The Crusades: A Refresher Course.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14)

Many people believe that the Crusades were a series of self-righteous holy wars perpetrated against innocent Muslims. The Crusades have been blamed as the cause of the turn of Islam, when Muslim extremism was born to combat religious intolerance.

To correct these misconceptions, Thomas Madden, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University, offers a refresher course.

Christians in the 11th century (the first of the Crusades) were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims had been gunning for them since the 7th century. At that time, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth, and a prime target for the earliest caliphs through the next thousand years. The warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed’s death.

They were extremely successful. Muslims conquered all of North Africa (a major area of Christianity until that time) and Spain by the 8th century. In the 11th century, Asia Minor was overtaken as well. As we see today, Christians were forced to leave behind their faith and convert or die.

As in all wars, religious or political, there were mishaps and crimes, but plundering and senseless slaughter of civilians were a rarity. Still, war crimes seem to be the only part of the Crusades that people remember, even though these acts were strongly condemned and punished by the Church.

Without the Crusades, the world would look much different today. Christianity, as well as Judaism, would probably have been erased, along with religious liberty. Western culture would have ceased to exist, along with freedom from slavery and modern-day women’s rights.

They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left… rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:40-42)