Monday, May 14, 2007

Lessons From the Crusades

I still have one more week until I start my summer internship. Of course I've been using my brief vacation to shove as much information into my cranium as possible; I finally finished Sexual Personae, which took me literally months to read.

In its stead I have picked up, among other things, Paul Johnson's A History of Christianity. I am enjoying it immensely, and have found some of his insight into the crusades to be prescient given our attempts to bring Democracy to the Iraqi people. Let the reader judge if any of this sounds familiar:

There was never, at any stage, a mass-demand from the Christians under Moslem rule to be 'liberated'. (p. 243)

When Tripoli fell to them, in 1109, the Genoese sailors destroyed the Banu Ammar library, the finest in the Moslem world. In general, the effect of the crusades was to undermine the intellectual content of Islam, to destroy the chances of peaceful adjustment to Christianity, and to make Moslems far less tolerant: crusading fossilized Islam into a fanatic posture. (p. 246)

History tends to repeat itself. The Iraqis didn't clamor for liberation either. Nor will they be likely to get it. And if the crusades "fossilized Islam into a fanatic posture" which has lasted for almost one thousand years it is anyone's guess what the ramifications of the latest crusade will be. True, American troops have not, as yet, burned any libraries, but I think it unlikely that the bombing of Iraqi villages will serve to placate radical Muslims. It is worth noting, too, that the crusades ultimately failed. True, Jerusalem was held for most of a century, but it is no longer in Christian hands.

The crusades were undertaken, ostensibly, for the greater good of Christianity. That they provided a convenient way for the clerics to dismiss the ever-growing mobs of peasants is part of the story, but the impetus for the crusades was not identical to their actual goal. And again I note that if warring on infidels in the name of religion was, at the very least, of dubious moral value, it is far truer to hold little esteem for those who war, not in the name of Christ Jesus crucified, but in that of Democracy.

I do not think either the past crusades nor those of the present were morally defensible, but the recent ones are completely off in their object. A man might live and die for Christ--he may even kill, rightly or wrongly, for Him. The point being that belief in Christ is quite literally a life and death matter. But that such drastic measures would be taken on the account of a form of government which has proven itself to be less than magnanimous is a mite ridiculous and further evidence of the bizarre nature of modern man and his asinine adventures which he is wont to wage.

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