Comments (with permission) from the knolwegable Suzannah Rowntree, in regard to the crusades [and my comments in square brackets]:
So I said I’d share something about the Crusades…
The thing that fascinates me about the Crusades is how they’re a sort of litmus test for modern Christians: what a person thinks of the Crusades can more or less tell you what they think of dominion.
The Crusaders had a much better developed idea of dominion – despite some odd medieval quirks – than we do. Their purpose in going to the East boiled down to two basic motives: first, to help and defend the still-majority-Christian population of the Levant against oppressive Turkish occupational forces; second, to fight for land which they believed in a very literal political sense belonged to Christ. Since they as knights saw themselves as owing Christ their ultimate loyalty, they had an obligation, they believed, to fight for his land and people. Their conception of the kingdom was a much less spiritual, much more earthy idea than that of most Christians. And that’s what makes them such a tough pill to swallow, even for Christians who generally haven’t accepted the modern misinformation on this area of history.
[I don’t mind this-world victories for Christ, vis-a-vis the usual band of conquerors, liars, thieves, murderers, and oppressors – regardless of the (a)theistic mask they have chosen to wear today. To some limited extent, the old medieval men saw the Kingdom of Christ to be an actual kingdom, in the here and now: and Christians look out for each other.
With swords (…or rifles…) if need be.]
That’s a shame, because what the Crusaders did once they reached the East was an incredible display of long-term dominion thinking allied with some weapons-grade HOPE. They didn’t just go home. Many chose to stay and defend what they’d won. They settled down, intermarried with local Christians, raised families, rebuilt cities, villages, fortresses, and churches (no serious historian pretends to claim that Palestine was anything but a depopulated wasteland after 400 years of Muslim occupation), cultivated farmland, built a trading empire, grew gardens, negotiated truces with surrounding Muslim-ruled areas which protected the Christians living there, and forged an incredible tradition of art and architecture. For 200 years.
[They failed in the end (for reasons Rowntree will get into later), but I agree with the point: the goal, the sweat, and the blood was dedicated to victory, in the here and now.]
The Crusader States even became a haven for Shia and Nizari Muslims who would have been persecuted elsewhere, to say nothing of the Sunnis who refused to move away because they knew they could trust the Franks to treat them better than their own coreligionists in other lands!
[The Endless Jihad is the Endless Jihad (shrug). It is still worth remembering that Justice is better found in Christian lands than in Muslim ones… even in medieval times.
This is not to say that there weren’t big problems, or big sins committed. One big area where I do think the Crusaders failed, with the shining exception of Francis Assisi, was in not trying to evangelise the Muslims around them. Saint Louis, the crusading king of the 1200s, even said it was better to kill a Muslim than argue with him, because it was not a common fighting man’s place to argue religion. So: big problems.
[Trusting in the sword of men, rather than the power of Christ’s word. As if conversing and saving the lives, the souls, and the culture of the heathen gave God lesser glory than simply killing them.
The laziness of soldiers, as opposed to intellectuals… but still laziness, a third-rate offering to God, a distinct lack of commitment and humility to God-King, Jesus Christ.
More strange fire offered to God – fire that God rejected, pointedly, after a period was given to repent.]
However, the Crusaders might have found us modern Christians equally as scandalous in our insistence that the persecuted Church should never try to defend itself, or should never be helped if it does – where is our love for Christ?
[Today’s Christians can be broadly dismissed as comfortable feminized cowards, bought off with some socialist gruel (“Free health care! Free pensions!”) stolen from them via taxes, and then rebranded as a Loving Gift of the State, and the Masters who
Hate Love You.
After a 50% cut ‘for handling’, of course.
Note that the wars of George W. Bush were never to help local Arab Christian believers, so it isn’t truly germane to the discussion. If that was the intention, then Saddam would have been forgiven for his invasion of Kuwait, and welcomed back to the fold of American allies… over any and all Israeli objections.
(The claims that Saddam supported Al Qaeda would have been blown off, as they should have been. If you really wanted to chase down that stream of money, I recommend a visit to Our Loyal Allies, the Saudi’s…)
Now, if American Christian men choose to go and fight in the Middle East privately on behalf of the local Arab Christians, funded from their own wallets instead of tax revenue, and without dragging the entire nation into their chosen crusade… that would be an act of dominion. I have always felt that men have the right to fight and die for whom they please. They may even be right in doing so!
And I happen to know for a fact that a few have actually done so… brave men, indeed!]
On the question as to why the Crusaders were defeated:
In earthly terms, the Crusader States were too isolated from Christian Europe, with supply lines stretched too thin. There was never enough manpower and as the middle Ages progressed, centralisation of power meant that middlingly powerful nobles could no longer go on Crusade as easily as they had in the first 2-3 Crusades. Meanwhile, the money that kept the Crusader States afloat primarily came from the big East-West trade routes, which moved further north in the later 1200s as the Mongols opened up Central Asia. Another big source of money was the big crusading family dynasties – crusading was very much a multigenerational vision – but it was always a big drain financially and seems to have eventually worn them out. Finally, the presence of Christian states in the Levant always provided Muslims with a strong incentive to band together and stop killing each other. So there were a number of practical factors.
[Same thing, in bullet point format:
- Not enough reinforcements
- More money to the State, less money for Crusades. (Probably because the kings saw All That Money going to the Crusader states, and wanted it for themselves…)
- The East-West Trade routes moved to Mongol territory
- The major Crusading families got tapped out
- Local infidels made a unifying target for the Jihad: instead of killing their brothers, they decided to kill the foreigners.]
In more providential terms, it’s actually a miracle that the Crusader States existed in the first place. The First Crusade, which took place at a moment when Islam was divided and exhausted, should never have worked and it was a complete miracle that it did. Deus DID vult. The fact that it kept going for 200 years was another miracle. Contemporaries in 1291 at the final fall of Acre blamed the fall on the Crusader States’ lax morals, and I tend to think they had a good point: the medieval church, never strong, was weakening. They weren’t big on evangelism, they weren’t big on holiness, and they were judged accordingly. I think the Crusader States are an amazing example of good Christian politics, but a terrible example of Christian morals. Does that make sense?
Actually, it does!
As of 2016, I have a deeper trust in the dreams that God is sending to the Arabs than in any number of Western soldiers – who are desperately needed in their own homelands, by the way.
If I was a betting man, I would put real money that by AD 2300,
Saudi Arabia would have a greater Christian population (as a percentage of population, and maybe in absolute number too!) than Great Britain England and Wales will have. God is going to get the victory He wants, and I know for a fact that Europeans – especially Western Europeans – will have nothing to do with any act of God.