Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


One of the least understood events in history is a period of time popularly called the "Crusades," though this term is only about 150-200 years old. There is a lot of talk about this era, but not much information. Here is an interesting section from the book "The Great Divide," by Alvin Schmidt. It's a long quote, but those of you interested in history will find it interesting:

"The verb “crusade,” as Thomas F. Madden, a historian of the Crusades, has rightly noted, is a modern, not a medieval, word. The same is true with the noun “Crusades.” The latter is commonly used to refer to the European military expeditions in the Middle Ages that were launched in November of 1095 with a sermon by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont (France) and ended in 1291 with the fall of Acre. Both the verb and noun are derived from the Latin crucesignati- “people known by the sign of the cross.”

For some time, the word “crusade” has been a highly negative term- both in the West and in the Middle East. The negative connotation of the word is currently being reinforced by many Muslims and by some of their defenders. They accuse the United States and Britain of being modern “Crusaders” in their response to the Islamist terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. There is a certain twisted logic in renewing the negative tone of the word Crusaders by applying it to the Americans and the British fighting terrorism, for it was not they who destroyed the lives of nearly 3,000 people on that tragic day. It was the militant Muslims.

Even before the events of September 11, many in the West have for some time had primarily a pejorative understanding of the medieval Crusades. They believe the Crusaders were evil because they fought the “peace-loving” Muslims in Palestine and neighboring areas in the Middle Ages. This has a lot to do with the fact that there is much about the Crusades of the Middle Ages that has not been told in history books and articles…..

Chapter 2 mentioned some of the many conquests and foreign wars (jihads) that the Arab Muslims engaged in, immediately following Muhammed’s death in 632. These Islamic jihads, it will be recalled, included invading Palestine in 633, Yarmouk in 636, Syria in 637, Jerusalem in 638, Egypt in 641, Persia in 642, the northern part of Africa in 643, and Spain in 711. Then another invasion took place, but it failed to gain a foothold in France in the Battle of Pointiers/Tours in 732.

Even after 732 the Islamic aggressions continued, spreading to other parts of Europe. Sicily was invaded in 827 and eventually conquered in 902. In 846 the Muslims entered the city of Rome, where they plundered the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul. In addition, there were intermittent attacks against Christians in Spain during the 10th and 11th centuries… in 1091 Muslims drove the Christian priests out of Jerusalem

It certainly gives one a different take on the motivations and driving forces behind the Crusades. The author (Schmidt) doesn't defend the Crusades, but he does try to help us understand the defensive nature of the Crusades, and he makes the case that the Crusades are an exception to the norm in Christianity- a conclusion with which I concur. I'm personally fascinated by studying history because I find that so much of what the popular culture understands about history is simply not accurate. The same is true of the Crusades. Anyone interested in this topic will find an interesting exploration of it in parts of Schmidt's book.


Post a Comment

<< Home