The Crusades: Probably a lot more than you wanted to know

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Growing up, I detested history. I didn’t see why I had to learn about people I cared nothing for, and most of all, I had no patience to memorise all those dates (which would inevitably turn up on some exam). I escaped taking the subject in the last two years of high school only to have an unavoidable head-on collision with it in university. Incidentally, one of the first YouTube channels I subscribed to earlier this year was Crash Course World History. I’ve come full-circle. (Maybe it’s because I don’t have to sit history exams any more) :)

That said, I probably wouldn’t have looked into the history of the Crusades out of my own volition. In part, it would be because I wouldn’t know where to start looking: it’s not a topic we Christians like to talk about. Good for me that a follower of this blog, Eric Costanzo, recently completed a 6-part series on the Crusades:

  1. Deus Vult: Pope Urban II Calls for the First Crusaders in AD 1095 – Were the crusades an unprovoked attack by Latin (Western) Christians on the Muslim world?
  2. The First Crusade and Reclaiming the Holy City (AD 1096-99) – How things went very wrong very fast, and continued downhill.
  3. Bernard of Clairvaux and the Second Crusade (AD 1144-53) – The Latin Christians lose a key city, and consequently many lives and much land.
  4. Lionheart and the Third Crusade (AD 1187-93) – Saladin takes Jerusalem from the Christians and the Pope calls for a new crusade.
  5. The Fourth Crusade & Children’s Crusades: Perhaps Christendom’s Lowest Point (AD 1198-1212) – Those on the fourth crusade attack Eastern Christians, and the Pope rightly condemns them. Someone comes up with the idea that innocent children would succeed where adults had failed, with appalling consequences for the children.
  6. Final Crusades and Final Results (AD 1215-91) – What was there to show for 2 centuries of crusading efforts?

(Yes, I know my little summary statements are rather negative. Sorry.)

Some quick, random, incomplete observations:

  • Those Christians living 1,000 years ago needed to hear the quotation at the head of this post. Despite the slim successes they had, they kept on assembling armies to head East.
  • I’m struck by how quickly noble intentions were replaced by base and vile ones. Is it possible that we do things today under a thin veil of upholding Christ’s glory?
  • The crusading armies, it seems to me, engaged in selective reading of their Bibles. (I smiled at the report of the re-enactment of marching around Jericho in the first crusade.) It looks like they missed the part about Christ’s kingdom not being of this world (John 18:36).
  • The Latin Christians were, as I understand it, reacting to a loss of power and possessions.  Christendom was the dominant force in Western Europe and the concept of being a powerless minority (as in New Testament times)  was utterly unknown.
    As Christians in the 21st century see the reversal of society to pre-Christian, pagan norms  I hope and pray that we would respond in a manner worthy of the Saviour we profess.
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