March 11, 2011

James Carroll

Suffolk University religion scholar James Carroll discusses his new book, Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World. Video by Jenny Attiyeh of


Jerusalem, Jerusalem uncovers the ways in which the ancient city became, unlike any other in the world—reaching deep into our contemporary lives—an incendiary fantasy of a city. 

In Carroll’s reading of the deep past, the Bible’s brutality responded to the violence that threatened Jerusalem from the start. Centuries later, the mounting European fixation on a heavenly Jerusalem sparked both anti-Semitism and racist colonial contempt. The holy wars of the Knights Templar burned apocalyptic mayhem into the Western mind. Carroll’s brilliant and original leap is to show how, as Christopher Columbus carried his own Jerusalem-centric worldview to the West, America too was powerfully shaped by the dream of the City on a Hill—from Governor Winthrop to Abraham Lincoln to Woodrow Wilson to Ronald Reagan. The nuclear brinksmanship of the 1973 Yom Kippur War helps prove his point: religion and violence fuel each other, with Jerusalem the ground zero of the heat. 

"Carroll, author of the critically acclaimed Constantine’s Sword, has given us one of the broadest and most balanced accounts of the city of King David in recent years—one centered on the concept of 'sacred violence' as a path to redemption, a vision long engendered by Jerusalem and all that it represents.... Conceptually profound, richly detailed, and wonderfully realized, this book brings to life the dynamic story of the Divided City." 
Publishers Weekly (starred)

About Author(s)

James Carroll was raised in Washington, D.C., and ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1969. He served as a chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974, then left the priesthood to become a writer. A distinguished scholar- in-residence at Suffolk University, he is a columnist for the Boston Globe and a regular contributor to the Daily Beast.