Critically acclaimed and bestselling author James Carroll has explored every aspect of Christianity, faith, and Jesus Christ except this central one: What can we believe about—and how can we believe in—Jesus in the twenty-first century in light of the Holocaust and other atrocities of the twentieth century and the drift from religion that followed?
What Carroll has discovered through decades of writing and lecturing is that he is far from alone in clinging to a received memory of Jesus that separates him from his crucial identity as a Jew, and therefore as a human. Yet if Jesus was not taken as divine, he would be of no interest to us. What can that mean now? Paradoxically, the key is his permanent Jewishness. No Christian himself, Jesus actually transcends Christianity.
Drawing on both a wide range of scholarship as well as his own acute searching as a believer, Carroll takes a fresh look at the most familiar narratives of all—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Far from another book about the “historical Jesus,” he takes the challenges of science and contemporary philosophy seriously. He retrieves the power of Jesus’ profound ordinariness, as an answer to his own last question—what is the future of Jesus Christ?—as the key to a renewal of faith.
From the Hardcover edition.
This landmark, myth-shattering work chronicles the most powerful institution in America, the people who created it, and the pathologies it has spawned. James Carroll proves a controversial thesis: the Pentagon has, since its founding, operated beyond the control of any force in government or society. It is the biggest, loosest cannon in American history, and no institution has changed this country more. To argue his case, he marshals a trove of often chilling evidence. He recounts how "the Building" and its denizens achieved what Eisenhower called "a disastrous rise of misplaced power"—from the unprecedented aerial bombing of Germany and Japan during World War II to the "shock and awe" of Iraq. He charts the colossal U.S. nuclear buildup, which far outpaced that of the USSR, and has outlived it. He reveals how consistently the Building has found new enemies just as old threats—and funding—evaporate. He demonstrates how Pentagon policy brought about U.S. indifference to an epidemic of genocide during the 1990s. And he shows how the forces that attacked the Pentagon on 9/11 were set in motion exactly sixty years earlier, on September 11, 1941, when ground was broken for the house of war.
Carroll draws on rich personal experience (his father was a top Pentagon official for more than twenty years) as well as exhaustive research and dozens of extensive interviews with Washington insiders. The result is a grand yet intimate work of history, unashamedly polemical and personal but unerringly factual. With a breadth and focus that no other book could muster, it explains what America has become over the past sixty years.
James Carroll turns to the notion of practice—both as a way to learn and a means of improvement—as a lens for this thoughtful and frank look at what it means to be Catholic. He acknowledges the slow and steady transformation of the Church from its darker, medieval roots to a more pluralist and inclusive institution, charting along the way stories of powerful Catholic leaders (Pope John XXIII, Thomas Merton, John F. Kennedy) and historical milestones like Vatican II. These individuals and events represent progress for Carroll, a former priest, and as he considers the new meaning of belief in a world that is increasingly as secular as it is fundamentalist, he shows why the world needs a Church that is committed to faith and renewal.
James Carroll grew up in a Catholic family that seemed blessed. His father, who had once dreamed of becoming a priest, instead began a career in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, rising through the ranks and eventually becoming one of the most powerful men in the Pentagon, the founder of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Young Jim lived a privileged life, dating the daughter of a vice president and meeting the pope—all in the shadow of nuclear war, waiting for the red telephone to ring in his parents’ house.
James fulfilled the goal his father had abandoned, becoming a priest himself. His feelings toward his father leaned toward worship as well—until the tumult of the 1960s came between them. Their disagreements, over Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement; turmoil in the Church; and finally, Vietnam—where the elder Carroll chose targets for US bombs—began to outweigh the bond between them. While one of James’s brothers fled to Canada, another was in law enforcement ferreting out draft dodgers. James, meanwhile, served as a chaplain at Boston University, protesting the war in the streets but ducking news cameras to avoid discovery. Their relationship would never be the same again.
Only after Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer, and a husband with children of his own, did he begin to understand fully the struggles his father had faced. In An American Requiem, the New York Times bestselling author of Constantine’s Sword and Christ Actually offers a benediction, in “a moving memoir of the effect of the Vietnam War on his family that is at once personal and the story of a generation . . . at once heartbreaking and heroic, this is autobiography at its best” (Publishers Weekly).
In Carroll’s provocative reading of the deep past, the Bible came into being as an act of resistance to the violence that threatened Jerusalem from the start. Centuries later, holy wars burned apocalyptic Jerusalem into the Western mind, sparking expressly religious conflict among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The heat stretched from Richard the Lionheart to Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, whose World War I conquest of the city relit the fuse for a war that still rages.
Carroll’s brilliant leap is to show how, as Christopher Columbus was dispatched from the Crusades-obsessed Knights Templar’s last outpost in Iberia, the New World too was powerfully shaped by the millennial obsessions of the City on a Hill — from Governor Winthrop to Abraham Lincoln to Woodrow Wilson to Ronald Reagan. Heavenly Jerusalem defines the American imagination — and always, the earthly city smolders. Jerusalem fever, inextricably tied to Christian fervor, is the deadly — unnamed — third party to the Israeli-Palestinian wars. Understanding Jerusalem fever is the key that unlocks world history, and the diagnosis that gives us our best chance to reimagine peace.
The Church’s failure to protest the Holocaust — the infamous “silence” of Pius XII — is only part of the story: the death camps, Carroll shows, are the culmination of a long, entrenched tradition of anti-Judaism. From Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus on the cross, to Constantine’s transformation of the cross into a sword, to the rise of blood libels, scapegoating, and modern anti-Semitism, Carroll reconstructs the dramatic story of the Church’s conflict not only with Jews but with itself. Yet in tracing the arc of this narrative, he implicitly affirms that it did not necessarily have to be so. There were roads not taken, heroes forgotten; new roads can be taken yet. Demanding that the Church finally face this past in full, Carroll calls for a fundamental rethinking of the deepest questions of Christian faith. Only then can Christians, Jews, and all who carry the burden of this history begin to forge a new future.
Drawing on his well-known talents as a storyteller and memoirist, and weaving historical research through an intensely personal examination of conscience, Carroll has created a work of singular power and urgency. CONSTANTINE'S SWORD is a brave and affecting reckoning with difficult truths that will touch every reader.
Berlin, 1961. Days before the Wall rises, three teenagers from an American school in West Germany travel to the Communist side of the divided city to join a May Day rally. One of them has brought along a flight bag belonging to his father, a US intelligence officer. Before long, the teens are in the custody of the secret East German police, the notorious Stasi. Unbeknownst to them, their parents have unfinished business, reaching back to World War II, which will pull the three friends into the vortex of an international incident.
Told through flashbacks by alternating narrators, Secret Father is a novel of missed signals, cloaked motives, false postures, and panicked responses that tragically echo across borders and generations. Like the classic period thrillers of Graham Greene, James Carroll’s politically charged coming-of-age tale provides a “somber and evocative look at some of the most frightening times in one of the most frightening places in the Cold War” (Kirkus Reviews). “Carroll writes with rich, lyrical ease,” raves Publishers Weekly. “His characters are richly drawn, and the pieces of his impeccably paced story fit together with the cool precision of a Mercedes-Benz.”
James Carroll delivers an authoritative, stirring novel that reckons powerfully with the postwar complexities of good and evil in the Eternal City.
Father Michael Kavanagh is shocked to see a friend from his seminary days named Runner Malloy at the altar of his humble Inwood community parish. Wondering about their past, he wanders into the medieval haven of The Cloisters, and begins a conversation with a lovely and intriguing museum guide, Rachel Vedette.
Rachel, a scholar of medieval history, has retreated to the quiet of The Cloisters after her harrowing experience as a Jewish woman in France during the Holocaust. She ponders her late father's greatest intellectual work: a study demonstrating the relationship between the famously discredited monk Peter Abelard and Jewish scholars. Something about Father Kavanagh makes Rachel think he might appreciate her continued studies, and she shares with him the work that cost her father his life.
At the center of these interrelated stories is the classic romance between the great scholar Peter Abelard and his intellectual equal Héloïse. For Rachel, Abelard is the key to understanding her people's place in intellectual history. For Kavanagh, he is a doorway to understanding the life he might have had outside of the Church. The Cloister is James Carroll at his best.
Memorial Bridge is the story of Sean Dillon, who escapes from the rough world of the Chicago stockyards to become an agent in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, and then rises to the very top of military intelligence on the eve of its greatest challenge — and the nation's greatest failure. Dillon is an Irishman, a Catholic, a lawyer obsessed with justice, a man whose fierce integrity sets him apart even in his youth. As he advances, finally becoming an air force general charged with an impossible duty, he finds himself an outsider to everyone but Cass, the indomitable yet deeply feeling woman with whom he has built his life. She alone sees what his defiant adherence to principle is costing him.
In the final, gripping chain of events, Dillon's deepest loyalties to family and country are tested during the Vietnam War, when he must confront not only the man he has become, but also his son, who opposes the war—and Dillon's role in it—with nothing less than the merciless conscience he has inherited from his father. Memorial Bridge is a rich, dramatic novel about one family's intimate and painful participation in America's coming of age, told with all the excitement and compassion we have come to expect from this master storyteller
With the words "this Crusade, this war on terror," George W. Bush defined the purpose of his presidency. And just as promptly, James Carroll-Boston Globe columnist, son of a general, former antiwar chaplain and activist, and recognized voice of ethical authority-began a week-by-week argument with the administration over its actions. In powerful, passionate bulletins, Carroll dissected the President's exploitation of the nation's fears, invocations of a Christian mission, and efforts to overturn America's traditional relations-with other nations and its own citizens.
Crusade, the collection of Carroll's searing columns, offers a comprehensive and tough-minded critique of the war on terror. From Carroll's first rejection of "war" as the proper response to Osama bin Laden, to his prescient verdict of failure in Iraq, to his never-before-published analysis of the faith-based roots of current U.S. policies, this volume displays his rare insight and scope. Combining clear moral consciousness, an acute sense of history, and a real-world grasp of the unforgiving demands of politics, Crusade is a compelling call for the rescue of America's noblest traditions.
A cry from the heart, a record of protest, and a permanently relevant analysis, Carroll's work confronts the Bush era and measures it against what America was meant to be.