Obama’s Take On Crusades Is Ignorant, Here’s What Really Happened
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “So we can dispense of one of the mythologies right there, that they were a search for gold and treasure, which is just absolute baloney. That’s bunco history. It’s not true. Don’t believe it.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. Well, Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity — and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion — has no abode. [Mike: I talked about this last hour, by the way. If you missed, it get it on demand, siriusxm.com/ondemand. Go get it right now.] Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.
With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed’s death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt — once the most heavily Christian areas in the world — quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.
That is what gave birth to the Crusades.
Mike: So we can dispense of one of the mythologies right there, that they were a search for gold and treasure, which is just absolute baloney. That’s bunco history. It’s not true. Don’t believe it. Back to Professor Madden:
They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to push back the conquests of Islam at the Council of Clermont in 1095.
Mike: By the way, you can look this up. You can read the proceedings of the Council of Clermont and you can see what Urban said. You can see what the leaders that would become the knights that were gathered there, you can see what they said in response. You’ll know why they went to the Holy Land. By the way, all this history is in Michael Davies’ four lectures about the Crusades. They’re just brilliant. They’re great history. The latter Crusades, I haven’t finished the sixth, seventh and eighth. I’ve got one more to listen to, but I have made it all the way through Constantinople. Let me continue on with Professor Madden.
The response was tremendous. Many thousands of warriors took the vow of the cross and prepared for war.
Mike: Folks, this is why they had the smock on, which they had to make themselves. It was an act of penance to make the smock with the cross on it. They didn’t have slaves — as is portrayed in some movies — making the smock. If you were going to be a knight and you were going to go into service in the Crusades, you had to make your own smock. This was part of your service to Almighty God. It was part of the ritual of being admitted into the army. Put that in your pipes and smoke it.
Why did they do it? The answer to that questions has been badly misunderstood. In the wake of the Enlightenment, it was usually asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne’er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. The Crusaders’ expressed sentiments of piety, self-sacrifice, and love for God were obviously not to be taken seriously. They were only a front for darker designs.
During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. [Mike: Folks, you don’t sail from England all the way to Jerusalem in a boat with 60 of your mates in shining armor for 15 cents. It takes money. You have to make the uniforms, you have to build the ship, etc., etc. This is done in advance, by the bye.] They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. [Mike: In other words, they were looking for Christ’s relics, one of which they did fine.] They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.
Urban II gave the Crusaders two goals, both of which would remain central to the eastern Crusades for centuries. The first was to rescue the Christians of the East. As his successor, Pope Innocent III, later wrote:
“How does a man love according to divine precept his neighbor as himself when, knowing that his Christian brothers in faith and in name are held by the perfidious Muslims in strict confinement and weighed down by the yoke of the heaviest servitude, [Mike: In other words, they were slaves.] he does not devote himself to the task of freeing them? …Is it by chance that you do not know that many thousands of Christians are bound in slavery and imprisoned by the Muslims, tortured with innumerable torments?”
“Crusading,” Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith has rightly argued, was understood as “an act of love”—in this case, the love of one’s neighbor. The Crusade was seen as an errand of mercy to right a terrible wrong. As Pope Innocent III wrote to the Knights Templar, “You carry out in deeds the words of the Gospel, ‘a Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.’” [Mike: That’s from the Gospel; that’s Christ speaking.]
The second goal was the liberation of Jerusalem [Mike: This is where it gets a little more interesting.] and the other places made holy by the life of Christ. The word Crusade is modern. Medieval Crusaders saw themselves as pilgrims, performing acts of righteousness on their way to the Holy Sepulcher. The Crusade indulgence they received as canonically related to the pilgrimage indulgence. This goal was frequently described in feudal terms. When calling the Fifth Crusade in 1215, Innocent III wrote:
“Consider most dear sons, consider carefully that if any temporal king was thrown out of his domain and perhaps captured, would he not, when he was restored to his pristine liberty and the time had come for dispensing justice look on his vassals as unfaithful and traitors…unless they had committed not only their property but also their persons to the task of freeing him? …And similarly will not Jesus Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords, whose servant you cannot deny being, who joined your soul to your body, who redeemed you with the Precious Blood…condemn you for the vice of ingratitude and the crime of infidelity if you neglect to help Him?”
The reconquest of Jerusalem, therefore, was not colonialism but an act of restoration and an open declaration of one’s love of God. Medieval men knew, of course, that God had the power to restore Jerusalem Himself — indeed, He had the power to restore the whole world to His rule. Yet as St. Bernard of Clairvaux preached, His refusal to do so was a blessing to His people . . .
Mike: This is St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who, by the bye, entertained the idea of joining one of the Crusades, actually, I believe, got on one of the boats but they couldn’t get the boat into the — the wind would not prevail. In other words, the hand of Almighty God kept saying: Bernard, your place is not in a Crusade. I believe that’s how the story goes, either that or he made it to near one of the Crusades but was never close enough and then returned back to his — he founded the Cistercian monks, St. Bernard. So Bernard wrote this:
“Again I say, consider the Almighty’s goodness and pay heed to His plans of mercy. He puts Himself under obligation to you, or rather feigns to do so, that He can help you to satisfy your obligations toward Himself…. I call blessed the generation that can seize an opportunity of such rich indulgence as this.”
Mike: Bernard also called that Crusade that he was writing about, he called it a just war. He actually used the term “just war.” With Obama throwing the Crusades into the mix yesterday as evidence that early Christians were just as savage as today’s barbaric Muslims in ISIS is just preposterous. The president ought to retract it. Some historians ought to send him a letter and inform him of his deceit. Send it professionally, lovingly, and with all due respect, Mr. President, you’re wrong and here’s why. Yet the whole world has picked upon this and now everybody has gone Christian bashing again. [mocking] “Yeah, the Christians were just as bad as the Muslims.” No, they weren’t, they were conquered by the Muslims.
Read the story of St. John — the Pole who rescued Vienna, St. John Sobieski, who rescued King Leopold’s kingdom of Vienna from 300,000 Turk Ottomans that were going to kill every woman and child. I’ve read you the story on the show before. The Ottoman Turks said: I’m coming in to kill all the women and children first, your majesty, and then I’m coming for you. Then I’m going to use you as a gateway to get to Rome, and then I’m going to kill the pope. These people had done nothing to the Turks, nothing.
The Crusades were wars, so it would be a mistake to characterize them as nothing but piety and good intentions. Like all warfare, the violence was brutal (although not as brutal as modern wars). [Mike: By the way, I made that distinction earlier.] There were mishaps, blunders, and crimes. These are usually well-remembered today. During the early days of the First Crusade in 1095, a ragtag band of Crusaders led by Count Emicho of Leiningen, made its way down the Rhine, robbing and murdering all the Jews they could find. Without success, the local bishops attempted to stop the carnage. In the eyes of these warriors, the Jews, like the Muslims, were the enemies of Christ. Plundering and killing them, then, was no vice. Indeed, they believed it was a righteous deed, since the Jews’ money
could be used to fund the Crusade to Jerusalem. But they were wrong, and the Church strongly condemned the anti-Jewish attacks.
Fifty years later, when the Second Crusade was gearing up, St. Bernard frequently preached that the Jews were not to be persecuted:
“Ask anyone who knows the Sacred Scriptures what he finds foretold of the Jews in the Psalm. ‘Not for their destruction do I pray,’ it says. The Jews are for us the living words of Scripture, for they remind us always of what our Lord suffered…. Under Christian princes they endure a hard captivity, but ‘they only wait for the time of their deliverance.’”
Nevertheless, a fellow Cistercian monk named Radulf stirred up people against the Rhineland Jews, despite numerous letters from Bernard demanding that he stop. At last Bernard was forced to travel to Germany himself, where he caught up with Radulf, sent him back to his convent, and ended the massacres.
It is often said that the roots of the Holocaust can be seen in these medieval pogroms. That may be. But if so, those roots are far deeper and more widespread than the Crusades. Jews perished during the Crusades, but the purpose of the Crusades was not to kill Jews. [Mike: As I said last hour, it was to liberate the Holy Land from Muslim conquering.] Quite the contrary: Popes, bishops, and preachers made it clear that the Jews of Europe were to be left unmolested. In a modern war, we call tragic deaths like these “collateral damage.” Even with smart technologies, the United States has killed far more innocents in our wars than the Crusaders ever could. But no one would seriously argue that the purpose of American wars is to kill women and children.
Mike: I’m glad he made that distinction.
End Mike Church Show Transcript