Converts and Kingdoms

Converts and Kingdoms: How the Church Converted the Pagan West and How We Can Do It Again is a new book by Diane Moczar being published by Catholic Answers.

This book illustrates some of the major movements of conversion throughout history.  Starting with the time just before Constantine and dealing with the growth of Christianity prominently in Europe and later the New World.  I was somewhat familiar with some of this history from the books of the late Warren H. Carroll and others, but I really liked the focus of this book and all the details amplifying the growth of Christendom and just how unlikely it all seems.

The relating of this history did bring to me often in mind the writing style of Warren H. Carroll  and I say that as the highest compliment.  Clearly shown just what is history and avoiding hagiography (in the negative sense of the word) while not being dismissive of miracles.  I also enjoyed some of the comments by the author peppered throughout that added some humor and here own clarification of what she thought of some streams of historical thought.  This is certainly not dry history and I found myself reading large sections of it at a time finding that I enjoyed it so much.  I found it an informative read.

The only complaint I had with the book is that it did not really live up to the subtitle. Specifically the “How we can do it again” part.  While I am sure there are lessons learned from these segments of history, the author really didn’t point them out as to their applicability today.  I expected that there would be a final chapter making these arguments.  Considering that many of these major conversion points in Christendom involved conversions of emperors, kings, and chieftains that aspect is much less important today.  Even in our celebrity-soaked culture, celebrity religious conversions don’t hold much sway” The same goes for nationality in relation to state religions.  We just don’t have the huge shortcut available today where the religion of the king becomes the religion of the people.  Though I can’t say I am very fond of that method in the first place.

What we can emulate is of course the same method always available of personal holiness and evangelical zeal.  While the conversions of leaders played a great part, these conversion came as a result of contact with saints.  The thing about conversion is that it is not a static thing and constantly requires reconversion.  Complacency is the enemy of holiness and we see so much complacency and luke-warmness today.  Though as this book demonstrates this is nothing new and a constant struggle.  Overall I greatly enjoyed this book and the unsanitized history it presented. Her other books now go on my must-read wish list.

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