Renowned author equates World War I to ‘holy war’ at lecture


History lecture
Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Baylor University, speaks Oct. 1, 2013, at the Carls-Schwerdfeger history lecture series. | Photo by Matt McDaniel

The Department of History at Union hosted Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Baylor University and world-renowned Christian historian for the Carls-Schwerdfeger history lecture series Oct. 1 in G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel.

Jenkins is co-director for the program on historical studies of religion in Baylor’s institute for studies of religion and has been invited to speak numerous times about the subject.

As a seasoned lecturer, Jenkins had no trouble keeping more than 600 people, including several Union University classes, captivated.

Jenkins spoke on “From Angels to Armageddon: The First World War as a Global Religious Revolution,” in which he shared the religious history of World War I and how that particular war is equated with a holy war.

During the lecture, Jenkins explained how the First World War resembled that of a holy war.

“I would suggest that the First World War is authentically a holy war, is presented as a holy way, and is widely believed to be a holy war,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins also provided particular circumstances of World War I that actually resembled a holy war, saying, “Moreover, these stories that we hear about angels, crusades, miraculous crosses, miraculous visions, visions of the virgin—these are not just stories that government propaganda agencies put out; these things truly happened.”

Victor Miller, sophomore digital media studies major, attended the history lecture series.

Miller felt that Jenkins’ ideas about World War I being a holy war were very profound and had him thinking.

Miller recalls Jenkins’ definition of a holy war being that “all able-bodied people are fighting—that is a holy war.”

“I think that he was trying to convey that no matter what time period you are in, people believe that the war they are fighting is holy,” said Miller.

As chairman of the History Department at Union, Stephen Carls is the one to choose the guest lecturers who speak in the Carls-Schwerdfeger history lecture series.

“[Jenkins] follows a long line of other top-ranked historians who have served as Carls-Schwerdfeger history lecturers at Union University since the lectureship’s inception,” Carls said.

Carls said he chose Jenkins because he is a world-renowned expert on the history of Christianity and also because he is preparing a book on the First World War, which will provide a fresh look at the importance of religion in the war.

Jenkins’ newest book will be published in 2014, which is also the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Image courtesy of Cardinal & Cream|Cardinal & Cream