Cause and purpose
In our time, there is much conversation and commotion about the Crusades. There are two reasons for this.
First and foremost is the Crusades are a "bone in the throat" to Islam. Muslims continue to blame all Christianity for these Holy wars that the Roman Catholic Church commissioned to retake the "Holy Land" from Islam.
Second, many western Christians and non-Christians follow the same Islamic idea that the Crusades were only for bloodthirsty plunder by poor "Christian" adventurers. Some were that but Crusade leaders were not.
In the USA, often this is anti-Catholic sentiment has been generated and repeated by "Christians" with anti-Catholic sentiments.
Strangely, even the Roman Catholic Church has adopted this myth to chastise itself. Its' Pope has publicly apologized to all Islam for the Crusades. Why and why now?
Philip Jenkins in his book on the coming of Global Christianity, (The Next Christendom, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2002, pp 24,24), writes:
"In recent years, a powerful social movement has demanded that the West, and specifically the churches, apologize for the medieval crusading movement. In this view, the Crusades represented aggression, pure and simple, against the Muslim world, and nobody can deny the resulting wars involved their share of atrocities. Underlying the movement for apology, though, is the assumption that religious frontiers are somehow carved in stone, and that Muslim states of the Near East must always and infallibly have been destined to be part of the world of Islam. An equally good case can be made that the medieval Middle East was no more inevitably Muslim than other regions conquered by Islam and subsequently liberated, like Spain and Hungry.
"Nor, curiously, do Westerners suggest that Muslims apologize for the aggressive acts that gave them power over those various lands in the first place. Westerners have simply forgotten the [brutalization and conquest of these] once great Christian communities of the Eastern World."
(Ed. Note: Muslims never apologize for anything. They claim all their acts are by Allah's will and direction through Muhammad as recorded in the Qur'an/Koran. So, for them, no apologies are due for the 9/11World Trade Center bombing or anything else.)
The fact is that the Crusades were a "jihad" in reverse is easily proved by early Christian History. Muslims insist that Christians willingly converted to Islam. Three indisputable facts contradict that claim.
1. For the first 300 years of Christianity. the followers of Jesus would accept torture and death from the Roman Empire rather than forsake their commitment to Jesus. They believed any revocation of their declared faith would earn them a ticket into Hell. There is no reason they would have willingly changed their faith from Jesus to Muhammad except by force. Islam does not promise paradise for believers, as does Christianity. Even Muhammad said he did not know his final reward. That would only be determined on his judgment day.
2. Next, Islam had conquered Spain in addition to North Africa and the Middle East. When the Moors attempted to extend their empire into Europe, they were met at Tours by Charles Martel and were soundly defeated. From that point forward, Islam was pushed out of Spain. So, if Christians willingly converted to Islam, why did they resist it at Tours and push it out of Europe?
3. Christians never would have willingly given up their "holy" cities of Jerusalem and Alexandria.
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The following is a excerpt from an article in Crisis Magazine. Credit is given at its end.
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"So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression--an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.
"Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity--and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion--has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.
"With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt--once the most heavily Christian areas in the world--quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of Western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.
"That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be consumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
"Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to push back the conquests of Islam at the Council of Clermont in 1095. The response was tremendous. Many thousands of warriors took the vow of the cross and prepared for war. Why did they do it? The answer to that question has been badly misunderstood. In the wake of the Enlightenment, it was usually asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne'er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. The Crusaders' expressed sentiments of piety, self-sacrifice, and love for God were obviously not to be taken seriously. They were not just a front for darker designs.
"During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to "store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt." They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love.
"Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing."
Crisis Magazine published and copyrighted this in April 2002. The full text of this article by Thomas F. Madden is at:
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