"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).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wartime Churches

As these recent anniversary years have ticked by, commemorating the two world wars and the genocides associated with them, we have seen greater scholarly attention to the role of the churches in those conflicts. First we had the latest of many books by the great historian Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusadewhich I very briefly discussed here. What is especially fascinating about Jenkins' book is the vast change in martial language used by Christians over the course of less than a century. In 1914, the language was bloodthirsty in ways that most Christians today would blanch at.

Then we had Panteleymon Anastasakis,  The Church of Greece Under Axis Occupation, showing all the complexities of wartime Greece which the Nazis occupied, the communists wanted to occupy, and the British to free from both.

Now this month we have another study coming out, Jan Bank with Lieve Gevers, Churches and Religion in the Second World War, trans. Brian Doyle (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), 624pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Despite the wealth of historical literature on the Second World War, the subject of religion and churches in occupied Europe has been undervalued – until now. This critical European history is unique in delivering a rich and detailed analysis of churches and religion during the Second World War, looking at the Christian religions of occupied Europe: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Orthodoxy.
The authors engage with key themes such as relations between religious institutions and the occupying forces; religion as a key factor in national identity and resistance; theological answers to the Fascist and National Socialist ideologies, especially in terms of the persecution of the Jews; Christians as bystanders or protectors in the Holocaust; and religious life during the war. Churches and Religion in the Second World War will be of great value to students and scholars of European history, the Second World War and religion and theology.

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