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The Christian Terror of Saint Augustine

In an earlier era, rampaging monks sought to create the Christian equivalent of the ISIS caliphate.

The fresco of St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica in Basilica di Sant Agostino in Rome by Pietro Gagliardi. Credit: Renata Sedmakova


  • In an earlier era, rampaging monks sought to create the Christian equivalent of the ISIS caliphate.
  • There is nothing in Islamic doctrine or theology that cannot be found in the heritage of Christians.
  • Zealous Christian monks once cut a terrorizing swath across North Africa and the East.
  • Establishing a Christian Caliphate is a stated goal of US Dominionists like Ted Cruz’s father.

At one time, Christians performed deeds little different from those of ISIS today – amazingly with the explicit blessing of Augustine of Hippo, a Catholic saint and an influential leader of the Church in Roman North Africa.

There is a benefit to examining this aspect of Saint Augustine, who is better known for his fourth and fifth century philosophical and theological musings. It provides us an older insight into the jihadist mentality, nowadays mainly of an Islamist character, that jeopardizes civilization today.

It also reminds us that there is nothing inherent in Islamic doctrine or theology that cannot be found in the heritage of those Christians who most loudly attempt to associate all Muslims with the jihadists and ISIS.

Destruction of the other sects

Well-documented Church history tells us that Augustine personally incited zealous monks who cut a swath across North Africa and the East. They destroyed pagan temples, terrorized Donatists, crushed the remnants of Gnostic communities and burned synagogues.

Religious Extremism: Two-part Analysis by Michael J. Brenner

Part I: The Libel Equating Islam With Terror

Part II: The Christian Terror of Saint Augustine

Flying squads of black clad mad monks swept through targeted districts – intoxicated by their own incessant loud chanting.

The calculated aim was to win converts by displays of power and militancy that intimidated the populace. Agitation and coercion were the methods.

Augustine, in his institutional capacity, promoted these nasty forays to extend the “Charity of Christ,” i.e. boost the number of converts. That was, in fact, the principal, political basis for his “just war” theory – not defensive response to an inter-state threat.

Influencing the actions of states and leaders

Encouraging a campaign of violence hopefully would create “facts on the ground” that could serve as a bulwark against any successor to the apostate Emperor Julian who might threaten the Christian Dominion – however far it had strayed from Christ.

Augustine wrote: “I would not have believed the Gospel had not the authority of the Church moved me.” (Contra Epistulam Fundamentic. 410 ch.5) It therefore was crucial that the campaign have the authority of, and strengthen the Church.

Those glaze-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth fanatics were actually “Ye of little faith,” whose visionary prospects for the City of God could not dissolve their fears about another City of Julian challenging Christianity’s status as the Empire’s official religion.

Breaking Caesar, then and now

The Church as temporal power as well as spiritual power was their Caliphate – not to be rendered to some other Caesar.

Since Jesus’ prophecy of the imminent Day of Judgment had not come to pass, the here-and-now had become inseparable from the Hereafter.

Establishment of a Christian Caliphate is the stated goal of today’s American Dominionists – one of whose pastoral leaders is the father of presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

The defining concept of Dominionism is “that Christians alone are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.”

Augustine, possessing the mind of a shrewd political strategist – among other attributes, understood that securing the power of the state to instruct and to coerce was crucial for the Church’s long-term success. Sound familiar?

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About Michael J. Brenner

Michael Brenner is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. [Texas, United States]

Responses to “The Christian Terror of Saint Augustine”

Archived Comments.

  1. On December 11, 2015 at 3:49 pm Goldcoaster responded with... #

    I think the chances of a Christian caliphate are rather remote. ISIS, on the other hand, is working diligently on theirs.

  2. On December 14, 2015 at 5:46 am Mike Lee responded with... #

    Humanity does not need religion..! What is needed is education from childhood in science and reasoning and less of myth, superstition and religious dogma. Man made patriarchal, delusionalistic mind control and the more fundamentalist it is, the more deviant and destructive it becomes, until what we have now is a death cult phenomenon spreading its diseased message, promising its believers eternal life in “paradise” (including plenty of virgins!) for killing infidels and destroying their cultural heritage….

  3. On December 14, 2015 at 6:04 am badmotorfinger responded with... #

    Yeah, all these religious crazies committing atrocities; Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zadong, Nicolae Ceausescu, Mussolini, the Kim dynasty, Than Shwe… pretty much all the worst of the 20th century. Oh wait, they were all atheists–militant atheists–loudly criticizing religion, and covering up atheist atrocities by saying “yeah, but those individuals were really religious in their atheism.”

  4. On December 14, 2015 at 8:39 am rickpat responded with... #

    The difference between Christian violence of old and Muslim violence of today (and of old) is that the Christian perpetrators were acting contrary to the teachings of their religion. The Muslim perpetrators are not.

  5. On December 16, 2015 at 7:33 pm Mashael Alsaikhan responded with... #

    التاريخ يعيد نفسه

  6. On December 21, 2015 at 4:22 am Arijit Thakur responded with... #

    In my opinion, Saint Augustine, Hitler and Abu-bakr-al-Baghdaadi are horses of different colors from the same stable. Religious people believe in their own superiority, no matter what religion they practice and preach. The Abrahamic religions are especially dangerous because the moment you utter “so and so is the one true god and so and so is his servant”, your audience assumes – approvingly or disapprovingly – that you consider all other gods unworthy of worship and their worshipers, unworthy people.

    Christianity apparently poses no threat to the world / civilization today. That is in stark contrast to what we think of Islam. However, the contrast does not recommend Christianity. It is comparatively innocuous because Christians do not take their faith more seriously than they should. On the other hand, Muslims tend to base their very identity on their faith.

    I would like to share my ideas how unsuspecting youth are radicalized in Europe and North America. The process involves three steps: Muslims are different / Muslims are better / Muslims are the only people fit to survive.

    Everyone is different from everyone else. Every community is different form every other community. You don’t need to rack your brain to find differences between two individuals or two communities. The difficulty is in finding the commonality although the difference in most cases pertains to 3 or 4 percent of the major characteristics and the commonality is based on the remaining 97 or 96 percent of the major characteristics. Then why tom-tom the differences? It is an important stepping stone for every fundamentalist because it paves the way for the next and more sinister step: Muslims are better. You have to be different in order to be better!

    (historical example: the attempts to convince Bengali Muslims that they are not Bengalis but are Sheiks and Syeds or whatever else)

    The idea that Muslims (or the Islamic ways) are superior to the rest of humanity (and its ways) has a natural appeal to everyone identifying himself or herself as a Muslim. We like to be praised. It’s a common human trait.

    The third step is the real face of fascism and bigotry. It is a strange adaptation of Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest by people who do not want Darwin’s theory to be taught in schools. The argument runs somewhat like this: if you are the best specimen of your species, then you have the biggest right to survive because the continuation of your line will produce further competitive advantages for your species. In a world where the resources needed to survive are in short supply, it is reasonable to let the others die.

  7. On December 28, 2015 at 5:54 am Saberol responded with... #

    When the Visigoths and other fierce non-Roman peoples rampaged and sacked Rome, the belief emerged that the God of Christianity could not protect Rome as did the former gods worshiped by Romans. Christianity was at that time the official religion and was rapidly spreading, and many Christians, who accepted the “turn the other cheek” stance promoted by their religion, refused to serve in the Roman army. This was where St
    Augustine, then bishop of Hippo, defended and expounded on the principles of a just war under which Christians could wage war to defend against wrongs done to their families, community and nation, using just means for a just purpose. The cruelties as
    displayed by ISIS, their lust for blood, their unnecessary destruction of property, cultural heritage and of life, were nowhere championed by Augustine. This is in brief how I understood the thoughts of St Augustine, who wrote The Confessions and City of God, regarding the role of violence in war.