“Constantine’s Sword”: A pointed look at Christianity and anti-Semitism

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“Constantine’s Sword” is a thoughtful, disturbing attempt to trace the history of Christian anti-Semitism back to the last centuries of the Roman Empire, and an in-depth look at one man’s spiritual journey.

By John Hartl

Special to The Seattle Times

Casey Weinstein, a Jewish Air Force cadet, was called a Christ killer (and things less-repeatable in a family newspaper) when he arrived at Colorado Springs for training in 2004.

Forced to share meals over place mats advertising Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” he felt hounded by his evangelical companions to see the movie. To him, it proved just as anti-Semitic as its critics warned. He was deeply offended by Gibson’s version of the Crucifixion.

“I felt terrible,” he says in the thoughtful, disturbing new documentary “Constantine’s Sword,” Read the full entry »

Blog Critics Review

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Where did anyone get the idea that it was all right to kill in the name of God? This question was being asked by director Oren Jacoby while the country was rushing off to war. Meanwhile, author and former priest James Carroll was on his own painful quest to understand how the religion he loved and was a part of could have slaughtered so many people all in the name of God. Constantine’s Sword is the coming together of question and quest. Like two detectives digging up old cases to find their relevance that matches patterns happening today in our county, the evidence is overwhelming. Even in our own military and at those academies which produce the officers who control the weapons, cadets and soldiers alike are being proselytized too. This is a dangerous sign.

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Cleveland Plain Dealer – DVD Pick

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A former Catholic priest goes on a personal odyssey exploring the dark side of Christianity in this thoughtful 2007 documentary. James Carroll, a National Book Award winner and a practicing Catholic, asks if religion is influencing American foreign policy. He visits the Air Force Academy in Colorado (his father was a U.S. Air Force general) and learns that evangelicals are freely recruiting troops on campus. He also finds that anti-Semitism is a growing problem there. And he looks back at Christianity’s past, at the Emperor Constantine’s vision of the cross as a sword and symbol of power. From there, he uncovers evidence of church-sanctioned violence against non-Christians. The timely film raises uncomfortable questions about Americans’ deeply held beliefs. Unrated, 95 minutes. DVD extras: an introduction by Gabriel Byrne, extended scenes, outtakes, director notes and filmmaker biographies. From First Run Features. In stores Tuesday, Sept. 16.

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Peacework Magazine

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As someone who was raised as an evangelical Protestant, I understand that anti-Semitism is rife and that its power is its seeming invisibility. As with our faith, those of us who are Christians aren’t expected to question the roots and reach of our dominance. It’s just normal.

So how do we reconcile our cultural upbringing and faith – our inherited views on the world – with what’s true; and not just that, but also take responsibility for the consequences when disingenuous hands pull the cords of government in Christianity’s name?

When I saw Oren Jacoby’s documentary film Constantine’s Sword, a discerning exploration of Christian-influenced political power, violence, and war, I grasped for the first time how Christian hegemony institutionally feeds militarism. Read the full entry »

Albuquerque Review

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“Every religious person has to take responsibility for the way in which their tradition promotes intolerance and hatred.”

These are the words of author, former priest and disenchanted Catholic James Carroll, and they drive home one of the central themes of Oren Jacoby’s documentary Constantine’s Sword. Read the full entry »

Nashville City Paper

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Oren Jacoby’s Constantine’s Sword, which opens today at the Belcourt, takes a careful and extensive look at a subject that almost always invokes strong reactions whenever discussed: religion. Read the full entry »

San Francisco Guardian

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*Constantine’s Sword Former priest turned bestselling author James Carroll is our guide through the long history of complicity between Christianity, military force, and the persecution of others, with a focus on anti-Semitism. Read the full entry »

Constantine's Sword Boston opening sold-out

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More than 450 people came to the beautiful Coolidge Corner Cinema on Thursday night, May 29 for the opening night screening, followed by a Q&A with James Carroll and Oren Jacoby. The audience responded to the screening and so did the reviewers: Boston Globe review

New York Times – Critics' Pick

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When Love of Religion Leads to Hatred of Others

by Stephen Holden

At the heart of Oren Jacoby’s screen adaptation of James Carroll’s book “Constantine’s Sword” lies a question to which each person of faith must find his own answer. When your core beliefs conflict with church doctrine, how far should your loyalty to the church extend? The same could be asked of loyalty to a government or a political party. (

Fallen Ones, The movie download Mr. Carroll, a former Roman Catholic priest and an acclaimed author whose memoir, “An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us” won a 1996 National Book Award, vehemently disagrees with the church on many issues but still embraces Catholicism. A former anti-Vietnam War activist, now in his mid-60s, he is an eloquent screen presence who conveys the same searching moral gravity that characterized other Catholic war resisters during the Vietnam era.

At once enthralling and troubling, the film, whose title has been simplified from the book’s “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History,” Read the full entry »

Reel Talk

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Reel Talk

Alison Bailes and Jeffrey Lyons review the historical film that explores the dark side of Christianity.  Watch the video

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