being coerced into becoming Evangelical Christians. He travels to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to document that situation. Carroll feels that a military defined by this kind of sectarian religious zeal will only further convince the other side that we are indeed engaged in some kind of modern-day holy war with Islam, a Twenty-first Century crusade. At great personal risk to themselves, a group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Air Force for the right not to be proselytized to an act for which they've received condemnation from the powers-that-be and even death threats. This, in many ways, is the most disturbing and eye-opening section of the movie - not least of all because an obviously pre-scandal Ted Haggard gets quite a bit of air-time commenting on the subject, since it was he who filed a counter-lawsuit on the part of evangelicals to be allowed to continue preaching the evangelical gospel to a captive audience of military personnel.
Carroll ends his film with the four sobering words, "No war is holy" - and with a title card revealing Haggard's eventual fall from grace for consorting with a male prostitute and snorting crack. I guess sometimes the good guys do win after all.
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