The Sword of the Lord is the first book to examine military chaplains and the development of the military chaplaincy across history and geography—from the first to the twenty-first century, from Europe to North America. The scope of this work reveals the astonishing fact that the military chaplaincy has existed in a recognizable form for more than 1,600 years. Contributors analyze specific historical moments in the development of the chaplaincy, beginning in antiquity and progressing through the Crusades, the English Civil War, the American Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War.
Four key themes connect the chapters of this book. The first is the basic issue of historical development over time. Where and when did the military chaplaincy begin and how has it changed? A second theme involves the emotionally and spiritually intense relationships that develop between chaplains and the men and women they serve. How have military chaplains dealt with the enormous responsibility of ministering to soldiers about to kill or possibly be killed? The third theme is that of chaplains' often precarious position between military and religious authorities. Are military chaplains primarily morale boosters, retained by rulers and military commanders because they prepare soldiers to fight hard and face death bravely? Or are they above all pastors, caring for the spiritual needs of their constituency? How do they balance conflicting duties and demands? A fourth related theme is the profound moral and theological dilemmas raised by the chaplaincy. Even under the least morally ambiguous circumstances, chaplains work in the midst of violence, coercion, and suffering. How have they understood their tasks and carried them out in deeply troubled and brutal times? What are the ethical implications of their work?
In addition to contributions by historians, this book includes vivid accounts by two former chaplains—an American rabbi who served in World War II and an American Catholic priest who served in Vietnam. This remarkable work treats with care and sensitivity a fascinating and important topic. Anyone interested in military history, religious studies, ethics, or pastoral care will profit from reading this book.
Doris L. Bergen is the Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich (1996); War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust (2003), and editor of Lessons and Legacies VIII (2008).
Contributors: Ralph W. Mathisen, Michael McCormick, David S. Bachrach, Anne Laurence, Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr., Hartmut Lehmann, Duff Crerar, Doris L. Bergen, Max B. Wall, Joseph F. O'Donnell, C.S.C., Anne C. Loveland, and Michael J. Baxter, C.S.C.
“The Sword of the Lord merits a place on the bookshelf for its extensive mapping out of the fairly confined terrain of chaplain studies. The twelve essays gathered here … are a welcome addition to this too often neglected aspect of military and religious history. It is a valuable addition to the literature on those figures who stand at a unique intersection of religion and the military.” —Journal of Military History
"This is an original, informative and thought-provoking volume that will be of as much interest to scholars in the field of war studies as to those in religious studies." —Journal of Ecclesiastical History
"Doris Bergen's edited collection of essays, The Sword of the Lord: Military Chaplains from the First to the Twenty-First Century, is a refreshing reminder of the value of questions well asked—What has changed across two millennia of chaplaincy? What has remained the same?—and answers thoughtfully formulated." —The Journal of Religion
“The book is a good introduction to the history and basic challenges of military chaplaincy. The chapters range across historical periods as distinct as the Roman Empire, the Crusades, the American Civil War, both World Wars and Vietnam. It will be of interest to chaplains and military historians, who are its principal audience.” —Anglican Theological Review
“…a very informative and readable history of military chaplains. It’s a book that all who are interested in reflecting on the nature and purpose of ministry would benefit from.” —Contact
"...a riveting account.... Recommended." —CHOICE
“This volume is given great force by two chapters written by chaplains sharing their experiences….” —The Catholic Historical Review
"This book is recommended for Catholic libraries, for historians, for theologians who are interested in questions of just war and support for our troops, and for general readers." —Catholic Library World
“These well-written essays fill a gap in our understanding of the roles played by military chaplains through the ages. This book will prove valuable to general readers, historians, and theologians interested in the interplay between religion, politics, and war.” —History: Review of New Books
“... a useful introductory survey of the history of military chaplaincy in Europe and North America from antiquity to the present day. Doris Bergen has assembled a team of contributors who have written stimulating essays that go some way towards illuminating the history of this venerable and controversial ministry.” —Theology