A post entitled Four Myths About the Crusades (inspired by this essay) has been getting a fair bit of attention recently.
That’s not surprising, particularly as the Crusades have become wrapped up with the ways we do (or don’t) talk about the our wars in the Middle East, and the upcoming anniversary of 9-11.
Those four myths?
The Crusades represented an unprovoked attack by Western Christians, Western Christians went on Crusade because their greed led them to plunder Muslims, Crusaders were a cynical lot who did not really believe their own religious propaganda, and the Crusades taught Muslims to hate and attack Christians.
The essay has a noticeable ideological slant, but the argument boils down to this – The Crusades were a justified response to reclaim lands lost to centuries of unprovoked Islamic aggression, which people participated in for pious and honorable reasons.
Now each of his points have some truth to them, it’s truly not as cut and dry as those “myths” suppose. There is more to that story though, both sides of it. And the essay, while helpful to a point, also stands to be critiqued.
However, I’ll leave that to someone more qualified. Today I simply want to pose a question about the third “myth.”
Myth # 3: Crusaders Were a Cynical Lot Who Did Not Really Believer Their Own Religious Propaganda
So here is my question. In what world is proving this to be a myth somehow going to improve the image of the Crusades?
Are you actually saying it’s better if they bought into their religious propaganda?
It’s better if they believed the propaganda which used the name of the Jesus, who taught us to lay down the sword, as an idol to justify murder and war?
It’s better if they bought into propaganda that used the cry of “God wills it” as peasants and knights from Europe strove to gain the remission of all their sins by taking the lives of the very enemies Christ called us to love?
If anything this essay is proving the very point it challenges, that any religious war is inherently unjust, abhorrent, and even blasphemous against the very “faith” it exploits.
I’m continually astounded by our attempts to somehow justify that dark stain on the Church’s history, but if you would like to justify it, insisting that the Crusaders thought they were faithfully following the will of God doesn’t seem to be the way to go.
That truth is far worse than the “myth.”