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Arts & Letters

Reading Off the Charts: Constantine's Sword

Suddenly, it is Fall. Wet leaves and cool mornings. I didn't have to water the garden but instead began reading a book Karen loaned me...

By Lois Barton

Posted on Sep 18, 2004

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Constantine's Sword
The Church and the Jews
A History

by Jamess Carroll

Mariner Books
Houghton Mifflin
Boston, New York
616 pages
plus chronology, extensive notes, bibliography and index

The past is more than gone-by-days, its ancient realities shape our todays. How came we to the 20th Century that saw the the most brutal genocide in a western "civilized" society? Constantine's Sword challenges the reader to understand why Jews objected to the placement of a Christian cross next to the wall of Auschwitz, a holocaust death camp. The symbolic cross represents a subtle gesture toward "Christianizing" Jews, a process which has been carried on by the church for two thousand years.

Constantine's headquarters were at Trier on the border between Germany and France. Trier has been an important church center in mid-Europe through the centuries. Ever since Constantine became a Christian and identified the cross as a primary symbol of the church, the denigrating of Jews as Christ-killers has fueled an anti-Semitic struggle between the church and the Jewish people.

The Crusades and the Inquisition are covered in detail. Such historic persons, and their teachings, as Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas, Karl Marx, Spinoza, Voltaire, Dreyfus and Bismark are presented within their political milieu. The changing role of the Vatican throughout is clearly noted. In each case Carroll spells out the impact on the times and how this came down on the Jews.

In his youth James Carroll was taken by his devout Catholic mother to visit Christian shrines throughout Europe. As a young man he trained as a priest. Then while writing this book he revisited many of those sites seeking clarity in view of his evolving understanding. These personal experiences add a sense of realism to the narrative.

The Chicago Tribune, cited on the book jacket, offers valuable insight into the books overall impact. "In this rare book that combines searing passion...with a subject that has affected all of our lives, James Carroll maps the profoundly troubling two-thousand-year course of the Church's battle against Judaiam and faces the crisis of faith it has provoked in his own life as a Catholic. More than a chronicle of religion, this dark history is the central tragedy of Western civilization, its fault lines reaching deep into our culture."

I've never thought of myself as anti-Semitic, but reading this history has opened my eyes to defaming cultural norms, purportedly descriptive of Jews, present but unrecognized in my psyche. I have been shocked to learn the extent of irrational prejudice engendered by theological contention as the Christian church attempted to differentiate itself from its Jewish roots.

This book provides an important tool for any reader ready to take an honest look at where we have come since the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

Copyright © 2004 by Lois Barton

Now Available on Compact Disk:

Stories from The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte

Three and a half years of years Lois Barton's stories–so you can read them without going online!

Lois Barton's Selected Works
Volume I, Chanticleer's Tales
Send $10, plus postage of $1.50 to
84889 Harry Taylor Rd.
Eugene, OR 97405

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Lois Barton is an 85 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Visit the Sunnyside of Spencer Butte Section in our new format for more of Lois' stories. See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:

Visit the Heron Rookery
Sauerkraut and All That
Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?
The Midwife- The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.
The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.
Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

And follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By

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