I had a talk yesterday with a friend about James Carroll’s book The Sword of Constantine. I hadn’t read it. The recent anti-Catholic books by Carroll, Cornwell, Goldhagen, Wills and so on strike me as mostly hate literature. They may be important in a sense, because they’re part of a movement, but individually they don’t much matter. Or such has been my impression.
Still, it appears that Carroll’s book is of some interest, at least as an example, because for 800 pages it repeats the same form of argument, essentially:
- Christianity exists.
- To exist is to assert something as opposed to something else, and in the case of Christianity the “something else” is Judaism.
- Since there is no truth, and all assertions are groundless expressions of the will to power, and their only possible content is negation of the thing to which they oppose themselves, the essence of Christianity is necessarily antisemitism—groundless aggression against Judaism.
- Christianity can claim to be good only to the extent it claims Judaism is bad. So e.g. to claim Christ is God is to claim the Jew is the Devil.
- Therefore, if you say “I like the Gospel” what you’re really saying is “Auschwitz was a good idea and we ought to do it again.”
Since I haven’t read the book, I don’t know how closely Carroll actually holds to this line of thought. Some of the quotes my friend read to me over the phone did sound pretty extreme. Still, it seems to me something of this logic is implicit in a lot of present-day liberalism and in particular a lot of the discussion of Christian conflicts with Jews.
There’s a metaphysical notion floating around that to exist is to engage in groundless aggression and so to incur guilt. The alternative is the view that God created the world and called it good. From the standpoint of the former view the latter is really a sort of self-satisfied Naziism. Hence the tone of current anti-Catholic polemics.