The Truth about the Crusades:  Part 1

The Truth about the CrusadesThe other night, I gave a lecture on a non-controversial topic entitled, “Thank God for the Crusades.”  Right about now, you may be wondering:

“How can you say that?  Weren’t the Crusades nothing more than a black mark on Catholic history?  Weren’t they just a long series of intolerant attacks by the Catholic Church against peaceful Muslims? Unprovoked Holy Wars which sought to convert or destroy everyone who denied the Catholic worldview?  A way to grow wealthy and establish a European colonialism?”

While many people fall prey to these myths and misconceptions, the above statements are not true.  The Crusades are one of the most condemned events in history and one of the most misunderstood events in history.

For example, I had the privilege of speaking every week with some Mormon missionaries for hours.  It was always polite and enjoyable, but one day, a missionary blurted out that, “Catholics had the Crusades, the Inquisition, three popes at one time…”  I answered; “Those are all good concerns, but let’s discuss them one at a time.  When we came to the Crusades, I immediately asked the missionaries:

–         “What years did the Crusades take place?”  [A deer in the headlights look came over their face followed by a long silence].

–         “What was the name of the Pope at the time?”  [Awkwardly long silence then accompanied by shoulder shrugs].

–         “What was the backdrop, the historical circumstances happening at the time?”

Again, there was long awkward silence and a feeling of embarrassment.  Like most people, they had heard many claims about the Crusades, but when it really came down to it, they hadn’t studied them and knew nothing about them.  This is a common problem.  While countless accusations abound as to why the Crusades took place, we don’t need to guess at the reasons.  We have a long letter that the Pope wrote as to why the Crusades were started.  It’s pretty black and white.  No assumptions needed.  The letter easily dispels the many countless myths that are just repeated like a mantra.

Pope Urban II called for Crusades in Nov. 1095 in Clermont, France, and if you read his actual letter and not anti-Catholic rhetoric, his reasons are clearly delineated as to why the Crusades were started:

1.      To come to the aid of the emperor and the Byzantine Christians

2.      To help protect Christians around the world who were being persecuted and killed

3.      To re-conquer the holy Land and create a safe passage for pilgrims to travel there

All of this we will see clearly in the next blog posts.  Click here for Part II, “The Truth about the Crusades.”