The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade

For the last year I have been listening to Hardcore History’s podcast on World War I.  It has been fascinating and educational.  I never realized how absolutely awful World War I was, nor do I think I took seriously how much the world changed.  Really, our modern world was born in World War I.  Most of all, I now know that the worst place in history I can imagine being is a trench during WWI.

I was pleasantly surprised that during this same time one of my favorite authors, Philip Jenkins, published a book on the religious aspects of World War I – The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.  Jenkins has made his name by writing on global Christianity and the history of Christianity outside the west.  A few of those same themes appear here, as it was during and after World War I that Christianity began to explode in places like Africa.  One of the reasons for this was the breaking of colonialism that began at this time.

Jenkins book is a page-turner, illustrating how all sides invoked God as they went to war.  He talks about the Germans, English and French and then moves on to talk about the Jews, Muslims and Christians in colonial lands.  Most impressive is that he does not stop at the end of WWI but traces the story through to WWII and beyond.  The events of World War I continue to have aftershocks today.  If you are interested in history and religion and how both play into contemporary events, check out Jenkins’ book.

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