A staple in the libels against the Catholic Church by anti-Catholic bigots are the Crusades, perhaps the most lied about period of European history. Protestant pastor Jeff Sanders writes about what he found out about the Crusades:
1. The Crusaders were not “imperialists.”
The motivation of the European armies in the Holy Land was not colonization. Only the First Crusade was actually successful. They achieved their goal: capturing Jerusalem. When they did that, most of the knights went home, without riches or lands in Israel. They left only a skeleton force to guard what they had conquered.
They were not interested in staying there — which would have involved constantly fighting off Islamic armies — or in governing an area that was so unlike their own homelands.
2. The Crusaders were rescuers.
The main motivation for the First Crusade was that the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire) had asked for help from his fellow Christians in Western Europe. Christian churches were being desecrated by the latest invaders (Seljuk Turks) and Christian pilgrims were being murdered and otherwise persecuted.
When the Pope heard about this, he figured it would be a noble thing for the people under his authority to go and help their brethren in the East. For many people in Western Europe, the First Crusade was considered a rescue operation to help defenseless people. It was an act of highest piety. That is how they saw it.
3. The Crusaders were sacrificial.
The European knights and their followers, by and large, did not see themselves as likely to become fabulously rich off this enterprise. They sacrificed time, safety, and treasure. It is indeed expensive to maintain a knight and his horse with their weaponry, armor, and accoutrements. It would be a very dangerous trek across Asia Minor to get to Israel.
Many barons either borrowed money from relatives or sold lands to raise the cash. Many simply went broke and even deeply into debt.
4. The Crusaders were (somewhat) tolerant.
Once the Crusaders conquered Israel and renamed it “The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem,” they did not force anyone to become Christians. Yep, you read that right. These Catholics did not compel Muslims or Jews or Orthodox Christians to bow down to their theology. They allowed all to freely practice their faith. Likewise, there were instances in which the Muslims allowed Christians and Jews to practice their faiths, within the confines of their places of worship and homes.
5. The Crusades were a defensive war.
The Crusaders also saw their actions as a defensive war. “Christendom” had been attacked by Islamic armies for over 400 years with hardly a response from the Europeans. North Africa had been a bastion of Christianity. Same for Israel, Syria, and what is now Turkey.
Muslim armies conquered almost all of Spain, invaded France (stopped by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours) and even raided the outskirts of the city of Rome in the year 846! Finally, in 1095, Pope Urban II preached the sermon that launched the First Crusade. Over the next two hundred years, the Europeans would send thousands of soldiers in usually badly coordinated, piecemeal attacks to push back Muslim armies in Israel, Syria, and Egypt. They did not have the desire, plans, or military might to roll up the vast swath of Islamic territory outside those areas.
6. The Crusaders were protecting Europe.
The Crusades did slow down the advance of Islam into Europe. And I think that is a VERY good thing! The armies of Islam (under the leadership of the Turks) did “pick up steam” after the Crusades petered out in the 13th century, invaded what was left of the Byzantine Empire, and finally conquered it in 1453.
However, the memory of the Crusades in Europe lingered; the Europeans knew that they could definitely overcome many of their nationalistic hurdles and put together a united military to stop the Muslim invasion. They slowed down the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto with a decisive naval victory in 1571. But it was not until 1683 that a combined European army finally crushed the Turks at the Battle of Vienna and ended the threat of an Islamic invasion of Europe (until recently).
Go here to read the rest. A somewhat simplified view of very complicated events, but light years above the fairy tale taught in most of our schools of evil Christian imperialists attacking peaceful followers of the religion of peace. Today most people have the historical memory of Mayflies and thus make themselves pawns in the plans of evil forces. Forget where you came from, and you quickly lose any sense of who you are and who your enemies are.