Holzem, Krieg und Christentum. Religiöse Gewalttheorien in der Kriegserfahrung des Westens
Annotation author: Krumbiegel, Manuel
Book author: Holzem, Andreas

Andreas Holzem, Krieg und Christentum. Religiöse Gewalttheorien in der Kriegserfahrung des Westens (Krieg in der Geschichte 50), Leiden 2009

The volume Krieg und Christentum, edited by Andreas Holzem, offers numerous articles concerning the history of Christian war experience as well as war theory from Antiquity to the present. The authors deploy an approach based on reconstructing the historical experience of contemporaries (Ger. “Erfahrungsgeschichte”) while inquiring the role of Christian religion in the context of warfare, which remains controversial. In doing so, they are cautious not to provide all to simple answers.

The edited volume, which is the documentation of a conference of the “Tübinger Sonderforschungsbereich: Kriegserfahrung – Krieg und Gesellschaft in der Neuzeit“, contains five sections that are concerned with diverse topics from the biblical foundations of war to the modern era. These are preceded by a lengthy and detailed introduction by the editor. The focus of the following considerations is put on the articles discussing theories on violence and war experience in Antiquity, which build the starting point for the analyses in the subsequent articles of the edited volume.

In the first article, Michael Erler provides important prerequisites for all the following articles. By addressing the causes of war and peace in Plato’s thinking and writing as well as in the Hellenistic philosophy, he demonstrates that although ancient philosophers considered war to be an evil, they did not see it as something to be generally avoided. Both Hanns Christof Brennecke and Volker Henning Drecoll show in their articles that the integration of Christian cultic practices into the Roman Army took place quite naturally. There is hardly any evidence on military service being rejected as such by the Christians in the army. When analyzing the martyrdoms of Christian soldiers from the Decian, Valerian and Diocletian persecution it becomes clear that it is only in the context of the changes of the religious policy by the tetrarchic rulers that a clear rebalancing of the cultic component in the military can be identified. As a result, Christian soldiers were conflicted by cultic demands that they perceived as new and unusual. Accordingly, Mischa Meier describes the close connection of religion and war as well as its effects on the emperors since Theodosius I. In his study of Augustine of Hippo, Johannes Brachtendorf analyses one of the central authors regarding the relationship between peace ethics and politics as well as the idea of „just war“. 

The edited volume Krieg und Christentum represents a fundamental work in the research area that is concerned with the role of Christian religion in the context of war and warfare. It should be noted, however, that the subject of the analysis is in this case almost exclusively the „Western Christianity”. One of the most notable insights is the rejection of the oversimplified question „ob dem Christentum eine grundsätzlich gewaltförderliche Tendenz innewohne und ob es diese Eigenschaft mit anderen monotheistischen Religionen artbedingt teile“ (p. 71). In order to comprehend the complexity and ambiguity of Christian war experience, it is always necessary to consider the specific contexts in which it is located.