Recovering Truth about the Crusades

Published on January 14, 2014 in Columnists, News Stories

The Koran-RS

Islam and the Survival of the West

Part 7 of a Series by Mike Scruggs-The era of the Crusades is generally accepted to range from the call of Pope Urban II on November 27, 1095, to the fall of the Acre Crusader Colony in 1291. This included seven major European crusades into the Middle East and Egypt and several minor ones. Most Christians believed that the Crusades were justified because the Muslims had taken these formerly Christian lands by force and were abusing the Christians over whom they ruled. The Muslims were also continuing their advance into Europe, raiding Christian lands for slaves and plunder, and harassing and murdering pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Baylor University Professor Rodney Stark, author of 30 books on the history and sociology of religion, concludes his 2009 book, God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, with these words:

“The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not the first round of European colonialism. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The crusaders were not barbarians who victimized cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God’s battalions.”

Professor Thomas F. Madden, Chairman of the Department of History at Saint Louis University, also authored a brief but marvelously informative book in 2005, The New Concise History of the Crusades, which closely matched the conclusions of Stark quoted above.

On the other hand, in 1999, The New York Times, based on shallow research and deeply entrenched liberal correctness, declared that “the Crusades were comparable to Hitler’s atrocities or the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo”—proving that the Times doesn’t know anything about the Crusades, Kosovo, Serbia, or Albania. The Times’ moral outrage was taken up by a group of several hundred woefully misinformed Protestants calling for an official Christian apology for the Crusades renouncing the “greed, hatred, and fear” and condemning “all violence done in the name of Christ.” Popular British religious nonsense writer and former Catholic nun Karen Armstrong also took up the call, saying that “holy war was a deeply Christian act”… “despite the pacifism of Jesus.” Those who have a low tolerance for liberal kool-aid should not read Karen Armstrong unless you are looking for examples of upside-down facts and logic errors. The 9-11-2001 attack on New York City did not cure them of their Islamophilia and Christianophobia or turn them to thorough fact-based, truth-seeking research.

However, poorly informed ideologically based attacks on the Crusades and crusaders have been common since the “Enlightenment.” Voltaire (1694-1778), David Hume (1711-1776), and Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) were three of the most prominent crusader critics of their time. Although the Crusades took place before the Protestant Reformation, there is a good deal of anti-papal as well as anti-Christian sentiment among Crusade critics.

In our own era, the chains of political correctness have wrapped tightly around Crusade history. Even Christian colleges have in recent years succumbed to political correctness regarding the Crusades. In the year 2000, Wheaton College in Illinois changed the name of its athletic teams after 70 years from “Crusaders” to “Thunder.” Perhaps they took too seriously a Monte Python movie I once saw that thoroughly ridiculed the Crusaders. The Wheaton move was obviously less motivated by historical research than a heavy dose of political correctitude and perhaps a little bullying. Perhaps they have not yet realized that Christianity is not politically correct, and Christians would be an endangered species if multiculturalist busybodies had their way. I have to wonder how long the Thunder name for Wheaton athletics will last. I suppose if they found out some Confederate General had a horse named Thunder, they would have to drop it. Wheaton and many other Christian colleges and secondary schools need to get a backbone. Substituting political correctness for academic rigor is a betrayal of every student and graduate. Educational institutions especially need to stop substituting political correctness guidelines for moral and ethical guidelines.

One horror story used to vilify the crusaders is the capture of Muslim-held Jerusalem by a crusader army on July 16, 1099. This followed a siege that began 40 days earlier on June 7. The final assault using siege towers was successful largely because of the firepower of the crusader crossbow teams. These crossbow teams could fire as rapidly as the simple string bows of the Muslim bowmen, about eight times per minute, but with much greater accuracy, range, and force of impact. These teams of three fired from behind large shields, allowing a crusader force to mount the walls with few casualties. They then rained a constant and lethal fire upon the Muslim defenders in the streets below. The Muslim forces were quickly overwhelmed, and by morning the city was littered with corpses. One of the era’s accepted rules of siege warfare was that a city that did not surrender and forced its attacker to assault its walls was subject to massacre and looting. This was because such assaults usually resulted in very high casualties for the besieging force. In addition, the Muslims had massacred the inhabitants of dozens of cities.

However, the actual extent of the massacre has been greatly exaggerated. Many Muslims were taken captive. Part of this horror story is the claim that when the Jewish residents fled to their major synagogue, they were all killed when angry crusaders burned the building down around them. This is somewhat plausible because many of the Jews were in militia and Muslim army units fighting against the crusaders. However, there is considerable credible evidence that most of the Jews were spared. Many were taken captive, and letters were discovered in Cairo in 1952 written by Jewish leaders seeking ransom funds for Jews taken captive when Jerusalem fell to the crusaders.

Beware of politically motivated exaggerations of the crusader massacre in Jerusalem.

The same caution applies to the entire history of the Crusade era. In fact, a diligent search for truth applies to all history and all of life.

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