Several years ago I was invited to receive knighthood in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. This is an honor conferred by the Vatican and is a very big deal. However, I had a somewhat important reservation. The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of course have their origin from the Crusades. At the time I remember thinking, “Wait, weren’t the Crusades a bad thing? Aren’t we kind of embarrassed by the Crusades?” I decided I needed to do some learning about the Crusades, quickly.
In doing some internet searching I came across a book entitled “The New Concise History of the Crusades” by Thomas F. Madden. As providence would have it, Dr. Madden is the leading American expert on the Crusades. This was not a short book or a simple book, but I read it cover to cover. I’m so glad I did. Not only did Dr. Madden remove any doubts I had about accepting knighthood in the EOHSJ, but he actually made me proud of the Crusades and what our Catholics brothers and sisters had done almost a thousand years ago.
Yes, that’s right; not only should we not be ashamed of the Crusades, we should be very proud! If you don’t understand that yet, I urge you to do some research.
Recently at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama showed what happens when we speak from uninformed hearsay. In what must be the greatest factual error in the history of Crusade misinformation, he equated the defensive rescue mission of the Crusades with modern day Islamic terrorists who murder by the thousands those who refuse to convert to Islam. Making such a connection is grossly negligent; however, there is in fact a connection between the Crusades and modern Islamic jihad.
The Crusades were launched in response to the Islamic conquest of the day. Wealthy and comfortable Christians in Europe left their families and their fortunes, traveling hundreds of miles, to save their Christian brothers and sisters whom they had never met. Over a third of the Crusaders died and never returned home. If they did manage to to make it home, most were financially ruined, having spent their entire life’s fortune on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They did this not for land or glory, but for the physical salvation of their brothers and sisters and the spiritual salvation of their own souls.
It is true that some Crusaders did terribly sinful things. This happens in war. War is never good, but sometimes it is justified and even required of morally upright people. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” PeaceMAKERS: Peace doesn’t just happen; sometimes it has to be made. When Islamic terrorists began killing Christians, taking their homes, and desecrating the holy places a thousand years ago, Christians took up arms to stop the unjust aggression and to restore peace.
In the face of Islamic aggression a thousand years ago, the leader of the free world at the time, the Holy Father, formed a rescue mission while reminding the Crusaders, “Greater love has no man than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It was a noble, self-sacrificing, holy thing. In the face of far worse Islamic aggression today, the leader of the free world won’t even acknowledge that there is an unjust aggressor, told us not to “get on our high horse,” and then called our Christian ancestors terrorists.
I thought I would post some links to good articles about the Crusades, but happily I am finding that the internet is now filled with them today. Just do a search and you will find lots of helpful information. Crusade scholars have long bemoaned the fact that people are so uninformed and that there seemed to be no way to set things straight. In an amazing twist, President Obama’s comments might just be the spark that actually gets people to learn about the Crusades and stop being embarrassed.