Rethinking the Crusades
- Published: Thursday, 31 October 2013 11:08
- Written by Henley Morgan
COPTIC Christian churches, schools and charity buildings in Egypt have been under periodic attacks for years now and similar attacks have come to Christians in Nigeria as well.
In a press release on October 10, 2013, the European Parliament passed three separate resolutions, condemning violence and persecution against Christians in Syria, Pakistan and Iran, calling for protection for journalists and free access to the Internet in Sudan and condemning acts of terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq.
The source of these attacks on Christians is alleged to be Islamists or other folk claiming links with Islam.
In most of these cases Christians are suffering these atrocities, not as wrongdoers but, as it was in the first century Roman Empire, "as Christians" (see 1 Peter 4:14-16).
The compound theme of suffering and martyrdom is a dominant motif in the book of Revelation and Christians were suffering and being executed because of "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (see Rev 1: 2, 9; 12: 17; 19: 10).
Though it may be politically incorrect to mention it, I cannot flush my mind of the Crusades. Protestants have been so eager to duck out from under this blot on Christian history that we too glibly write off all of it as Roman Catholic, non-Christian action.
Well, let me lose friends and irritate some people now by saying that, though I regard much of the action of Christians during the Crusades as excessive, I sustain the view that the Crusades began as legitimate defensive wars against marauding Muslims.
If you would roll over and play dead when your country is under attack without just cause, then pray for me, fast even that before the Rapture I become as sanctified as you are, because I could not, would not, and will not just play dead if unjustly attacked.
Even Christian historians are ignorant about the facts surrounding the Crusades. Bernard Lewis is the Cleveland E Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, and a renowned specialist on the history of Islam. Lewis says, "when the Crusaders arrived in Jerusalem, barely four hundred years had passed since that city, along with the rest of the Levant and North Africa, had been wrested by the armies of Islam from their Christian rulers, and their Christian populations forcibly incorporated in a new Muslim empire. The Crusades was a delayed response to the jihad, the holy war for Islam, and its purpose was to recover, by war, what had been lost by war to free the holy places of Christendom and open them once again without impediment to Christian pilgrimage." (In his The Arabs in History, 1993, pages 163-164)
We forget or are ignorant of the fact that the Middle East and North Africa were Christian strongholds for centuries before the birth of Islam in Arabia in the 7th century AD. Egypt, Libya, (Ethiopia in East Africa) Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and Greece were centres of strong Christian witness.
The first Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1095. To be sure, the Christians of the Crusades went overboard, but Lewis seems to support my view that the Crusades began as legitimate defensive wars against marauding Muslims. Regrettably, the Crusades were overall, unsuccessful.
It may be a slight stretch, but still very likely that, as Robert Spencer contended before bin Laden's death, "Muslim incursions into Europe from the east were finally stopped at the gates of Vienna...the date of that event is one that no doubt stings in the mind of Osama bin Laden: September 11, 1683." (In his Islam Unveiled, 2002, p. 140)
Modern Christians would do well to explore the implications of the thin line of difference between martyrdom and suicide or the difference between passivism and pacifism.