Christianity

World War I at 100: New Books Examine the Battle of Beliefs Behind the 'Great War'

Communion services on the battlefront is the Nov. 12, 1914 cover of "Christian Herald." RNS photo courtesy Julie Maria Peace.

Some called it “The Great War.” Others called it “The War to End All Wars.” History proves it was neither.

As the world marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I — a conflict that left 37 million dead or wounded and reshaped the global map — a number of scholars and authors are examining a facet of the war they say has been overlooked — the religious framework they say led to the conflict, affected its outcome and continues to impact global events today.

More than that, they argue, today’s religious and political realities — ongoing wars, disputed borders and hostile relationships — have their roots in the global conflict that began when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Why Did Jesus Come?

“Jesus did not come just to save our souls,” wrote New York Times best-selling author Jim Wallis in his new book, “On God’s Side.” “Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom is much more than the ‘atonement-only gospel,’ a message that was mostly about how I could get to heaven and not about a new order that had come to change the world and me with it,” says Wallis.

Atheist Or Believer? Frank Schaeffer Is A Bit Of Both

Fuzzy declarations like that give many atheists the heebie-jeebies. Not Schaeffer. While he sometimes writes lines that could have spilled from the pen of arch-atheist Richard Dawkins — he calls the Bible “disgustingly misogynistic” — on other pages he seems to borrow an idea from liberal Christians like Jim Wallis. “I also believe that the spiritual reality hovering over, in and through me calls me to love, trust and hear the voice of my Creator,” he writes. “It seems to me that there is an off-stage and an onstage quality to my existence. I live onstage, but I sense another crew working off stage. Sometimes I hear their voices singing in a way that’s as eerily beautiful as the off-stage chorus in an opera.”

Moral Mondays' William Barber To Speak At WNC Festival

The four-day event hosts more than 75 discussions, conversations and explorations from provocative speakers such as William Barber, organizer of Moral Mondays protests; Sara Miles, author of "Take this Bread" and "City of God: Faith in the Streets;" Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners and author of "The Uncommon Good;" and Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association.

The Church Has Been Left Behind

Tilyo Petrov Rusev/Shutterstock.com

The church has been left behind, but we are not alone. Tilyo Petrov Rusev/Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: This post was originally a sermon in our monthly Sojourners chapel.

Friends, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Around the time I started middle school, my church acquired a series of books called The Left Behind Series. These books chronicle the final days of earth as outlined in the book of Revelation and other apocalyptic biblical texts. I won’t offer any commentary on the theology of these books, or even their literary value, but, as a middle-schooler, they were fairly impressionable.

The entire series begins with a dramatic reinterpretation of the rapture. People are going about their daily lives — driving to work, flying airplanes, making breakfast — when all of a sudden, people who had been there just seconds before are gone. Simply vanished into thin air. Of course, chaos ensues, because who is driving the car? Flying the airplane? Tending the stove? The world they leave behind is shattered, broken, and chaotic! This seminal event — the rapture — shapes the rest of the series as those who have been “left behind” work to win the ultimate prize — a place in heaven where they are no longer left behind.

The Stubborn Persistence of 'Jew-Hatred'

THE SHOOTINGS THAT took three lives this spring at a Jewish community center and retirement complex in Kansas are a reminder that deadly strains of what is usually called “anti-Semitism” remain with us. The fact that the shooter was a deranged white supremacist should not prevent us from coming to terms with the roots and survival of Jew-hatred in our culture.

Anti-Semitism is a made-up word that itself gives clues to the history of Jew-hatred in our civilization. The term was coined by German journalist Wilhelm Marr in 1879, one of a number of Jew-haters who were turning longstanding European Christian hatred of Jews into something modern and racial. The “Jewish problem,” therefore, became the “fact” that there was a racial group, the “Semites,” who were a mortal threat to another racial group, the “Aryans,” and therefore needed to be removed from Aryan societies. All right-thinking Germans/Europeans/Aryans, the argument went, needed to unite to combat the Semites through a scientific antisemitismus. The term is usually written “anti-Semitism” in English, but that usage profoundly reinforces the racist myth that there is a race of “Semites” needing to be opposed by “anti-Semites.” The term Jew-hatred is better because it refuses to participate in this mythology.

Modern racialized Jew-hatred flowed into the 20th century and crystallized most disastrously in Nazi Germany. There, over 12 terrible years, the 19th century anti-Jewish program was enacted, and then exceeded. Jews were to be “eliminated” from among the “Aryans,” a program that became annihilation after 1939, with 6 million Jews murdered.

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A Crash Course In Q

Q revels in being different but generally avoids direct confrontations. A standard Q tactic is to pair apparent opposites together and have them talk about something on which they can agree. Two years ago in Washington, Moore’s predecessor, the conservative Richard Land, was seated next to the left leaning Jim Wallis of Sojourners to tag-team immigration reform. The odd couples this year included the state’s Republican Governor Bill Haslam and Nashville’s Democrat Mayor Karl Dean who traded compliments and discussed public education. A Jewish Israeli mother who had lost a son and a Muslim Palestinian father who had lost a daughter shared the emotional stories that brought them together to work for peace. Theologians Matthew Levering and Timothy George summarized the unity achieved through 20 years of work by Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an effort begun by Gabe Lyons’s mentor Chuck Colson and First Things’s own Richard John Neuhaus.

Supreme Court Prayer Ruling May Spur New Alliances

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, at the Reason Rally on March 24, 2012. RNS photo by Tyrone Turner.

This week’s Supreme Court ruling allowing sectarian prayers at public meetings dealt a body blow to atheist organizations.

That was the assessment of David Silverman, president of American Atheists, speaking Tuesday to a group of nonbelievers at Stanford University. He then described a scenario that may raise eyebrows among some atheists: working with religious groups to fight against the ruling.

“That’s what we have to do, not only organize the atheists, but the Satanists, the Scientologists,” he said. In a conversation before his talk, he added Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. “We as atheists have the responsibility to urge them and push them and get them in there to get their prayers” said at public meetings.

That’s a change for a man who has famously described religion as a “poison.” And it is emblematic, observers say, of the change that may result from the majority opinion in Greece v. Galloway, which found that prayers citing “the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ” are permissible before government business.

Other secularists are likewise convinced that now is the time for atheists to join forces with members of minority faiths.

American Christians Pledge Solidarity With Persecuted Christians In Egypt, Iraq And Syria

They include many lay civic society leaders, including Robert George of Princeton University, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, journalist Kirsten Powers, George Marlin, chair of Aid to the Church in Need-USA, and Lynne Hybels of Global Engagement of the Willow Creek Church.

Christian Leaders Stand In Solidarity With Imperiled Religious Communities

Signers include National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell D. Moore, Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Robert Duncan, United Methodist Bishops Ken Carter of Florida & Mark Webb of Upper New York, United Theological Seminary President Wendy Deichmann (United Methodist), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson, Beeson Divinity School Dean Timothy George, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary President Dennis Hollinger, Willow Creek Pastor Bill Hybels, Northland Church Pastor Joel Hunter, National Religious Broadcasters President Jerry Johnson, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Prison Fellowship Ministries President Jim Liske and Institute on Religion & Democracy President Mark Tooley.

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