Review Of "Does Christianity Cause War?" By D. Martin

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Martin's answer to the question posed by his title is that since at least 1648, Christianity has not been a primary cause, but has remained a force often used by governments to justify war. A distinguished sociologist of religion, Martin illustrates his conclusions by drawing on examples of Christian activities from the first to the 20th centuries, emphasizing medieval Europe, the Reformation, 19th-century Britain, and modern Latin America and Yugoslavia. He discusses the semiotics of the liturgy, social conflict, politics and war--an impressive range of topics that allow little proof and require a high level of abstraction. Martin demonstrates that to evaluate the roles of Christianity in war, one needs to assess the social and historical context--whether the church is a voluntary organization or not, its traditional roles in the society, and recent politics. Only after considering such factors should one compare, for example, Serbian Orthodoxy and the Pentecostal movement in Latin America--one used to justify war and the other explicitly apolitical, and each contributing to major social change. This book effectively demolishes the argument of those who assert that religious certainty and fundamentalism necessarily cause war. Because of the complexity of Martin's language, arguments, and proofs, his book will be useful primarily to graduate students and faculty. Catherwood's book serves as a corrective to Martin as well as an illustration of the differences between a historian's and a sociologist's approach to studying the relationship between religion and war. A scholar of the Balkans, Catherwood seeks successfully to make clear to lay readers the religious-ethnic-political struggles in Bosnia. The intended audience would be church study groups; like Martin, Catherwood makes his own normative Christian position clear. His topic is not "why all the nations rage," but the roles of religion in fostering ethnic identification in Eastern Europe; he uses as case studies Romania and Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. Unlike Martin, Catherwood concludes that religion was a primary cause of the war in the former Yugoslavia. Political leaders utilized pre-existing religious loyalties to create a mythical history in order to divide people and justify violence. Every Serb became Orthodox, all Croats Catholics, and the Bosnians were called Muslims (or Turks)--in spite of centuries of intermarriage, secularization, and diversity in each area. Catherwood demonstrates that the mobilization of nationalist religion in the Balkans (which has little to do with spirituality or church adherence) is explainable by the history of Orthodox Christians under Byzantium, Turks, Fascists, and Communists. Martin's book is better for understanding the various roles of Christianity in war through the centuries, but to understand the role of religions in recent Eastern European violence, read Catherwood.


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