(RNS) A. James Rudin–100 years later, God and World War I

God may well be an equal opportunity deity, but that’s never stopped political leaders and clergy from claiming the Creator favors their side over the other in armed conflicts. Indeed, the use and abuse of God and religion were never more evident than during the “War to End All Wars,” World War I, which began 100 years ago in 1914.

In his 2010 book “Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the Great War,” University of Illinois professor Jonathan Ebel examines American soldiers’ many attempts to find religious meaning in the midst of a perplexing and catastrophic war.

America didn’t enter the fighting until 1917, but when Woodrow Wilson, the son of a Presbyterian minister, urged Congress to declare war on Germany, the president used traditional religious language: “The day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness ”¦ God helping her, she can do no other.”

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3 comments on “(RNS) A. James Rudin–100 years later, God and World War I

  1. sandlapper says:

    Patrick Buchanan’s book, Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War, begins with a depressing account of the foolish errors by statesmen on all sides leading up to WWI, which was the real beginning of WWII. The church should be careful about letting itself be used for morale-boosting for wars. “By their fruits you shall know them,” and WWI certainly, and WWII arguably, produced very bitter fruit. I sometimes cringe at the routine inclusion in our liturgy of special prayers for those on active military service.

  2. David Keller says:

    I cringe that you would cringe about the Church praying for those in harm’s way. We pray for death row inmates who have committed horrible crimes (and be sure I have no problem with praying for their redemption), but we cringe at praying for those who protect us. You can write what you just did solely because there are brave men and women who are ready to do the unspeakable to protect your right to cringe. Warriors hate war more that you do, because we are the ones who get to bleed and die, and then be mailgned in return. It never cesase to amaze me how easy it remains for the liberal church to carp about the military. But since about 1964 we are used to it. And of course if Hilter had won WWII I’m certain he would have been quite benevolent; well except for Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the deformed, mentally disabled, political enemies. I close with: Its Tommy this and Tommy that and roust him out the brute, But he’s the savior of his country when the guns begin to shoot.

  3. sandlapper says:

    #2: Thanks for responding, since I did not choose my words well. I should have said that I sometimes worry that the routine inclusion of prayers for the military tends toward making militaristic patriotism a part of the faith. A uniform is not a mark of holiness, and the Pentagon needs Jesus Christ a lot more than He needs the Pentagon. Workers in the logging industry and roofers are probably exposing themselves to a higher percentage of risk of injury and death than service members are, except for combat. Some of those other workers are trying to earn enough to support their families, so why don’t we pray for them too? I do not hate warriors, and I too felt the sentiments of Kipling and Churchill when I was serving in Vietnam in 1969, although I never had to go into combat as you may have. My military hero now is Andrew Bacevich, retired Army officer and professor of history. He writes that we do a disservice to soldiers and our country when we give uncritical support to the military establishment.