Friday, May 10, 2019

The Crusades

I have been meaning to revisit this topic for some time – considering this episode in European history within the context of my views in general about this period.  I have found medieval Europe to offer the longest lasting example of a society whose laws came closer to libertarian law than any other place or during under any other (extended period of) time.

But what of the Crusades?  Many years ago, I accepted the mainstream view – Christians, for no good reason, decided to invade and slaughter Muslims.  Look hard enough at the history of this blog, and I believe you will find one or two posts that take something like this position for granted.

But over the last couple of years my thinking has evolved – after all, there were Christians occupying this land before there were Muslims…and the Muslims didn’t really convert the inhabitants in a peaceful manner.  Of course, there were others before the Christians…and so the history goes.

The First Crusade was called at the end of the eleventh century.  This was at least four centuries after Muslims conquered much of the Middle East and North Africa, and even more than three centuries after the conquest of Spain.

What took so long?  Well, keep in mind that after the fall of Rome, those living in Europe had their hands full with the basic task of creating something approaching a civilized world.  They also had their hands full with internal consolidation – often in ways that were less-than-peaceful, with Charlemagne offering a good example.  They also had their hands full with the Vikings – who would regularly sail even into Paris and other inland cities and set up shop for plunder. 

It was in the tenth century when Europe really started taking some meaningful and sustainable form.  This story is well-told by Paul Collins in his book The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century.  I have covered this book in several posts, but most relevant here is this post, exploring the Europe that was born in the tenth century.  Let’s just say that few of the stereotypes are valid.

So…back to the Crusades…I found an interesting article, Christians in the Middle East – Past, Present and Future. 

Christians from the Middle East are frequently asked, ‘When did you or your family become Christians?’ It’s hard for them not to be irritated by the question, and some of them want to answer ‘On the day of Pentecost!’

Yes.  They were the first Christians. 

The author of this paper, Colin Chapman, continues the history – including the imperialism of the West, the creation of the State of Israel, and the Christian Zionism of America that supports this state.

Many Christians today hold a sense of shame regarding the Crusades: how could a succession of Popes encourage such dastardly deeds?  Yet Arab Christians have a wholly different view of the Crusades:

It is important, however, for us to listen to what many Middle Eastern Christians say to us on this subject. When I’ve taught about the Crusades for several years in introductory courses on Islam at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, the message that I heard from students goes like this: ‘Do you western Christians really need to have such a guilty conscience over the Crusades?’

Is it just that the students are ignorant of history?  No, not really.  The students continue:

‘Surely they were simply the delayed reaction of Christendom – delayed by four centuries – to the Islamic conquest. Western Christians today may want to apologise for the Crusades; but are Muslim Arabs ever going to apologise for the initial Arab Islamic conquests? Were the Crusades not an entirely natural and inevitable reaction on the part of Christendom to the loss of territories which had been ruled by Christians for centuries?’

Which really should be recognized if one wants to speak half-knowledgeably about the Crusades.

While looking more into this issue of conquests, Christendom, and the invasions that continue to shape today’s Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, I came across an interesting bit of history.  The Forgotten Armenian Genocide of 1019 AD, by Raymond Ibrahim.  Now, I am familiar with the Armenian Genocide of 1915 – and I have touched on this before.  But 1019?  This is news to me.  Ibrahim writes of the recent April 24 commemoration day of the 1915 genocide:

Ironically, most people, including most Armenians, are unaware that the first genocide of Christian Armenians at the hands of Muslim Turks did not occur in the twentieth century; rather it began in 1019 -- exactly one thousand years ago this year -- when Turks first began to pour into and transform a then much larger Armenia into what it is today, the eastern portion of modern-day Turkey.

He describes brutal acts, continuing for decades; hundreds of cartloads of plunder, mostly taken from churches; the siege and destruction of Ani – then the capital of Armenia and known as the City of 1001 Churches; the worst atrocities against those most visibly Christian: priests and monks.

Such is an idea of what Muslim Turks did to Christian Armenians -- not during the Armenian Genocide of a century ago but exactly one thousand years ago, starting in 1019, when the Turkic invasion and subsequent colonization of Armenia began.


The Crusades didn’t happen in a vacuum.


  1. We are talking humans, here. No side will be entirely innocent. Islam does, however, have a history of forcible conversion right from its beginning whereas Christian conversion by force started way after Christ.

  2. Rodney Stark has an excellent book on exactly this subject. It's well worth a read

  3. I always cringe when I read about *Christians* in history. After reading the source book on Christianity, the New Testament, I find there is no connection from what Jesus Christ taught and what transpired after he ascended. The comment about when did they become Christian was on the day of Pentecost is very accurate and true according to the bible. What is described in history with the crusades and any other war or conflict is not Christian. Jesus Christ didn't teach any Christian to covet this earth or anything earthly. The teachings in the bible are so counter to what all historians describe. Using todays current wording, it is fake news. So based on this one must try to determine when did the Christian church backslide? Where does one find the actual true Christian church today?

  4. And then there was Genghis Khan. Where is he when you really, really need him?

  5. "What took so long? Well, keep in mind that after the fall of Rome, those living in Europe had their hands full with the basic task of creating something approaching a civilized world. They also had their hands full with internal consolidation – often in ways that were less-than-peaceful, with Charlemagne offering a good example. They also had their hands full with the Vikings – who would regularly sail even into Paris and other inland cities and set up shop for plunder."

    There is another explanation called the phantom time hypothesis. This theory, first formulated by Heribert Illig from Germany, states that about 300 years of history have been injected. Most likely candidate are the early Dark Ages, from 500AD to 1000AD. They were in fact so dark that you have to wonder if humans being even existed. No churches build, no pottery found, no change in styles, no graveyards, no nothing. If you believe that the years from 600 to 900 never existed, then the fall of the Western Roman empire is all of a sudden quite quickly followed by the Crusades as a defensive war against islamic conquests. There is actually quite a bit more evidence in favor of the phantom time hypothesis, most notably the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in October 1582 where only 10 days needed to be injected in order to align the human calendar again with the earth's calendar in stead of the 13 days that were expected; with 1 day corresponding more or less with one century as the Julian calendar was 11 minutes off per year, which, over time, adds up. There are also good arguments against the phantom time hypothesis. It must be said. But it would explain a lot. It also has links to the Pirenne-thesis that it was not the great movements of people that caused the collapse of the cultural and economic unity around the Mediterranean but the muslim conquests.

    Most info is in German but I found below links if you're interested.

  6. Been reading The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins. Fascinating account of the Eastern church. Lots of racial, religious, and cultural players in the middle East at that time.

  7. Mr. M - you may have already answered this question, but may I ask if you are Protestant, Roman Catholic, or...?



    1. Mr. Spock, I have been asked this before but I have not answered. When asked before, I just ignored the question. This time I will still not answer, but at least explain why I will not.

      There are two reasons I do not answer: first, to answer it properly will take some explanation – even some theology. It will only open up my religious views as a topic for others to examine. I do not believe this blog is an appropriate forum for this examination.

      Second, I expect my answer to this will taint the flavor of the conversation – one way or another: “BM writes this only because he is X,” or “How can BM write these things given that he is Y?”

      I want the conversation to be the conversation – without turning it into a referendum on me or my religious views. The flavor of my Christian beliefs should be irrelevant to the dialogue and where it is leading me in my examination of libertarianism and culture via this blog.

    2. Not an unexpected answer (and I was afraid that you would say you had already answered or explained it previously and I should have known what it was.) And a good one that is understandable and nothing to argue about.

      But let me explain why I asked. I had always kind of figured that you were some sort of non-denominational Protestant. Nothing specific that points there – just a gut feeling based on how you phrase things – with one exception.

      I am a non-denominational Protestant for what it’s worth. It has always bothered me when someone refers to the Roman Catholic Church as “the Church.” I’m sure you know that the church (ekklēsia or called out ones) is the body of believers, not a building down on the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk.

      That would then include all true Christians, if I can use that term, no matter where they park their rear ends on Sunday morning (or whatever day instead of, or in addition to, that they worship.)

      So that would include people in all kinds of Protestant denominations, even some cults (a small number of members of the cult, not the cult itself), and the Roman Catholic Church.

      Personally, my belief is that a very small percentage of Catholics are Christians. If you’d like to know why, we can pursue that, but I’m sure you’re familiar with the Protestant arguments against Catholicism.

      It is common in the media to refer to the Catholic Church as “the Church” – whether in fiction (think Blue Bloods, e.g.) or real life (think the broadcasts from the Vatican on TV on Christmas Eve.)

      But they are not the church, imo, not even a major part of it; although, as I said above, there are certainly Christians in the Catholic Church.

      So if I may ask, why is it that rather than referring to the Roman Catholic Church as just that, why do you refer to them as the Church, as if there is no other or they are the “official” church? Not being contentious, just asking, if you are willing to answer.

  8. I have a feeling that the guilt over the Crusades is something young and originated during a certain time frame.
    The narratives and the guilt complex surrounding it positively reek of 60s radicalism, postcolonialism and an academia thouroughly infiltrated by Fabian cancer.

    1. That is also my understanding. The Crusades were put on the agenda again by intellectuals from the Middle East who learned about it at the Sorbonne. They had actually almost completely forgotten about it. Which is not so strange if you have afterwards received a visit from Djenghis Kahn and his Mongolian hordes. How do you think that was?

  9. How is it possible to have a small percentage of Christian's in the Catholic church? Sounds impossible to have a Christian on a pagan church. I guess I will have to read the new testament again.