Faith in the Fight tells a story of religion, soldiering, suffering, and death in the Great War. Recovering the thoughts and experiences of American troops, nurses, and aid workers through their letters, diaries, and memoirs, Jonathan Ebel describes how religion--primarily Christianity--encouraged these young men and women to fight and die, sustained them through war's chaos, and shaped their responses to the war's aftermath. The book reveals the surprising frequency with which Americans who fought viewed the war as a religious challenge that could lead to individual and national redemption. Believing in a "Christianity of the sword," these Americans responded to the war by reasserting their religious faith and proclaiming America God-chosen and righteous in its mission. And while the war sometimes challenged these beliefs, it did not fundamentally alter them.
Revising the conventional view that the war was universally disillusioning, Faith in the Fight argues that the war in fact strengthened the religious beliefs of the Americans who fought, and that it helped spark a religiously charged revival of many prewar orthodoxies during a postwar period marked by race riots, labor wars, communist witch hunts, and gender struggles. For many Americans, Ebel argues, the postwar period was actually one of "reillusionment."
Demonstrating the deep connections between Christianity and Americans' experience of the First World War, Faith in the Fight encourages us to examine the religious dimensions of America's wars, past and present, and to work toward a deeper understanding of religion and violence in American history.
Jonathan H. Ebel is assistant professor of religion at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
"With a dizzying array of interesting points, Ebel provides a list of new avenues of study. . . . Faith in the Fight is an impressive book that all scholars of twentieth-century American religious history should read and that should be incorporated in all subsequent studies of WWI."--Paul Harvey, Religion in American History blog
"Perhaps no word is more deeply associated with World War I than 'disillusionment.' In the compulsive attempts of the second half of the 20th century to tell secularization narratives, one prominent version had religious faith never recovering from the shell-shock it got in the trenches, 1914-18. Jonathan H. Ebel, in his well-researched and persuasively revisionist study Faith in the Fight, convincingly demonstrates that this loss-of-faith story is wrong, at least for Americans."--Books & Culture
"One of Faith in the Fight's great strengths is its attention to the voices of the men and women on the front lines. . . . Faith in the Fight helps us better understand the relationship between religion and war in the not-so-distant American past. It is also a book that illustrates the dangers inherent in the American penchant for sanctifying state violence. As Ebel masterfully demonstrates, Americans would do well to abandon a little of their faith in the fight."--Matthew Avery Sutton, Christian Century
"Faith in the Fight illustrates the benefit of revisiting our current tidy categories of religion's decline in the face of modernity and secularism, and its readers are rewarded with a well written and fascinating glimpse of American soldiers and war workers' religious romanticism."--Sarah Miglio, Journal of Church and State
"[W]ith his well-written and well-researched book . . . Jonathan H. Ebel . . . has made a stellar contribution to the interdisciplinary study of religion in American history."--Malcolm D. Magee, American History Review
Table of Contents:
CHAPTER ONE: Redemption through War 21
CHAPTER TWO: Chance the Man-Angel and the Combat Numinous 54
CHAPTER THREE: Suffering, Death, and Salvation 76
CHAPTER FOUR: Christ's Cause, Pharaoh's Army 105
CHAPTER FIVE: Ideal Women in an Ideal War 127
CHAPTER SIX: "There Are No Dead" 145
CHAPTER SEVEN: "The Same Cross in Peace": The American Legion, the Ongoing War, and American Reillusionment 168
Selected Bibliography 235