I came upon this movie, Constantines Sword, quite by accident, while uploading movies to watch instantly on the T.V.  I was profoundly fascinated, not just by the storyteller and his narrative, but the journey of Christianity and its intersection with Judaism, throughout history.   For me, the movie was truly moving, in a very personal sense.  When it was over, I wondered, how is it possible that the Jewish religion has survived?  What dedication must it have taken to continue the traditions under such heavy persecution. 

In the end, I came away feeling even more strongly that religion is more often than not, misused and abused.  That the most important message, from almost all religions, “love they neighbor as thyself” too often becomes, well, completely forgotten.

 One fact that was truly an eye opener was the use of the cross. Now, as a Jewish person, not knowing much about Christianity, I just always assumed it was because Christ was crucified on the cross. Could it be true, that Constantine had this vision when looking up into the blue sky, 300 years after Jesus’s death, of a cross in the sky, a vison he would replicate by crossing his swords?   Once he conquered his enemies, believing Christ had been the reason he had vanquished his enemy, the symbol of the cross would now be used to represent all Christians. 

I look forward to the discussion!!!

Constantine’s Sword website

19 Thoughts to “Moonhowlings discussion of “Constantine’s Sword””

  1. Thank you, Elena, for getting us started and for recommending this documentary. It certainly was not a comfortable film. One of my favorite songs was chosen for the end of the film. I always liked the Dylan and Baez versions. It helped me to decompress to read through the words after I had finished the film. Aaron Neville is the artist.

    With God on our Side link to lyrics.

  2. Wolverine

    Funny how Christianity seems so often to be put on display by the entertainment industry as the great warmonger of history. But that doesn’t quite fit in with, let us say, the fall of Jericho or the empire built and maintained by David and Solomon. It also doesn’t quite fit in with the military conquest of Palestine by the Muslims, the actual seed of the crusades, or with the conquest of Constantinople or the rape and pillage in Belgrade after the Moslem victory at Kosovo or even the long seige of Vienna, lifted only by the skill and courage of a Polish Christian king. Seems to me that you can find negatives just about anywhere and everywhere, including the atrocities committed by my own ancient Viking kin who sailed under the believed guidance of their great gods Odin and Thor. I haven’t even touched on the rest of the wide religious world.

    But Christianity always seems to be first up on the scaffold these days, even though there is more than enough blood and gore to go around, including the long history of that ancient and honored Kingdom of Israel. Elena is absolutely right. All religions at some point betray the lessons given to them by their own holy writ. And almost always, it seems, in the name of whatever god or gods are believed to have handed down that writ. Moreover, the persecutor one day becomes the victim the next day and vice versa.

  3. Rick Bentley

    Moon-howler, I have always loved Dylan’s “With God On Our Side” as well, and boy was it appropriate to this movie.

    I recommend the movie to anyone interested in history. I learned a good bit. Particularly about the Spanish inquisition, my main exposure to what it was having previously been the Monty Python bit.

    Wolverine, I think you miss the point. The movie is made by Christians, isn’t it? I think the arguement is being made by Christians for Christians to behave in ways that give glory rather than shame.

    I don’t have a dog in that fight, I think religions are inane and inherently lead to stupid behavior. But i do have more of an understanding how wide and deep anti-semitism has run through time.

  4. Rick Bentley

    A parallel discussion might be whether “The Passion of the Christ” is anti-semitic in nature or not. I watched it once and found it arguably anti-semitic, not inarguably anti-semitic. Inarguably, it was weird and homoerotic, and like many films Mel Gibson makes showed a weird fascination with physical torture.

  5. Gainesville Resident

    Rick Bentley :
    A parallel discussion might be whether “The Passion of the Christ” is anti-semitic in nature or not. I watched it once and found it arguably anti-semitic, not inarguably anti-semitic. Inarguably, it was weird and homoerotic, and like many films Mel Gibson makes showed a weird fascination with physical torture.

    I’ve not seen Passion of Christ but heard a lot about it at the time. Of course, Mel Gibson is well known for spouting anti-semitic things when he is drunk, and maybe even when he is not so drunk. However, assuming that when one is drunk it removes inhibitions, I believe Mel Gibson meant what he said when he spouted those anti-semitic things. Even though I’m not really observant – and more just identify with being ethnic Jewish than religious Jewish – I refuse to see any Mel Gibson films anymore, so i have no interest in viewing the Passion of Christ. He may be a good actor, but he strikes me as not so good of a person.

    I will see if I can watch Constantine’s Sword this evening. Yesterday was consumed by a small crisis at work (the system runs 24/7 so you never know when something crazy may happen on the weekend, and it did) and I had to spend the day putting out that particular fire.

  6. Elena

    Good Morning Wolverine, it sounds as though you feeling very defensive, like I am calling out Christianity specifically. You make excellent point, no argument here. Did you watch the movie?@Wolverine

  7. The thing that most struck me was that at his ordination or first sermon, with his father there to honor his son, James Carroll used the word “napalm” to further dig at his father, the multi-star general.

    But generally, I like how the film makes you re-think what you have been taught. I’m Episcopal, and one of our most outspoken people is retired Bishop Spong. He makes this stuff look like a tour guide movie.

    No matter what your faith is, we’re all on a life long journey of discovery, rediscovery — and coming to terms with our families.

  8. Wolverine, I think that the movie served to make the Christian community do some strong self-reflection and well as to remind us where extremism can go. That is never a bad thing, even if we don’t agree with content in the movie (and I do not agree with it all).

    Rick is correct in that it is a film by Christians about Christians. The concept that any time we look inward to examine where we have gone wrong as a church we are attacking Christianity simply cannot reign as the main part of our thinking. We have to continue to improve and strive towards behavior that models the very Person we honor in our religion.

    Much of the historical part of the film was a real eye-opener to me. Much of what most people know about any religion is what the leaders WANT you do know. Perhaps that is why so many of us are fascinated with FLDS. Its history is brief enough that you can actually learn and understand it without just being overwhelmed by the power it took to brush that which is not pleasant under the rug. Mormonism like all religion has its side of ugly and power grabbing but its history is less than 200 years old and therefore it becomes more mentally manageable.

    Break time. I have been concerned about the air force cover up since I first learned of it.

  9. Cindy, hold the thought on napalm….I want to go back to it.

  10. Wolverine

    No, Elena, not defensive and not aiming at your presentation. Just some observations. Haven’t seen the movie but I did read what you linked and could see where the movie story line was leading. Reading history is my passion, and I really don’t need movies to explain the unending threads of historical religious development and conflict. What history has taught me is that every human cultural entity has multitudinous warts. None escape that fact. That includes my own personal Christian and pagan ancestors. The study of history has made me into someone who always wants to ask the next question and point out the apparent inconsistencies of arguments pointing the finger of guilt largely in one direction. Introspection is good but not when it is transformed almost soley into self-flagellation, ignoring the good in favor of the bad.

    One of those inconsistencies has always been the Crusades. Started off as a holy war and wound up being a long, mean, vicious screw up all the way around. The general trend of late has been to condemn Christians majorly for that period of history. So, I simply ask: who started that thing by a military conquest of what was then a Judeo-Christian place called Palestine? Then, always, there are those who will point out how vicious the Crusaders were and how generous the Muslims proved to be in this and subsequent conflicts. Well, O.K., if your thing is to excuse military conquest in the name of religion. And I will agree that the Crusaders were, indeed, vicious in many instances — but, remember, all warfare in that era was marked by viciousness. Scimitars could behead someone as quickly as a broadsword. And finally, there are those who will point out that, after their conquest of Palestine and before the Crusades, the Muslims stopped being tough and decided to show generosity by respecting the Christian shrines and allowing pilgrims to visit unimpeded. Why was that? Money. They discovered that, if you showed yourself to be mean and intolerant, the pilgrims would no longer come with coins in their purses. Hardly a decision made on the basis of religious tolerance. It was economics pure and simple. Make some gold off those misguided infidels.

    And then you get up to the great Muslim invasion of Europe, including the seige of Vienna centuries later; and, sure enough, you will hear about that Christian nobleman Vlad the Impaler (the basis for “Dracula”) and how he lined the roads of Transylvania with the impaled bodies of the Muslims his troops had slain or captured. O.K. again, but can we please go back a little to the southeast and note that the road to Vienna was lined by the Muslim armies with travel markers which consisted of piles of skulls of slain Bulgarian Christians? Warts, warts everywhere.

    Some point out that the Crusaders even eventually beseiged and sacked the Byzantine Christian capital of Constantinople. Shall we forget to mention that, when one of the early Crusader armies marched through the Balkans with a destination of the Holy Land, the Greeks en route refused to let the Crusaders worship in the Orthodox churches because the Latin-rite Crusaders were somehow not up-to-snuff Christians? Oh, and the Greeks and other “Orthodox Christians” on that marching route made the whole thing into a profitable enterprise. Whenever a Crusader happened to leave the line of march for whatever reason, he seemed to get murdered and his possessions stolen by….you guessed it, those other Christians. (I know this story pretty well because Mrs. Wolverine’s Frankish ancestors were in that particular Crusader army.) As I said, warts, warts, everywhere. No story has a pure and simple script of good and evil.

    And Ric, I didn’t miss the point. You missed mine. I do not care whether the author of a particular piece of literature is Christian, Muslim, Shintoist, or whatever. I do care if the story line goes only in one direction and does not have balance.

  11. Rick Bentley

    “One of those inconsistencies has always been the Crusades. Started off as a holy war ”

    It started off as leaders manipulating sheep to fight for them, to acquire new “territory”, claiming it to be God’s idea. Or do you actually think it was God’s idea? he whispered in their ear like a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

    The film didn’t decry fighting against Muslims during the Crusades. It decried the slaughter of Jews who posed no threat.

    “I do care if the story line goes only in one direction and does not have balance.” So the film, and condemnation of Christian conduct to you, is only acceptable if couched in context of other non-Christian atrocities being presented also? Do you realize how childish that sounds?

    But I guess you really believe that the Gods are at war or whatever and there’s no middle ground, any statement or any art is pro-God or anti-God. Like some of the people in the film. And some of the people who slaughtered Jews throughout time.

  12. Wolverine

    Rick, if you cannot understand my use of the term “holy war” in its purely historical context, you need to do some introspection yourself. And since when is demanding balance in historical reporting and commentary “childish”? I was simply using the Crusades as an example of how such reporting and commentary can become unbalanced when criticism is launched against only one side on any issue. It was not necessarily a reference to this particular movie or the atrocities committed against Jews. Now, stop the insults and the silly assumptions. How you came up with all that crap in #11 is unbelievable.

  13. Rick Bentley

    I don’t agree that an examination of a particular matter needs to include a “context” of unrelated matters to make it more palatable to ideologues.

  14. Wolverine

    Rick, you have to admit that, when you study such things as the Crusades or the later Moslem invasion of Europe, both sides in such a conflict are an integral part of the “context.” I don’t oppose per se a critical self-look such as that apparently contained in the movie in question; but I do suggest that, if such a movie is not viewed in the context of a wider knowledge of the negative historical parts of almost all religions, you may come away with a skewed view of one religion as the epitome of all evil.

    Ideologues? Heck, Rick, I’m not even a Catholic. Not too many centuries ago, I might have been burned at the stake like old Jan Hus of Bohemia. My Calvinist Frisian ancestors beat the crap out of the Spanish Catholic garrisons up at Groningen and Delfzijl in the Spanish Netherlands in the 16th century. They then turned around and imposed a Protestant state church in the form of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands, later kicking out those who didn’t adhere to all their established Calvinist precepts. So my stubborn and cantakerous later ancestors “separated” from that unfair state church and came to America in search of religious freedom. Ideologues indeed!! More like historical troublemakers who didn’t like being told what to do is what we were.

  15. The Muslims really didn’t make it into this film. Christianity certainly is not attacked. Not at all. What is questioned is man’s manipulation of Christianity for power and conquest.

    The sword of Constantine became a focal point because it is the viewpoint of the filmmaker that Constantine marked when Christianity became violent. The merger of the sword and the cross altered acceptable Christian behavior.

  16. Elena

    Actually, the documentary was a book first. I can’t debate the content of the movie with you until you actually seen it. What I found really moving was that the ex-priest NEVER left his belief system in Christ, but what he did do was leave the organized church structure. Christianity plays a unique role in the world, our calenders are based on it, A.D. and B.C. The influence of Christianity cannot be denied.

  17. Wolverine

    Elena: last two sentences spot on. Ditto for Judaism. My own faith gave me a foot in both of those worlds; and I am much the better for it.

    I don’t have to see the movie. I know about ex-military scion and ex-Paulist priest James Carroll. He has written much and is highly controversial. He seems to believe that Vatican II should have been the new “law” of the Catholic Church. The last few popes have strongly denied that point. Carroll, in my opinion, has almost nothing positive to say about the Catholic Church. To many , he seems to have a vendetta going. One of his biggest beefs is the recent offer by Rome to accept Anglicans back into the Catholic communion if they so desire to come. Carroll seems to feel that is an insult. Somehow he never gets around to admitting that the modern Anglican church is in disarray of its own accord and losing adherents. The irony never seems to occur to him that the traditional focus of Anglicanism is moving from the UK to Britain’s former colonies in Africa, of all places. Heh, never thought I’d see the day in which American Anglicans looked to a bishop in Uganda as their spiritual head.

    Not being a Catholic myself but having married one and being surrounded by her Catholic offspring and other faithful family, I can see firsthand the hurt laid on Catholic believers by Carroll whenever he lands another controversial article in the Boston Globe or writes another book. Being the old , independent Protestant “pietist” that I am, I don’t have a dog in this particular fight except for seeing that hurt around me. I wish Carroll would either start balancing out his thoughts on the Church or just shut up. Half the time it looks like he takes delight in just disturbing the peace and starting a fight. Haven’t we got enough other problems in this world without always cutting someone up about their religious faith? If Carroll isn’t happy with the Catholic faith, he is free as a bird to leave and choose something more to his liking. I did the same with my former denomination (which is why I consider myself to be an independent “pietist”), but I’ll be darned if I want to go around cutting up the old faith after the dust has settled. In my book, God is Love. He isn’t about jabbing somebody else in the eye all the time just because you had an intellectual parting of the ways.

  18. Rick Bentley

    Wolverine, I do regret getting a bit personal in my arguement. Let me try to be more civil …

    “Rick, you have to admit that, when you study such things as the Crusades or the later Moslem invasion of Europe, both sides in such a conflict are an integral part of the “context.” I don’t oppose per se a critical self-look such as that apparently contained in the movie in question; but I do suggest that, if such a movie is not viewed in the context of a wider knowledge of the negative historical parts of almost all religions, you may come away with a skewed view of one religion as the epitome of all evil. ”

    I’m a big believer that when making a documentary (or a book) you shouldn’t feel obligated to “dumb it down”, but rather should hone it in on your subject matter and let the chips fall where they may. But anyway, the book’s author and film’s protagonist is professed Catholic as far as I can see, and as he is tolerant of others’ beliefs and not aggressive he inherently balances out the portrait.

    I don’t know much about James Carroll but I just judge the film on its own merit.

  19. Rebecca


    Many are still unaware of the eccentric, 180-year-old British theory underlying the politics of American evangelicals and Christian Zionists.
    Journalist and historian Dave MacPherson has spent more than 40 years focusing on the origin and spread of what is known as the apocalyptic “pretribulation rapture” – the inspiration behind Hal Lindsey’s bestsellers of the 1970s and Tim LaHaye’s today.
    Although promoters of this endtime evacuation from earth constantly repeat their slogan that “it’s imminent and always has been” (which critics view more as a sales pitch than a scriptural statement), it was unknown in all official theology and organized religion before 1830.
    And MacPherson’s research also reveals how hostile the pretrib rapture view has been to other faiths:
    It is anti-Islam. TV preacher John Hagee has been advocating “a pre-emptive military strike against Iran.” (Google “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism.”)
    It is anti-Jewish. MacPherson’s book “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books etc.) exposes hypocritical anti-Jewishness in even the theory’s foundation.
    It is anti-Catholic. Lindsey and C. I. Scofield are two of many leaders who claim that the final Antichrist will be a Roman Catholic. (Google “Pretrib Hypocrisy.”)
    It is anti-Protestant. For this reason no major Protestant denomination has ever adopted this escapist view.
    It even has some anti-evangelical aspects. The first publication promoting this novel endtime view spoke degradingly of “the name by which the mixed multitude of modern Moabites love to be distinguished, – the Evangelical World.” (MacPherson’s “Plot,” p. 85)
    Despite the above, MacPherson proves that the “glue” that holds constantly in-fighting evangelicals together long enough to be victorious voting blocs in elections is the same “fly away” view. He notes that Jerry Falwell, when giving political speeches just before an election, would unfailingly state: “We believe in the pretribulational rapture!”
    In addition to “The Rapture Plot,” MacPherson’s many internet articles include “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “Edward Irving is Unnerving,” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” (massive plagiarism, phony doctorates, changing of early “rapture” documents in order to falsely credit John Darby with this view, etc.!).
    Because of his devastating discoveries, MacPherson is now No. 1 on the “hate” list of pretrib rapture leaders!
    There’s no question that the leading promoters of this bizarre 19th century end-of-the-world doctrine are solidly pro-Israel and necessarily anti-Palestinian. In light of recently uncovered facts about this fringe-British-invented belief which has always been riddled with dishonesty, many are wondering why it should ever have any influence on Middle East affairs.
    This Johnny-come-lately view raises millions of dollars for political agendas. Only when scholars of all faiths begin to look deeply at it and widely air its “dirty linen” will it cease to be a power. It is the one theological view no one needs!
    With apologies to Winston Churchill – never has so much deception been foisted on so many by so few!

    [Also Google “David Letterman’s Hate, Etc.”]

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