"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Religious Aspects of the Great War

The historian Philip Jenkins, author of a number of books of interest, has a new book coming out in May on--what else in this centenary year?--World War I. His book, however, takes a directly theological angle, as evidenced by the title: The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (HarperOne, 2014), 448pp.

About this book we are told:
On the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, historian and religious expert Philip Jenkins delivers a groundbreaking and controversial look at the hidden religious motivations that sparked the conflict and reveals how it reshaped religion for the next century. The Great and Holy War presents a new theory of religious change—mirroring the biological theory of punctuated equilibrium in which long periods of stability are interrupted by a sudden, cataclysmic event—showing how the years of the First World War, 1914-1918, constituted a worldwide spiritual revolution that created the world’s religious map as we know it today.

Throughout history, secular disasters—wars and natural catastrophes—have ignited influential new movements, fundamental shifts in religious consciousness, fervent revivalism and awakenings, and apocalyptic expectation. As Jenkins connects numerous remarkable incidents and characters, from Karl Barth to Carl Jung, he creates a powerful and persuasive narrative that brings together global politics, history, and spiritual crisis as never before and shows how religion informed and motivated circumstances on all sides of the war. As it illuminates the dramatic changes initiated by the First World War, The Great and Holy War offers fresh and much-needed insight into the religious, political, and cultural climate that gave rise to the devastation of 1914-1918. Illustrated with 40-50 black-and-white images throughout.
Given my abiding interest in military history in general, and the Great War in particular, I look forward to reading this book later in the spring.

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