The Crusades

The Truth About the Crusades

 

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).

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Quotes Suitable For Framing: Thomas Madden

 

The modern historian can only marvel at the First Crusade. I know of no other instance in human history in which so many soldiers marched thousands of miles from their home and endured numerous hardships deep in enemy territory for no good strategic or economic reasons. Their reasons had much more to do with the next world than with this one. It is equally amazing that a loosely organized enterprise like this with no clear understanding of the local terrain or sure means of provisioning could so often snatch victory from the jaws of apparent defeat. As Asbridge notes, “Modern historical analysis can offer a rationalization of their accomplishments, but for contemporaries living in the medieval age one thing alone explained the spectacular triumph of the First Crusade”God’s omnipotent will.”

Thomas Madden

Quotes Suitable For Framing: Bobby Jindal

 

 

Catholic convert and Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal wasted no time in responding with humor to President Obama’s wretched exercise in moral equivalency at the National Prayer Breakfast:

 

“It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast. Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today.” 

The Crusades and Historical Ignorance

 

One of the tenets of our faith is to instruct the ignorant.  Thus, for the benefit of President Obama who is obviously bone ignorant of the Crusades, I am reposting this post from 2012:

The above video is a salute to Rick Santorum, former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, for understanding the essential nature of the Crusades as a defensive reaction to Islamic aggression.  In the video below we have a rather mindless reaction to the same quote from a talking head from the liberal group Young Turks, who, judging from his comments, gained his knowledge of the Crusades from the laughably ahistorical crusader bashing flick Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

 

Ignorance of the depth displayed in the video above is always to be lamented, and is not unusual, as noted by Dr. Thomas Madden, one of the foremost of the scholars of the Crusades, who, over the past 40 years, have revolutionized our knowledge and understanding of that epoch:

 

The crusades are quite possibly the most misunderstood event in European history. Ask a random American about them and you are likely to see a face wrinkle in disgust, or just the blank stare that is usually evoked by events older than six weeks. After all, weren’t the crusaders just a bunch of religious nuts carrying fire and sword to the land of the Prince of Peace? Weren’t they cynical imperialists seeking to carve out colonies for themselves in faraway lands with the blessings of the Catholic Church? A couch potato watching the BBC/A&E documentary on the crusades (hosted by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame no less) would learn in roughly four hours of frivolous tsk-tsk-ing that the peaceful Muslim world actually learned to be warlike from the barbaric western crusaders. No wonder, then, that Pope John Paul II was excoriated for his refusal to apologize for the crusades in 1999. No wonder that a year ago Wheaton College in Illinois dropped their Crusader mascot of 70 years. No wonder that hundreds of Americans and Europeans recently marched across Europe and the Middle East begging forgiveness for the crusades from any Muslim or Jew who would listen. No wonder.

Jonah Goldberg, in his just released book Tyranny of Cliches, demonstrates that he is aware of the current scholarship on the Crusades:

The great irony is that the zealot-reformers who want to return to a “pure” Islam have been irredeemably corrupted by Western ideas. Osama bin Laden had the idea that he was fighting the “new crusaders.” When George W. Bush once, inadvertently, used the word “crusade,” jihadists and liberal intellectuals alike erupted with rage. It was either a damning slip of the tongue whereby Bush accidentally admitted his real crusader agenda, or it was a sign of his stunning ignorance about the Crusades. Doesn’t he know what a sensitive issue the Crusades are? Doesn’t he know that the Crusades belong alongside the slaughter of the Indians, slavery, and disco in the long line of Western sins?

After all, it’s been in the papers for a while. In 1999, Muslim leaders demanded that Pope John Paul II apologize for the Crusades. “He has asked forgiveness from the Jews [for the Church’s passivity in the face of the Holocaust], so he should ask forgiveness from the Muslims,” Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, told the New York Times.3   Across the country sports teams have been dropping their crusader mas­cots because they’re offensive to . . . someone. Wheaton College changed their seventy-year-old team name from the Crusaders to the Thunder (no word from Thor worshippers yet as to whether they are off ended). Even Campus Crusade for Christ opted to change its name to Cru partly be­cause the word crusade has become too radioactive. “It’s become a flash word for a lot of people. It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East,” Steve Sellers, the organization’s vice president told Christianity Today. “In the ’50s, crusade was the evangelistic term in the United States. Over time, different words take on different meanings to different groups.”

I’ll say. Until fairly recently, historically speaking, Muslims used to brag about being the winners of the Crusades, not the victims of it. That is if they talked about them at all. “The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual re­sponse to the jihad—a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living historian of Islam in the English language (and perhaps any language).5 Historian Thomas Madden puts it more directly, “Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The cru­sades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West’s belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world.” Continue reading

The Truth About the Crusades

 

Breitbart tells us about a new series on EWTN:

 

But in the Middle Ages, kings and knights of Christendom set forth to push back against the inroads of Islamic forces into majority Christian areas in the Holy Land and beyond. Once considered a noble, if ultimately failed, campaign to make sacred sites safe for Christian pilgrims, over the last century or so, the Crusades have gradually become recast as an imperialist surge against peaceful people.

Like many notions currently promulgated by academia and the media, it’s a near-reversal of what actually happened over the course of centuries. As with any great human endeavor, the Crusades had their share of stupidity, brutality, greed, and misadventure, but that is only a piece of the whole story.

And of all the people asked to comment on the Crusades–from scholars to reporters to filmmakers to novelists to activists–one group seldom allowed to have its say is the Catholic Church, whose history is inextricably linked with that of the Crusades.

From October 8-11, at 10 p.m. (ET) each night, EWTN presents The Crusades, a four-part series shot on location in seven countries (Turkey, Israel, France, Austria, England, Spain, and Slovakia). Described at the EWTN blog as “a well-rounded understanding of an important historical event,” each episode features original dramatizations, original music recorded in Europe, and commentary from historians specializing in the period.

These historians are Professor Jonathan Phillips, professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of London; Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith of Cambridge University, one of Britain’s leading experts on the Crusades; and Professor Thomas F. Madden, chair of the Department of History at St. Louis University, who not only focuses on the Crusades but on the larger issue of the Christian-Muslim conflict.

Preceding the premiere on Wednesday, October 8, airing at 8 p.m. ET is a special episode of EWTN Live, with EWTN staffer and Middle Eastern scholar Father Mitch Pacwa interviewing Stefano Mazzeo, writer, producer, and host of The Crusades, and Madden, author of A Concise History of the Crusades.

In advance of this, on Sunday, October 5, at 10 p.m. ET, EWTN airs Franciscan University Presents Myths About the Crusades, with commentary from Dr. Paul Crawford, professor of medieval history at California University of Pennsylvania (located in the Pennsylvania town of California, near Pittsburgh), along with host Michael Hernon and panelists Dr. Regis Martin, professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), and Catholic convert and theologian Dr. Scott Hahn. Continue reading

The Crusades and Historical Ignorance

The above video is a salute to Rick Santorum, former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, for understanding the essential nature of the Crusades as a defensive reaction to Islamic aggression.  In the video below we have a rather mindless reaction to the same quote from a talking head from the liberal group Young Turks, who, judging from his comments, gained his knowledge of the Crusades from the laughably ahistorical crusader bashing flick Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

Ignorance of the depth displayed in the video above is always to be lamented, and is not unusual, as noted by Dr. Thomas Madden, one of the foremost of the scholars of the Crusades, who, over the past 40 years, have revolutionized our knowledge and understanding of that epoch:

 

The crusades are quite possibly the most misunderstood event in European history. Ask a random American about them and you are likely to see a face wrinkle in disgust, or just the blank stare that is usually evoked by events older than six weeks. After all, weren’t the crusaders just a bunch of religious nuts carrying fire and sword to the land of the Prince of Peace? Weren’t they cynical imperialists seeking to carve out colonies for themselves in faraway lands with the blessings of the Catholic Church? A couch potato watching the BBC/A&E documentary on the crusades (hosted by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame no less) would learn in roughly four hours of frivolous tsk-tsk-ing that the peaceful Muslim world actually learned to be warlike from the barbaric western crusaders. No wonder, then, that Pope John Paul II was excoriated for his refusal to apologize for the crusades in 1999. No wonder that a year ago Wheaton College in Illinois dropped their Crusader mascot of 70 years. No wonder that hundreds of Americans and Europeans recently marched across Europe and the Middle East begging forgiveness for the crusades from any Muslim or Jew who would listen. No wonder.

Jonah Goldberg, in his just released book Tyranny of Cliches, demonstrates that he is aware of the current scholarship on the Crusades:

The great irony is that the zealot-reformers who want to return to a “pure” Islam have been irredeemably corrupted by Western ideas. Osama bin Laden had the idea that he was fighting the “new crusaders.” When George W. Bush once, inadvertently, used the word “crusade,” jihadists and liberal intellectuals alike erupted with rage. It was either a damning slip of the tongue whereby Bush accidentally admitted his real crusader agenda, or it was a sign of his stunning ignorance about the Crusades. Doesn’t he know what a sensitive issue the Crusades are? Doesn’t he know that the Crusades belong alongside the slaughter of the Indians, slavery, and disco in the long line of Western sins?

After all, it’s been in the papers for a while. In 1999, Muslim leaders demanded that Pope John Paul II apologize for the Crusades. “He has asked forgiveness from the Jews [for the Church’s passivity in the face of the Holocaust], so he should ask forgiveness from the Muslims,” Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, told the New York Times.3   Across the country sports teams have been dropping their crusader mas­cots because they’re offensive to . . . someone. Wheaton College changed their seventy-year-old team name from the Crusaders to the Thunder (no word from Thor worshippers yet as to whether they are off ended). Even Campus Crusade for Christ opted to change its name to Cru partly be­cause the word crusade has become too radioactive. “It’s become a flash word for a lot of people. It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East,” Steve Sellers, the organization’s vice president told Christianity Today. “In the ’50s, crusade was the evangelistic term in the United States. Over time, different words take on different meanings to different groups.”4

I’ll say. Until fairly recently, historically speaking, Muslims used to brag about being the winners of the Crusades, not the victims of it. That is if they talked about them at all. “The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual re­sponse to the jihad—a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living historian of Islam in the English language (and perhaps any language).5 Historian Thomas Madden puts it more directly, “Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The cru­sades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West’s belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world.”6 Continue reading

As The September 11 Anniversary Nears, A Review Of Al Qaeda's Little Reported-On War Against The Catholic Church

While most of the world mourns the nearly three thousand who were brutally murdered by Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, many assume all of Al Qaeda attacks stem from a warped political motive. Most may not be aware that since the day of its inception many of Al Qaeda’s targets have involved the Catholic Church and her holy sites.

Less than one year before the September 11, 2001 attacks Al Qaeda was planning a spectacular Christmas attack at the large and historic Strasbourg Cathedral in France. While this attack was foiled, an attack on the Catholic cathedral in Jakarta, Indonesia was not thwarted, resulting in the deaths of several churchgoers and those on a nearby street.

Yet, five years before this brazen plan, an even more sinister plan was nearly carried out by the chief planner of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheik Muhammad, which he coordinated to coincide with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Manila for World Youth Day in January of 1995. The plan called for the pontiff to be killed along with countless of the faithful who was planning to see him in Manila that day. Incidentally, some speculate that the crowd that came to see the Polish pontiff that day was nearly the same size that came to see his funeral some ten years later. Some speculate it may have been the largest religious gathering at one place in our known history, some five to seven million strong.

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