Sometimes, despite my better judgment, I abandon the usual episodes of 30 Rock and The Office for something more cerebral. This time, it happened by total accident. I downloaded a movie called Constantine's Sword, thinking it was some sort of sequel to the the guilty pleasure movie Constantine. (Yes, the lame one with Keanu Reeves ... don't judge me...)
What I got instead was this semi-documentary exploring the violent origins of Christianity in modern western civilization and the intolerance. Immediately, I was intrigued; violence and intolerance are not attributes that I associate at all with Christ or His believers in any age. Certainly, I was familiar with the mixed role the Catholic church (the source of Christianity at that time) played in Europe throughout the middle ages, but I always assumed those trespasses to be part of some malignancy introduced by corrupting and later was excised by the renaissance, the reformation, and the enlightenment. Constantine's Sword however, shines a much brighter light on the history, makes some very interesting and disturbing observations about where modern Christianity comes from, the dark symbolism of the cross, the actual role of Jerusalem's Jews in the crucifixion, the growth of antisemitism, and the as the subsequent role (or lack thereof) of the church in inquisitions, crusades, wars, hateful evangelism and even the Holocaust.
I hope it doesn't seem as though I accept everything in the film as historical fact, because I do know that the the film shows only one perspective and takes liberties in compressing 2000 years of history into two hours. That said, the film makes a genuine inquiry into some of modern Christanity's flaws, which have suprisingly ancient roots.
For me, personally, the lessons from the film revolve around two of the two great balances of Christianity in the United States: how do we balance church and state when the majority is Christian, and how do we balance evangelism and a desire to prosylite with religious tolerance? Difficult questions indeed. We'd like to believe that we are philosophically light years away from the church that went on crusades or told Jews to convert or die, but we must acknowledge that these wrongs are in our past and avoid any modern day incarnations.