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» The crusades? A pointless comparison

HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

The crusades? A pointless comparison

Written February 6th, 2015 by Hasso Hering

crusade 1What do we know about the crusades? Almost nothing, I bet. So President Obama might have done everybody a favor with his ill-considered reference to events going back almost a thousand years. He caused some of us to try to refresh what we we read about in school — and in comic books about Richard the Lion-Hearted — many years ago.

The president’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, about religion sometimes inspiring bad acts, were true enough but puzzling in the context of the here and now. “Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” he said. “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ…”

People have committed terrible deeds throughout history, but that doesn’t mean we should not condemn and try to prevent terrible deeds done now. What we should not do is judge long-ago historical events from the perspective of civilization in the 21st century. We can recount the events, and in the case of the Crusades there are many different versions and opinions, but we can’t possibly understand what was in the minds of our ancestors in 1096, when the first crusade began.

The story is that through the Middle Ages, Christians were free to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land, controlled by Arabs since the seventh century. But in 1071 Seljuk Turks, who had taken much of Asia Minor from Byzantium, captured Jerusalem and began inerfering with Christian pilgrims. That’s what gave rise to a call, at the Council of Clermont in France in 1095, for liberating the sacred sites.

Over the century that followed, there would be four major campaigns to do so, with limited success and generally disastrous results. There were more crusades until the 1400s, but by the end of that century, the Holy Land remained in the hands of Muslims, Columbus had set sail for the new world and Europe lost interest in the Middle East. Still, as historian Bryce Lyon of Brown University wrote in an article for an ancient encyclopedia, “The crusades quickened the progress of western Europe by bringing profit and prosperity to Italian trading cities. They enriched European life in many ways.”

What happened centuries ago does not excuse the deliberate cruelty of the Islamic State beheading helpless people or burning them to death in 2015, and for the president to try to make a comparison was foolish in the extreme. (hh)


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8 responses to “The crusades? A pointless comparison”

  1. Jim Clausen says:

    Interesting isn’t it? He chooses to rail against the Crusades, which ended centuries ago, while ignoring jihad, which has raged on for 1400 years…

  2. David Ballard says:

    “What happened centuries ago does not excuse the deliberate cruelty of the Islamic State beheading helpless people or burning them to death in 2015, …”

    “People have committed terrible deeds throughout history, but that doesn’t mean we should not condemn and try to prevent terrible deeds done now.”

    I agree.

    And apparently so does the President. In his prayer breakfast speech he said; “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. …… We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism …”

  3. Peg says:

    Somehow burning one person to death is horrid, but incinerating anonymous innocents with drones is OK. Go figure.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      ISIS is posting videos of their beheadings & immolations for pure shock/fear effect.

      Certainly “innocents” are being killed by drone strikes, because ISIS hides behind “innocents”.
      How many more innocents would be killed if we allow ISIS to survive?
      You can’t “play fair” with someone that “cheats” and prevail. Sad, but true.
      You’re “damned” if you do and “damned” if you don’t.

  4. Bob Woods says:

    So Hasso, where in the heck can you point to where Obama, or pretty much anyone else in authority in the western world, seeks to “…excuse the deliberate cruelty of the Islamic State beheading helpless people or burning them to death in 2015…” ???

    It sure wasn’t in the National Prayer Breakfast speech where he also said:

    “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

    We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.”

    And Jim Clausen failed mayoral candidate,says:

    “He chooses to rail against the Crusades, which ended centuries ago, while ignoring jihad, which has raged on for 1400 years…”

    That is a straight up lie Jim. You should apologize.

  5. Jim Engel says:

    Maybe the irony was missed by most. Our “closet” muslim was bashing the Christian Crusades because they stomped the muslims. Today, our “One Nation Under God” aka Christian army’s are again stomping on the muslims to end their viciousness! Maybe his message was to curry a bit of favor so as to appear not too anti-muslim…JE

  6. tom cordier says:

    I’ve listened/watched newscasts on the Obama NPB speech all weekend.
    Conclusion?? His comments were not appropriate nor helpful. Does anyone recall how candidate Obama found it almost impossible to separate himself from the hate monger
    Rev. Wright??
    Obama was raised as a Muslim—don’t know what sect. Although he professes to be Christian now–he finds it almost impossible to admit a problem exists within radical Islam because of his early associations and teachings.

  7. David Ballard says:

    “Over the century that followed, there would be four major campaigns to do so, with limited success and generally disastrous results.”

    An apt description of the Crusade campaigns of a millennium ago. Also, one could argue, a fair description of the incursion of the US and coalitions forces in the Middle East region of the past decade.

    Perhaps we could have learned something worthwhile to inform our decision of whether on not to invade the region by referencing that history. And even more so by taking into account the more recent difficulties of the Russians decade of hardship in the area.

 

 
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