Adapted by Oscar-nominated documentarian Oren Jacoby, Constantine’s Sword is an astonishing exploration of the dark side of Christianity, following acclaimed author and former priest James Carroll on a journey of remembrance and reckoning.WATCH CONSTANTINE'S SWORD
“Is religious hatred the expression of something dark and deep in human beings, something that we’ve never really faced?
by Stephen Holden
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,” does about as good a job as you could hope of distilling a 750-page historical examination of religious zealotry and power into 95 swift minutes. Because the book was published several months before 9/11, the film adaptation, which was written by Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Carroll and uses the voices of Liev Schreiber, Philip Bosco, Natasha Richardson and Eli Wallach, updates the book’s pessimistic vision of how religions demonize one another to include Christian and Islamic fundamentalism as well as anti-Semitism.
What must Middle Eastern Muslims feel, Mr. Carroll wonders, when George W. Bush throws around concepts like good and evil and uses the word crusade to describe the Iraq war? Mr. Carroll worries that we may be heading toward an all-out holy war between state-supported religious extremists.Read When Love of Religion Leads to Hatred of Others on NYTimes.com
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.