What Were the Crusades? Busting Some Myths
by Lenny Esposito
Just what were the Crusades? In his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, President Obama likened the evil savagery that ISIS has been perpetrating in the name of Islam to Christianity and the Crusades. First, it makes no sense to with a wave of one’s rhetorical hand dismiss one evil because of another. In logic, that is known as thetu quoque (Latin for “you too!”) fallacy. Yet, there is another problem with the president’s comparison: it’s based on a very common, very popular, but very wrong misconception about what the Crusades were about and what actually happened historically.
I want to take a moment to play myth-buster and show why the modern assumptions are very much backwards and why the Crusades are not parallel with the ISIS killings we read in the headlines today.
What Were the Crusades? Myth – Christians Unilaterally Attacked Muslim Lands
This seems to be the foundational myth in misunderstanding what were the Crusades. Many believe that Christians gathered their armies from the various parts of Europe to march into Muslim territory and conquer anyone believing in Islam. Usually, Christians are painted as religious bigots trying to stamp out the unbeliever through warfare and violence. In a supplemental text to the video game “Crusade of Kings, ” R. Scott Peoples writes “The soldiers of the First Crusade appeared basically without warning, storming into the Holy Land with the avowed—literally—task of slaughtering unbelievers.”1This is a popular picture, but one that’s dead wrong.
What Were the Crusades? Reality –Hundreds of Years of Muslim Aggression
Thomas F. Madden summarizes distinguished Crusades expert Dr. Jonathan Riley-Smith and writes, “All the Crusades met the criteria of just wars. They came about in reaction attacks against Christians or their Church.”2 The Muslim aggression towards Christians in Christian lands had been recurring over hundreds of years. Muslim invaders had swept across Northern Africa in the seventh century while simultaneously conquering Christian areas in Palestine, up through Russia and southern Italy. For another three hundred years, they attacked Christian southwestern Europe and west Asia.
Scott Thong in his article “Christianity vs Islam – Who Started This Whole Mess?” presents a…
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