September 2003 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter- September 2003- Vol. IX, no . 9

Dear Friends,

1) Book reviews

a) Steigman-Gall, The Holy Reich
b) Kirby, Religion and the Cold War
c) Brouwer, Modern Women modernizing men
d) Denzler, Widerstand ist nicht das richtige Wort

2) Journal articles: Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte
3) Book notes: Davis, A long walk to church; Muller, C. de Foucauld
1) Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich. Nazi Conceptions of
Christianity, 1919-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003 xvi + 294pp ISBN

(This review appeared first on H-German on June 6th 2003)

Richard Steigmann-Gall’s lively and sometimes provocative
study of the relationship between Nazism and Christianity breaks new
ground. He takes issue with those, like your reviewer, who argue that
Nazism and Christianity were incompatible, both in theory and practice.
Instead he examines more closely the areas of overlap and the
consequent ambiguities in the minds of many leading Nazis. He rejects
the view that, when Nazi orators before 1933 made frequent use of a
Christian vocabulary, this was purely a tactical device to gain votes.
Later on, such deceptive religiosity would be discarded because no
longer needed. Instead he shows how extensively there was a consistent
appreciation of Christianity as a religious system in the Nazi ranks,
including several members of its hierarchy.

Similarly he disputes the claim that those Christians who flocked
to the Nazi cause were shallow-minded opportunists, jumping on a
popular political bandwagon. Instead he argues that the stressful
conditions of a defeated Germany led many sincere Christians,
particularly Protestants, to regard the Nazi cause as theologically
justified, as well as politically appropriate.

Nazism idealized, even idolized, the German nation and Volk.
Steigmann-Gall shows how this tendency was already present in the
newly-created Bismarckian Reich, and was much fostered by the
Protestant clergy. Their war theology in 1914
asserted divine approval of Germany’s cause and called down damnation
on her enemies.

After her defeat in 1918, the clergy provided the spiritual climate for an
apocalyptic view of Germany’s destiny, valiantly guarding itself against
the onslaughts of the evils of Marxism, Judaism, Bolshevism and
materialism. Such dualistic thinking both ran parallel to and nurtured
the extremism of the radical political groups of the 1920s, out of which
Nazism emerged as the most successful.

Nazism’s most notorious characteristic was its antisemitism.
Many observers have claimed that the Holocaust was the culmination of
centuries of Christian intolerance and persecution. Churchmen, for
their part, have sought to draw a line between earlier Christian
theological anti-Judaism and the far more virulent Nazi racial
antisemitism.But Steigmann-Gall, following Uriel Tal, shows how easily both
Catholic and Protestant Germans could merge their religious antipathies
with the Nazis’ political campaign. On the other side, he shows how
many Nazis believed in the religious basis of their hatred of Jews, who
formed a negative point of reference for an ideology of national-religious
integration. Luther’s stance against the Jews could thus be supported,
for more than merely tactical reasons. And Hitler’s support of “positive
Christianity” was an attempt to overcome confessional differences in
order to concentrate Christian forces against their arch-enemy, the Jew.
To be sure many leading Nazis were anti-clerical. But this venom was
principally directed against those priests and pastors who put their
institutional loyalties ahead of their national ones. This did not prevent
these Nazis from believing that their movement was in some sense

It was on this basis that such Nazis as Gauleiter Wilhelm Kube,
the Bavarian Minister of Education, Hans Schemm, or the Prussian
Minister of Justice, Hanns Kerrl, who later became Reich Minister of
Ecclesiastical Affairs, could seek an alliance with those elements in the
churches, especially Protestants, who supported the Nazis’ authoritarian,
anti-Marxist and antisemitic policies. This was not, Steigmann-Gall
believes, a mere opportunistic relationship on either side. Both believed
they were adopting a genuinely Christian stance, “following a call to
faith from God, which we hear in our Volk movement” (p. 73).

Following this interpretation, Steigmann-Gall finds that even
those Nazis most hostile to the churches could still have an ambivalent
relationship to Christianity. Alfred Rosenberg, for example, in his book
The Myth of the Twentieth Century made numerous positive references
to Christ as a fighter and antisemite, and was even warmer in praise of
the noted mediaeval mystic Meister Eckhart. If the Church could be
purged of its Jewish and Roman accretions, Rosenberg could look
forward to a Nordic-western soul faith which would reincarnate a purer
Christianity. In this he was only adopting the ideas of at least one
extreme wing of “German Christian” Protestantism.

Certainly, these “paganists” as Steigmann-Gall calls them,
exercised little control over Nazi policy. Hitler stoutly and consistently
rejected any talk of an ersatz religion based on German myths or
culminating in Valhalla. The “positive Christianity” of such leaders as
Goering continued to stress the advantages of a national
non-denominational Christianity in such areas as education or social
welfare. And even strident anti-clericals such as Goebbels or Streicher
supported the idea of an Aryan Christianity as an admirable moral
system. The fact that the churches were the only major institutions
which did not suffer Gleichschaltung shows, in Steigmann-Gall’s view
“the fundamentally positive attitude of the Nazi state toward at least the
Protestant Church as a whole”. For this reason, in 1934, Hitler refused to
back the radicals, and in 1935 appointed an old crony and primitive
Protestant, Hanns Kerrl to be Minister of Church Affairs. The kind of
Christianity Kerrl affirmed was proclaimed in his speeches:
Adolf Hitler has hammered the faith and fact of Jesus into the
hearts of the German Volk. . . . True Christianity and National
Socialism are identical.

But Kerrl was appointed to co-ordinate the rival Protestant factions and
he failed. Thereupon, Steigmann-Gall notes, Hitler turned against the
churches and abandoned institutional Protestantism once and for all.

But even so, according to one source, he still adhered to his original
ideas and was of the opinion that “Church and Christianity are not
identical” (p.188).

The differences between this interpretation and those put forward
earlier are really only of degree and timing. Steigmann-Gall agrees that
from 1937 onwards, Nazi policy toward the churches became much
more hostile. The influence of such notable anti-clericals as Bormann
and Heydrich grew exponentially and was restrained only by the need for
war-time compromises. On the other hand, Steigmann-Gall argues
persuasively that the Nazi Party’s 1924 program and Hitler’s
policy-making speeches of the early years were not just politically
motivated or deceptive in intent. He agrees with the view taken by
Hitler’s fellow-countryman, the Austrian theologian Friedrich Heer, and
considers them to be a sincere appreciation of Christianity as a value
system to be upheld. Yet he does not really want to admit that this Nazi
Christianity was eviscerated of all the most essential orthodox dogmas.
What remained was the vaguest impression combined with anti-Jewish
prejudice. Only a few radicals on the extreme wing of liberal
Protestantism would recognize such a mish-mash as true Christianity.
Steigmann-Gall is perfectly right to point out that there was never
any consensus among the leading Nazis about the relationship between
the Party and Christianity. As Baldur von Shirach later commented: “Of
all the leading men in the Party whom I knew, everyone interpreted the
party program differently. . . Rosenberg mystically, Goering and some
others in a certain sense Christian” (p.232). Ambiguities and
contradictions were numerous. 1) Over the years hostility grew even
when there remained a lingering desire to uphold an ongoing Christian
element, combining antisemitism and nationalism in some kind of
positive assessment.

Steigmann-Gall’s achievement is to have fully explored the
extensive records of the Nazi era to illustrate these often conflicting
conceptions of Christianity, and to assemble the evidence in a carefully
weighed evaluation. He makes an almost convincing case. But his final
view that post-1945 ideological imperatives meant that Nazism had to be
depicted as an evil and unchristian empire seems overdrawn. Yet he is
undeniably right to point out how much Nazism owed to German
Christian, especially Protestant, concepts, and how much support it
gained from a majority of Christians in Germany. That is certainly a
sobering lesson to be drawn from this interesting and well-reasoned

1) As an example of the differences between Nazi leaders, the
following anecdote is recorded: On meeting Kerrl shortly after his
appointment as Church Minister, Heinrich Himmler told him: “I
thought you were only acting piously hitherto, but now I see you
actually are pious. I shall treat you badly in future”. When the
astonished Kerrl asked why, the Reichsführer SS answered: “Well, in
your view, the worse you are handled here below, the better marks
you will receive later”.

1b) Ed. Diane Kirby, Religion and the Cold War. Basingstoke,U.K.:
Palgrave-MacMillan. 2003. 245pp. ISBN 0-333-99398-5

This collection of conference papers came about through the
initiative of the editor, Diane Kirby. She realized that the time had come
for church historians to move forward in time from their intense
preoccupation with the events of the Second World War. She therefore
convened an international group of scholars from Britain, Germany,
Canada and the USA to examine the use and misuse of religion during
the political struggle commonly known as the Cold War. Some of these
pieces have already appeared in print, such as Peter Kent’s fine study of
Pope Pius XII’s lonely Cold War, or Matthew Hockenos’ examination of
the post-1945 German Evangelical Church, which is due out shortly
from the Indiana University Press.

Together these essays present several versions of how the power
of religion was harnessed to the policy goals of various states. In
particular, the need for North American and western European leaders to
forge a religiously-justified, but militarily armed, coalition against the
Soviet Union is extensively described. Frank Coppa begins by showing
that the Vatican’s long-standing hostility towards Communism was not
allayed by the war-time association with the west against Nazism. He
contends that Pius was right to criticize Roosevelt and Churchill for their
optimistic assumption that Stalin would be ready to co-operate in a new
era of peace and collaboration. Given the revolutionary and
anti-Christian record of the Communist Party, and its zeal in 1945 in
seizing control of all of eastern Europe, such fears of Soviet expansion
were certainly justified.

Peter Kent similarly shows that Pius XII was the first to mobilize
concern about the Communist threat in Italy, and to seek American aid
in repelling it. This was the period when the Vatican’s aims most closely
coincided with those of the United States. In effect, as he points out,
Pius’ readiness to co-operate with the United States meant the
abandonment of Vatican neutrality, and opened the way for charges that
the Pope was descending into the political arena. Kent is also critical of
Pius’ rigid ideological hostility, because this placed the Catholic bishops
in the Soviet-controlled areas in an embattled situation and prevented
any more workable compromises. He implies that Soviet repression was
due to the Vatican’s implacable opposition, but the evidence is surely
debatable. Only after the death of Stalin did Pius begin to urge the need
for some accommodation in order to facilitate the church’s pastoral
tasks. This prepared the way for a new approach in the 1960s.

In her own essay, Diane Kirby demonstrates how President
Truman sought to mobilize his countrymen by showing that the conflict
with the Soviet Union was a particular sort of Christian enterprise.
Opposition to the “evil empire” of communism was the moral
component, matching the military determination, both designed to
protect the west against the atheistic godless Marxist creed. The change
in Truman’s stance from his earlier willingness to co-operate with Stalin
cannot however be attributed to pressure from the Vatican, though he
undoubtedly came to see that the Vatican could be a useful ally,
especially in Italy. However, the American hopes that Catholic influence
in eastern Europe could be mobilized for some sort of resistance
movement were not to be realized. So too Truman’s plans for a similar
recruitment of Protestants through the newly-formed World Council of
Churches met with even greater scepticism. Truman’s simplistic
anti-communist moralism was rejected. Nevertheless, when the World
Council held its Second Assembly in the United States in 1954,
President Eisenhower himself opened the session, clearly linking politics
and religion. The latter remained a strategic weapon in the Cold War
arena, and was to re-appear thirty years later under Pope John Paul II.
Matthew Hockenos contributes a lively and insightful analysis of
the German Evangelical Church after 1945, as it tried ˆ often reluctantly
– to come to terms with its lack-lustre record during the Nazi period.
John Pollard examines the political factors at play in Italy, and notes that
while the Vatican readily opposed communism, the church leadership
was also somewhat dubious about the Christian Democratic Party. Many
would have preferred a more authoritarian regime, or at least one more
susceptible to clerical control.

Equally interesting is the short paper by Anna Dickinson on the
Russian Orthodox Church. She points out that the war saved this church
from virtual extinction. But the price of its revival was subordination to
the policies of the regime. Its dependence ruled out the possibility of
independent action. The Church was useful in strengthening Soviet
control over such areas as the re-conquered Ukraine, where the
ambitions of Roman Catholics had to be thwarted. This aim, she claims,
was more important than establishing the Russian Orthodox Church’s
presence abroad in such bodies as the World Council of Churches. But
this also was a strategy agreed between the Church and the Soviet State.
In effect, until 1960, the war-time gains made by the Church remained

George Egerton breaks new ground with his interesting
assessment of the influence of religious ideas on Canadian politics in the
post-war period. The Canadian churches provided religious justification
for Canada’s war effort in 1939 and again in the Korean War. But at the
same time a more liberal shift took place with the support given to the
plan to give human rights an enhanced legal and constitutional status, as
in the UN’s 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. However, the initially
guarded attitude of the Canadian Liberal Government, the opposition of
conservative churchmen and the outbreak of the Korean War, all
combined to delay implementation of such a Bill of Rights for another

Ian Jones, by contrast, looks at the responses to the Cold War
amongst local clergy in Britain. Did they share the leaders’ need to
mobilize Christian opposition to the dangers of communism? On the
whole yes, but largely to contrast the laxity of Christian discipleship with
the resolute dedication and commitment of Communists. In fact both
were to suffer from the increasing materialism and individualism of the
subsequent decades.

Two interesting epilogues are provided by Hartmut Lehmann’s
account of the changes in the status of Martin Luther in the
communist-controlled German Democratic Republic, and by Tony
Shaw’s account of how religious propaganda was used in Cold War
film-making in the United States in the 1950s. These round out a
helpful compendium of articles whose coherence and interlocking views
provide an excellent starting point for further research ahead.

1c) Ruth C.Brouwer, Modern women modernizing men. The changing
missions of three professional women in Asia and Africa, 1902-69.
Vancouver: U.B.C. Press 2003
198 pp. Paper $29.95 ISBN 0-7748-0953-1

The first half of the twentieth century saw challenging
developments in the Christian missionary endeavour throughout the
world. Imperialism was almost everywhere abandoned. Paternalism and
racial superiority were relegated to the past. Preaching the gospel
dogmatically gave way to practical Christian witness of service.
Overseas mission boards transformed themselves into partnerships.
Younger churches were born. And, in the era of interest to Ruth
Brouwer, gender roles were overthrown in favour of professional
ministry, particularly by women, no longer content to be regarded merely
as helpmeets of missionary men.

Ruth Brouwer, who teaches at King’s College, University of
Western Ontario, exemplifies these trends through the lives of three
Canadian women missionaries in India, Korea and Africa. Largely
because the missionary history has also developed in recent decades, it
is no longer fashionable to write the kind of hagiographic biography of
missionaries so popular in earlier years. Instead the trend is to devote
attention to the culture of the recipients. So while Brouwer’s splendidly
researched study of these women runs counter to today’s trend, it is
nevertheless a significant rescuing of the achievements of three notable
Canadian pioneers who embarked on ambitious schemes to enhance
Christian medical and educational services in their respective areas of
the world. In particular, they were engaged as professionals in training,
or as her title indicates, in modernizing men.

Dr. Choné Oliver was the first to go out in 1902 from rural
Ontario to rural Rajputana in the hinterland of central India. After many
years in this isolation, Oliver recognized the need to abandon the former
attitude whereby medical services were used to open doors for the
preaching of Christianity, and evangelism was given priority on the local
level. Instead Oliver emerged as one of the champions of justifying the
ministry of healing in its own right, following the example of Jesus
himself. But such a witness of Christian service could not afford to be
second-rate. Only the best would do. In the 1920s the Indian provincial
governments began to improve the quality of their medical services.
Oliver and her colleagues in the newly-founded Christian Medical
Association of India therefore launched a vigorous campaign for having
well-trained Christian doctors, both men and women, to provide the kind
of health and healing so obviously needed. In this way, they believed,
Christian missions could overcome the stigma, not only of being
foreign, but also being sub-standard.

Oliver’s career thus led her to become the secretary and
promoter of the CMAI, and in particular a fervent advocate of having an
all-Indian Christian Union Medical College to serve the needs of
post-colonial India. The model already existed in China, where John
D.Rockefeller had provided the funds for the Peking Union Medical
College. (Missions in China always had priority, both in supporters’
interest and in funding). But, in the case of India, this scheme came at a
bad moment. At the end of the 1920s, the Great Depression choked off
donations. The mission boards in Britain and the USA were
discouraging. And while the Indian princes and maharajahs had money,
none was prepared to put up the millions of rupees necessary for such an
ambitious scheme. Oliver worked tirelessly with her male colleagues to
keep the idea going. On a smaller scale, plans were made at the end of
the 1930s to upgrade the Christian Missionary Medical School for
Women at Vellore, founded by the redoubtable and charismatic woman
director Ida Scudder. But Scudder and her American backers wanted to
keep their hospital for women alone. It was only later, after Oliver had
retired that Vellore developed to become the world-famous medical
centre of subsequent years. Her contribution to this institution is
therefore only now getting its due recognition.

Florence Murray’s experience in Korea in the years after the first
world war ran on similar lines. She too sought to enhance the medical
services and facilities of the Presbyterian Mission. She too was unwilling
to be confined to the traditional women’s sphere in missionary medicine.
Integration, rather than gender separation, was, for her, the way forward
professionally. She saw the need to have the best possible training in
western methods for Korean young women and men. She was obliged,
however, to recognize that, for most women, marriage was all-important
and would bring an end to any career. So she concentrated on the more
efficacious training of men, who could be expected to serve for a
life-time. Perhaps she underestimated the kind of reaction her insistence
on being a “hard taskmaster” would have on young interns, conscious of
their superiority as men. Culture tensions were inevitable. But as time
went on, she demonstrated a growing willingness to learn from and with
her male associates. In any case her authority as hospital superintendent
came to be shared, mainly for political reasons. Japanese antagonism
against western missionaries was increasing. After Pearl Harbour,
Murray was allowed to keep working until compulsorily repatriated in
exchange for some Japanese in America.

As soon as she could after the war was over, Murray returned to
Korea, but not to the same hospital which was now under communist
control. In Seoul she was able to link up with many exiles from the
north, and still championed the kind of medical standards she had striven
for in earlier years. She was particularly helpful in persuading funding
agencies at home to provide scholarships for young Korean doctors,
many of whom she had taught in the first place. Even after retirement in
1961 she stayed on in Korea to work at a small leprosy hospital.
Throughout her life her dedication as a medical missionary was both
evident and inspiring.

Margaret Wrong was the daughter of a distinguished professor of
history at the University of Toronto, and her career was closely linked to
the new ecumenical Christian movement. After the first world war she
helped to organize the European Student Relief programme of the World
Student Christian Federation, and then was invited to undertake a new
venture by the International Missionary Council. This was to establish an
International Committee on Christian literature for Africa, a liberal
gesture recognizing the need to promote not just literacy programmes
throughout the continent, but also to encourage the publication of young
African authors in their own as well as colonial languages. Margaret
Wrong became the catalyst for such endeavours, working out of London,
but frequently touring parts of Africa to prod both government and
missionary boards to see the needs for the future, and to promote local
talent. Almost inevitably such opportunities were only for men. But she
also fostered the kinds of writing on domestic subjects which would help
ordinary women. Her work matched directly the new-found interests of
the colonial governments in establishing educational programmes as part
of the effort to “prepare” Africans for eventual self-government. At the
same time her influence helped the missions to evolve beyond the
traditional paternalism, even though many expatriate missionaries came
to deplore what they saw as the excessive anti-colonialism of their

For women, possibly, the most useful help came with adult
literacy movements. Margaret Wrong did much to facilitate the
publication of such materials. But above all she promoted the closest
collaboration with Africans in defining what was needed and getting
them to write suitable text books. Almost inevitably such writers were

As Ruth Brouwer correctly notes, the careers of these three
women reflected new patterns in the inter-war missionary movement.
On the one hand, they faced and partook of increasingly secular
tendencies in the West, and on the other responded to the goal of the
modernizing and nationalizing elites of the colonized and missionized
societies. She could have made the point that all three owed much to the
influence of the notable ecumenical statesman John R. Mott, who
inspired so many young women and men, especially Canadian, to offer
their services to foreign peoples and to devote their lives in the task of
evangelizing the world in their generation. They also represented a new
stage in western feminism. They were able to play expansive roles
because of their pride in being professionals, but at the same time
modernizers confident that their skills were the needed ones for the
mainly male recipients.

Of course, in later years, these goals have been questioned. The
missionary era is effectively over. But the humanitarianism and
international vision of these women of faith, sustained by their belief in
the social relevance of Christianity, should not be forgotten. They stood
in and developed a great tradition of service overseas, and indeed handed
it on to a host of secular voluntary agencies, especially here in Canada.
We are indebted to Ruth Brouwer for her helpful and sympathetic
account, placing these women’s notable contributions in their historical

d) Georg Denzler, Widerstand ist nicht das richtige Wort. Katholische
Priester, Bischoefe und Theologen im Dritten Reich. Zurich: Pendo
Verlag. 2003. ISBN 3-85842-479-X

Fifty years ago, a German Protestant theologian characterized the
churches’ stance towards Nazism as one of “reluctant resistance”. But
Georg Denzler has a harsher verdict for the Catholics. Their attitude was
neither active reistance, nor even passive opposition. At best, it was a
partly dissenting behaviour. Resistance is therefore not the right word,
even though propagated ever since 1945 by all the official organs of the
German Catholic church. In this new series of essays, several of which
were broadcast on Bavarian radio, Denzler, who taught at Bamberg
University, recapitulates the views already advanced in earlier books.

He is highly critical of all the prevarications, delusions and hypocrisies
which have led so many Catholics to evade coming to terms with their
Nazi past, just as he is equally appalled by the illusions, nationalism and
obedience to usurped authority, which characterized the Catholic church
during the Nazi years. As a resolute historian, Denzler has investigated
all the relevant sources carefully but sceptically, and is well aware of the
pitfalls and temptations, as well as the persecutions suffered by Catholics
at the Nazi hands. Above all, he is familiar with the vast extent of
Catholic publications and speeches, from which he draws appropriate
quotations to prove his points. His criticisms of the hierarchy’s timidity
and lack of unity in face of Hitler’s assault are therefore well founded,
and indeed have been frequently expressed before. He similarly has
little time for the apologetic tone of the “official” historiography, which
has been very productive ever since Rolf Hochuth’s attacks of the 1960s,
but which has continued to stress the Catholic Church’s “Resistance” to
Nazi encroachments.

To show that this is not enough, Denzler gives some fine insights
into Catholic behaviour, both pro- and anti-Nazi, including some excellent
short portraits of Catholics, some of whom are virtually unknown. For
example, he draws attention to such theologians as Anton Stonner, one
of the now ignored sympathisers with Nazism, or, on the other side,
Chaplain Joseph Rossaint and Fr Franz Reinisch who was executed for
refusing to serve in the Geman military because of his political
opposition to the demon Hitler. The short memoir of Georg Moenius is a
model of its kind. Neither he, nor such Nazi activists as Fr. Josef Roth
and the former priest Albert Hartl, are commemorated today, except by
such maverick historians as Denzler. But their services, for or against
the Nazi state, need to be remembered. And that is Denzler’s merit.
The book ends with a short but scathing review of Daniel
Goldhagen’s latest publication on the church and the Holocaust. Denzler
rightly acccuses Goldhagen of failing to do his historical homework, and
instead of relying on secondary polemical sources for his diatribe. In
fact, he has found a very appropriate quotation from Goldhagen’s own
work to describe this latest effusion: “This is an artifical construction of
half-truths in the service of an ideology. And it is so full of extraordinary
factual mistakes that it amounts to a pattern of falsehoods and

2) Journal articles:

The latest issue of Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte Vol.15, (2002) no.2, has
no less than three articles in it by list-members: Beth Griech-Pollele
summarizes the contents of her recently-published biography of Cardinal
Galen, omitting the overly moralistic inferences but stressing his role as
an ardent anti-Communist. Susanne Brown-Fleming gives us the paper
about Cardinal Muench which she delivered at last year’s German
Studies Association meeting, as briefly mentioned in last December’s
issue of this Newsletter.

And Gerhard Besier throws light on the divisions within the Geman
Evangelical Church about the Spanish Civil War. In addition Armin
Boyens reflects briefly on the World Council of Churches’ attempts to
come to terms with the past, while Kristine Fischer-Hupe describes
post-1945 German church historiography, and the different approaches
adopted by catholics and protestants. The issue, as usual, concludes
with more than 150 pages of bibliography for church history publications
for the period September 2001 to August 2002. This is an unrivalled
service, covering all parts of the globe, and is worth the effort of
perusing the entries with care.3) Book Notes:

Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church. A contemporary history of
Russian Orthodoxy, 2nd edition. Boulder, Colorado: Westview press
2003. 368 pp.

This second edition of a highly stimulating account of the Russian
Orthodox Church revises and updates the original of 1995. Much has
happened in between, and Davis has kept his ear close to the ground,
having originally served for many years in the American Embassy in
Moscow. New trials, troubles and opportunities have occurred. The
church’s attempts to regain its hold over Russia’s national traditions can
be seen in the controversial canonization process of the last Czar,
Nicholas II. More problematic have been the attempts to ward off
competition, both from energetic protestant groups, as well as Roman
Catholic and Greek Catholic (Uniate) communities. Schisms have
occurred in the Ukraine, and the Orthodox hold over large parts of
Siberia is still tenuous. But the Church manifests a luminous faith, and
is struggling not only to open new parishes, but also to reawaken the
faith long overlaid by communist atheism. New recruits for the
priesthood and monasteries are coming forward, but still more are
needed. Institutional rebuilding and moral leadeership for the nation are
huge, as yet unsolved, tasks. Nathaniel Davis is an excellent guide.

Jean-Marie Muller, Charles de Foucauld. Frère universel or
moine-soldat? Paris: Editons la decouverte, 2002. 237 pp

Charles de Foucauld was one of the most notable figures in French
Catholic church life in the early twentieth century. His resolve to go off
to the wilderness of the Saharan desert in order to convert the tribal
natives, by whom he was later murdered, gave him a fame which could
easily lead to a belief that he deserved to be made a saint. (The
Protestant equivalent was Albert Schweitzer, also dedicating his life to
the African natives). But Jean-Marie Muller, who is an experienced
writer, and an advocate for pacifism, has now written this questioning
biography to challenge the prevailing hagiography. He points out that
Foucauld was a man of his time. He grew up in the aftermath of France’s
1870 defeat, and like many others, saw the conquest of Africa as a
partial recompense. His identification with the French colonialist and
military rulers of the Sahara, and seeming agreement with their
pacification measures, raises serious questions. So too, his stance on the
outbreak of war in 1914 saw an outburst of Germanophobia and
revanchism which would seem hardly compatible with his saintly
reputation. Muller explores the seeming contradictions between the
hermit of the desert expounding brotherly love, and the fiery Frenchman
with his militant nationalism. But he confesses he can’t provide a
complete explanation for such a paradox.

With best wishes to you all
John S.Conway