Monday, December 13, 2004

The Crusades

The first sentences from Thomas Madden's A Concise History of the Crusades sets the tone for the adventurous historical exploration and learning to follow.

"Crusade" is a modern, not a medieval, word. It derives from crucesignati ("those signed by the cross"), a descriptive used occasionally after the twelfth century to refer to crusaders.

This book (I'm through the Third Crusade) reads like a novel -- a testament to Madden's skill in taking a complicated subject (especially in our time) and bringing it to life.

I remember when I moved back to California in 1997, I had been attending the Peninsula Vineyard Church. One Sunday afternoon I attended a small group planning to participate in the Reconciliation Walk.

The idea was (and remains) ecumenically intriguing and, ultimately, appealing.

On the subject of the Crusades, Madden's book thus far is unapologetically objective. In an age of rampant political correctness, this is refreshing.

It also allows the reader to learn and reflect before judging (inevitably with 21st Century hindsight).

Am I an apologist for the Crusades? No, but let me read the entire book. I've already learned what is generally true of history -- all is not necessarily black and white. Madden notes recent scholarship which suggests many, and not just the poor, were supportive of the Crusades for the Cross, not money. Can this be reconciled with the Gospel? What does history teach would have been the result of a Christian Europe leaving the Levant to Islam (and what of Byzantium)?

Perhaps more importantly, what can we distill from a millennium of Christianity at least as savage and bloody as the Old Testament?

Confirmation of Sin?

Lastly, what to do about jihad? Are we to negotiate and accommodate?

Do we accept and tolerate the murder of artists who criticize Islam? Do we accept and tolerate the destruction of thousands of our fellow citizens and symbols of American strength?

If not, what do we do?

How different is dropping bombs on women and children, albeit unintentionally, from taking life with a sword?

Do the implements of death enable a diminished respect for life when the blood is literally not on our hands?

I apologize for the rhetorical fatigue, but these questions I have thought about for some time, and our time requires clear and reasoned thinking in accordance with Jesus' teachings. As many Christian writers have observed, the concept of self-defense, let alone Just War Doctrine (more so yet pre-emptive attacks), is not a trivial line of thought.

As you can see from my questions, I cannot yet answer:

What Would Jesus Do, and can we do it?