Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Constantine's Sword

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Ex-Jesuit Priest Takes Critical Look at Violence Committed in the Name of Christianity

There was a precedent to Vice President Cheney’s remark made to Tim Russert on Meet the Press five days after September 11th that he would happily accept the head of Osama bin Laden on a platter. For over the course of several centuries, starting in about 1095, legions of Catholics had ventured from Europe to the Middle East with the intention of conquering the Holy Land in the name of Christianity, and all with the blessing of the reigning pope.
It was not unusual for soldiers participating in the Crusades to consider themselves virtuous for returning home with the head of a Muslim or a Jew on the end of a stick. Given that fanatical religious legacy, one can understand why someone might be inclined to examine America’s involvement in the region in a new light.
And just such an inquiry is the focus of Constantine's Sword, an informative look at the violent side of Christianity. The picture is narrated by James Carroll, a former Catholic cleric who abandoned the priesthood when he found himself plagued by nagging doubts about the historical links of his Church to papal-sanctioned ethnic cleansing.
He asks, “How did the Cross become a rallying symbol for persecution?” “How does one man who loves the Church confront its history of crusade and conquest?” “Why are intolerance, violence and war so deeply ingrained in religion?” It seems that he didn’t feel comfortable continuing to serve as a recruiter for a faith with so much blood on its hands.
Carroll, now married with two children, tackles these thorny issues by honestly reviewing the behavior of evangelical Christians from the time of Constantine all the way up to the present. He finds that proselytizing was popular not only in the Middle Ages but is still flourishing today in the U.S. Air Force Academy where pressure is being routinely applied to cadets to swear allegiance to both the United States and to Jesus.
With God as your co-pilot, especially “The right God,” it’s probably a lot easier to rationalize bombing godless heathen civilians back to the Stone Age without a second thought. A powerful documentary which makes the case that the faith-based fanaticism that has destabilize the planet has been fueled as much by the West as by radical Islam.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: First Run Features

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