Before I began educating myself about the Crusades, I was dismayed by the derogatory narratives of Western civilization produced by modern secularists. I found their “politically correct” assaults on Christianity, the Crusades and the “Dark Ages” appalling. The allegation that people of the Christian faith flippantly instigated and executed a series of bloody wars against innocent Muslims for ignoble reasons is ludicrous and is not based on the historical facts. Also, the claim that the Catholic Church and the Bible caused centuries of superstitious ignorance is equally unfounded in reality.
Do I think religious people are perfect? No. Am I saying individuals in the Catholic Church did no wrong? Of course not. But bashing everyone involved in the Crusades and condemning the entire process because mistakes were made and sins were committed by some is both ignorant and entirely unreasonable.
In response, we must discern and disseminate the truth.
So, let’s consider the Crusades as documented by Rodney Stark in God’s Battalions. “Western condemnations of the Crusades were widespread during the “Enlightenment,” that utterly misnamed era during which French and British intellectuals invented the “Dark Ages” in order to glorify themselves and vilify the Catholic Church. Hence, Voltaire (1694-1778) called the Crusades an “epidemic of fury which lasted two hundred years and which was marked by every cruelty, every perfidy, every debauchery, and every folly of which human nature is capable.”
Modern day anti-Crusade charges made by Westerners have grown from these intellectual seedbeds. Voltaire and other religiously disgruntled European intellectuals dismissed God’s rightful claim as the Creator and Lord of the universe and recast historical events to advance their ungodly beliefs. Hoping to permanently undercut religious faith, these “Enlightenment” erudites willfully blackened the reputation of all the Crusaders and literally created the myth of the Dark Ages to express their animosity toward God, the Bible and the Catholic Church.
For those of you surprised to hear that the so-called “superstitious” ideas of the Bible and its so-called “anti-science” followers did not plunge the world into 300 hundred of years of intellectual darkness, I recommend God’s Battalions to you for further study. Rodney Stark does an excellent job of describing what life was really like during the Middle Ages. (The Son/sun continued to shine during those centuries! :-) But, let’s get back to the Crusades.
The Crusades, as most of us know, were a series of religious campaigns carried out by European Bible believers between 1095 and 1291 A.D. to take back control of the Holy Land from the Muslims. They were led by Kings and knights who mostly went for the right reasons.
Although the “politically correct” crowd today delights in denigrating the Western world via the Catholic Church, which, according to their perspective, made unjustified forays against innocent Muslims, Mr. Stark says, “…the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations: by centuries of bloody attempts to colonize the West and by sudden new attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places.”
The Crusades were not undertaken on a whim! They were responses to pleas from Christians in the Levant; and, amazingly, they were mostly undertaken by individuals at their own expense. Many participants mortgaged their property or outright sold all they had to undertake the journey and many, of course, lost their lives in the process.
So, why did they go? Some went in response to the Pope’s call to help their fellow believers. Some went in personal obedience to God; others went for penance; and some went for adventure. But, the main reason the Crusaders went was a genuine desire to rescue Jerusalem and Christian holy sites from Islamic control and to make the area safe for Christian pilgrims to visit those sites. They willingly paid the price because they believed it was worthy goal.
Again, Mr. Stark says: “The Crusades were not unprovoked. Muslim efforts at conquest and colonization still continued in the eleventh century (and for centuries to come). Pilgrims did risk their lives to go to the Holy Land. The sacred sites of Christianity were not secure. And the knights of Christendom were confident that they could put things right.”
If you are paying attention, you can’t help but notice that Muslim efforts at conquest and colonization continue around the world today. Israel is under constant threat from Islam. Muslims continue to control and even destroy Jewish and Christian holy sites; such as, the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem in 2010. They continue their “efforts at conquest and colonization” around the world. And they continue to slaughter Christians and others in the process.
Of the Muslim conquests, Mr. Stark says: “…it all started…in the seventh century, when Islamic armies swept over the larger portion of what was then Christian territory: the Middle East, Egypt and all of north Africa, and then Spain and southern Italy, as well as many major Mediterranean islands including Sicily, Corsica, Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, Malta, and Sardinia.”
It’s time to get the facts right and set the record straight. It is time to stop apologizing for our Western culture and values. The Crusaders were imperfect individuals. Some of them committed atrocities and some engaged in other behavior we find unacceptable today; however, before we judge their actions we should seek to understand the treachery they experienced, the dangers they faced and the rules of warfare governing their behavior.
Truthfully, we should pause and be thankful for the sacrifices the Crusaders made which have helped shape the modern world. For, though they may have failed to achieve their original goals in the Middle East, their efforts kept the Muslims from invading Europe for over two hundred years. So, if not for the Crusades, Europe may have been Islamized centuries ago and the USA might never have existed!
Thank God for the Crusades!
- New Book ‘The Triumph of Christianity’ by Sociologist Rodney Stark Explains How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (prweb.com)