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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About Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is a former atheist who after spending forty years in the wilderness finds himself with both astonishment and joy a member of the Catholic Church. A retired Navy Chief who now makes his living as an application developer.

  • willduquette

    Maybe ten years ago I read The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity, by R.A. Fletcher, and as I recall I quite liked it. It’s straight history, and I don’t recall the author having any particular axe to grind one way or another. One of the issues I remember quite clearly is how seldom force was involved—and when force was used, it was usually applied by a newly converted ruler against his own people. (One of the Olafs was guilty of this, IIRC.)

  • Ryan Haber

    Complacency is the enemy of holiness.

    Perfect. Too true.
    Diane Mozcar also wrote Islam At The Gates: How Christendom Defeated the Ottoman Turks and a very good read it is.
    We live in a great time to be Catholic, and a great time to be Catholic and historically-minded. There are a lot of great scholars, like Mozcar, who are overturning the standard high school (Whig-inspired) history as fast as possible and showing it for what it is: propaganda to promote the Glorious Revolution and the English Enlightenment and all the irreligious materialism that has followed. Isn’t it funny, for instance, how textbooks usually discuss the rise of Islam after the Crusades, even though it happened before? Makes it seem like the mean (Catholic) Christians just went to town on the poor Muslims who had never done anything wrong, like conquer half of Christendom. And why should Protestant historians sympathize with Muslims? For the same reason that Protestant princes ignored the threat they posed in the 16th and 17th centuries: they shared a common enemy with them. The Church.
    Happily, a lot of the facts of history are being re-examined daily by serious scholars who do not share the view that God ordained a Protestant Ascendency over England and thus over the world.