|The Early Crusades|
Map from US Central Intelligence Agency, 1993
We hear it all the time. It's spoken on television, the radio, by public officials, even the president of the United States has repeated it. It's taught in our public schools, in our universities, so it seems it's just common knowledge. "Medieval Christians tried to spread their faith by the sword with the Crusades." The only problem is -- it's not true.
I could go into a long history lesson as to why it's not true, but I won't. Others have already done that, and they've done a far better job than I ever could. So instead of reaching into the past, I'm going to do something totally different. I'm going to reach out to the present. I'm going to pull up something from recent news, put it right into your face, to help you understand something that modern Westerners have failed to understand for decades. Fair warning, make sure there are no children in the room. Here it is...
This is the face of Islamic terrorism now, in the real world, in present time, here it is. These monsters represent something. They represent something the world has not seen in hundreds of years. This is the face of medieval Islam. What happened to those 21 Christians on that beach in Libya, indeed what is happening to hundreds of Christians across the Muslim world daily, is the same thing that happened to Christians in the Byzantine Empire and in Spain, tens of thousands of times over, prior to the Reconquista and Crusades centuries ago.
You see, the world has bought into a delusion that Islam is a religion of peace. That is not entirely true. We have to be more specific than that to be accurate. Islam can be divided into two basic categories -- modern and medieval. Modern Islam is a peaceful religion, but medieval Islam is not. What's the difference? To break it down simply, and yes, I know this is a bit overly simplistic, the difference is this. Medieval Islam takes the Koran very literally, while as modern Islam tends to interpret the Koran in more of a spiritual and esoteric kind of way.
Modern Islam relies heavily on scholars and imams to interpret the Koran for the common folk. The passages of the book are taken in a very symbolic and metaphorical kind of way, symbolising the inner struggle of good against evil, in the heart of individuals. Jihad, by this understanding, is merely an internal struggle, wherein the Muslim learns to overcome evil with good. This is modern Islam, and it is very liberal by historical standards. Most Muslims, throughout the world, adhere to this liberal standard of modern Islam to some degree or another. This is especially true in the West, because you see, it would be very hard for a Muslim to live a functional life in the Western world, if he didn't take the Koran in a symbolic, spiritual and esoteric kind of way. I happen to know dozens of Muslims, even here in my mid-sized Midwestern city, and I can tell you that I have never (not once) seen any of them whip our a prayer rug in the middle of the day and start bowing east toward Mecca. I'm not saying they don't do that at all. I'm sure they do. It's just that they don't do it in public, and that can only mean one thing. These Muslims I know take Islam in a very modern way, that is more spiritual and symbolic, which allows them the flexibility to function normally in our Western society. I do not dare to judge their level of devotion to Islam. As I think it would be wholly inappropriate for me, as a Christian, to say they are not devout. Who am I to say that!?! Am I a Muslim? So I cannot judge. All I can say is their understanding of Islam is modern, and it is such that allows them flexibility. Likewise, I also know these Muslims well enough to tell you that none of them are killers. They are peace-loving people, and some of them are healers (doctors, nurses and therapists). I have only witnessed compassion and empathy from them. Yes, they are peaceful people, and for them, I would agree that their modern understanding of Islam is peaceful. Modern Islam is a peaceful religion.
Medieval Islam is something entirely different. For it takes the Koran very literally and in an absolute (inflexible) sort of way. This is how Islam was practised by its largest proponents during medieval times, and it is this version of Islam (the original version) that modern day terrorists, jihadists and radicals want to go back to. Western politicians make a terrible mistake when they say that radical Islam is not a religion. It is a religion. It is the religious Islam that once was, went away for a while, and now is back again with a vengeance. The absolute terror that we are witnessing in the world today, a terror that many modern Muslims are beginning to react to with horror, is the resurgence of medieval Islam. It hasn't reared its ugly head in a long time. The Western world has been lulled into a sense of complacency, even to the point of ignorance. For the Western world has looked upon modern Islam, and applied what it saw toward medieval history. Western leaders, scholars and teachers, looked upon the peaceful tendencies of modern Muslims, and applied them to the medieval world, assuming that it must have been Christians who were the aggressors instead, but this is a horrendous error that is not substantiated by historical facts. To help Western people understand, particularly Americans (who tend to be especially clueless at times), let's try to make a comparison. Suppose we lived in a bizarre alternate universe, wherein suicide cult leaders like David Koresh and Jim Jones didn't kill themselves or their followers, but instead trained their followers to become killers and then led them into a conquest of North America. Securing large swaths of land for themselves and their followers, they instituted a religious state, wherein they interpreted the Bible in the most literal way possible, and then began attacking Canada, Mexico and executed prisoners from China and Russia. Why would they do this? Certainly they're not going to make any friends this way. But you see, making friends is not their objective. Their objective is ultimately suicidal. It's to cause the world to attack them, so that in their convoluted literal interpretation of the Bible, this will bring about Armageddon and expedite the return (second coming) of Jesus Christ. In many ways, this is what the Islamic State (ISIS) is attempting to do. They can be likened to a suicide cult, because that is their final objective. Their actions make no logical sense, because logic does not factor into them. They are adhering medieval Islam, which interprets the Koran in a hyper-literal way, and in doing so, they hope to expedite an Armageddon event that will result in a glorious age of worldwide Islamic rule. This is a form of Islam that modern Muslims have gradually rejected over the centuries since the Crusades, so in turn, these medieval Muslim throwbacks reject modern Muslims as well. This is why they have no problem killing them too.
The point I want to make here is this, for the first time in a very long time, the Western world is FINALLY getting to see the ugly face of medieval Islam again. Their intent is to kill as many Christians as possible, and make as many enemies as possible, because the world is their enemy. Their only friend is medieval Islam, and they will stop at nothing until the world is converted. Under medieval Islam (a form of Islam that most modern Muslims have rejected), it's okay to kill non-Muslims in the most brutal and heinous way possible. It's okay to rape non-Muslim women. It's okay to enslave children and use them as sex toys. It's okay because an absolute most-literal interpretation of the Koran and the life of Mohammad says it's okay. Again, I want to stress here, that this is an interpretation of the Koran that most modern Muslims have rejected, hence the creation of modern Islam (a more liberal and spiritualistic religion).
So what are the Western powers doing about ISIS today. Why, we're bombing them of course! A few Muslim states (currently Jordan, Egypt and the UAE) have even decided to join us in this campaign! Who can blame them really? Muslims have been working for a long time to shed the image of their medieval past, and now ISIS has come along reminding the whole world of it in the most graphic way they can! These countries have every right to be upset, and they have every right to defend themselves against this destructive madness. So do we! We here in the West have every right to defend ourselves against the destructive madness of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and other medieval Islamic throwbacks. Why? Because these people are not just a threat to Christians in their own regions, they are likewise a threat to everybody in the West (including modern Muslims who live here). They sponsor terrorism in the West. Remember 9/11? What are we supposed to do? Should we stand idle and let medieval Muslims shoot us and bomb us? Should we bow down and let them slit our throats and decapitate us? Shall we pay the jizya tax, and hand over our wives and daughters to be raped? Shall we convert to Islam against our will? No! And the modern Muslims I know agree with me on that! We have every right to defend ourselves against the threat of medieval Islam, just as they do! Likewise, if we have that right, so did the medieval Christians!
This is the point I'm driving home. What we are facing today, is just like what the medieval Christians faced, except it was tens of thousands of times worse! The Muslim conquest of the Christian Byzantine Empire was horrendous. The Muslim conquest of southern Spain was just as bad, if not worse! Christians didn't surrender to Islamic forces because they wanted to. They surrendered because there were terrified, and they didn't have the resources to defend themselves. The modern world forgets, especially we in the West, that medieval Christianity was nearly conquered by Islam. The eastern Christian Byzantine Empire was falling to Islam rapidly. It would eventually collapse, both from external pressure by Islam, and internal chaos. Everything that is now Muslim territory around the Mediterranean Sea was once Christian land -- all of it! All of Northern Africa was once Christian. All of the Holy Land was once Christian. All of Asia Minor (Turkey) was once Christian. All of it! Medieval Muslims didn't just stroll in to these regions, hand out flowers, and sing "here we are, la-de-da, let's all be Muslims now!" No! They came in by force, killing thousands, burning cities to the ground, rampaging and terrorising entire populations. This went on for centuries -- centuries!!! Christians endured this for hundreds of years!!! Then, only after Muslims began to advance into Europe, and the end of Christianity looked to be on the horizon, did the Church authorise the Crusades, which like the Reconquista in Spain, sought only to retake those lands previously owned by Christians, and only a fraction of them at that. Of particular interest was Asia Minor (Turkey) and the Holy Land. When the crusaders retook the Holy Land, they did not force Muslims to convert. That is myth. Forced conversion was forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church. Take a look at the map above. There you will see the reality of what happened. All the blue (Muslim) areas from the Holy Land westward were originally Christian. Stop and consider that. Think of the vast territory. Thousands of square miles of land once Christian, now under Islamic rule. Did the crusaders try to take it back? No. All they wanted was this little strip of the Holy Land, and Asia Minor (Turkey) to assist their Eastern Christian brethren who called for their help.
Now, does that mean the Crusades were perfect. No. There were isolated incidences of tragedy, wherein Jews were killed, and even Eastern Christians were killed. That was never the intent of the Crusades, but it did happen. Today, when this sort of thing happens, we call it "friendly fire" and "collateral damage." It happens when military commanders screw up, or something doesn't go as planned. We generally accept it today, as one of the unintended consequences of war. Collateral damage was especially high during World War II, before the age of "smart bombs" and computer targeting. We have friends of our family who suffered through this in Germany, as allied bombs ripped through their neighbourhoods, schools and markets. Probably no nation is more familiar with the effects of modern collateral damage than Japan, which endured three allied bombings, in which civilians populations were deliberately attacked to expedite the end of the war. I'm talking about the fire bombing of Tokyo, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We could go all the way back to the American Civil War, in which Union General Sherman lit fire to every Confederate farm, plantation and city that stood between him and the Atlantic Ocean. This was war made on civilians, for the express purpose of breaking the enemy's spirit and ending the war. More recently, with the invention of "smart bomb" technology, such collateral damage is more unintended, but it still happens nonetheless. In the 2003 Iraq War, some 12,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, mostly by American bombs and the aftermath thereof. In the modern world, we are accustomed to this. So why is it so "inexcusable" in the medieval world, especially when Christian crusaders are involved? Why are hundreds of years of medieval Islamic jihad overlooked, even omitted, when talking about the Crusades? Let's keep this in mind here. Medieval Christians endured hundred of years of: beheading, immolation, rape, pillage, murder, mayhem, subjugation, and slavery, before they finally did anything about it. How long have we waited? For the modern world, this sort of thing has only been going on for a few years, and yet we're ready to send in the bombers and tanks. What does that say about us in comparison to medieval Christians. They were the patient ones. They were the long-suffering ones. They were the ones who exemplified Christian virtue, and martyrdom, all the way until their own extinction was within sight. Then, rather than go quietly into the night, after hundreds of years of being slaughtered, Christians finally fought back. How did they fight back? Did they launch a massive invasion into all of Africa and the Middle East, with millions of foot soldiers? No. They took on a very direct and focused military campaign, to take back just a tiny fraction of what was taken from them, for the purpose of securing Europe and providing pilgrimages to the Holy Land. In comparison to what medieval Islam had just done to Christianity, I would have to say the Christian military response was measured and restrained.
After everything that has happened in recent years with the resurgence of medieval Islam, combined with the current and upcoming Western response to it, any modern attempt to cast the Crusades in a negative light is 100% hypocritical. That's right. If you condone the Western fight against the resurgence of medieval Islam today, then you cannot honestly condemn the Crusades of the past. What we are facing today is no different than what medieval Christians faced back then, except they didn't have stealth bombers and cruise missiles to fight back with. They had to take on these savages face-to-face, sword against sword, in hand-to-hand combat. Even worse, there were more of them to fight back then, for in medieval times, radical Islam was normal Islam. There were no peaceful Muslims back then. The only time Muslims were peaceful was when they were defeated on the battlefield. The modern Islam we see today, with its esteem for higher learning and humanitarian aid, bares little resemblance to the Islam of medieval times. These things they learnt from watching Christians, and gradually incorporated them into their own religion over centuries. That's a good thing, and we should applaud them for that. We should understand however, that it wasn't always that way, and our Christian ancestors had to deal with it face-to-face. It is good to understand this history of this time period, but these days we don't even need to do that. All we have to do now is look at the news. If we want to understand why the Reconquista and Crusades happened, we need only look at the video above. Multiply that scene by tens of thousands, spanning hundreds of years, and you get the idea. Instead of the shores of Libya, this stuff was happening in Spain! To which I can only say, thank God for the Reconquista and Crusades!
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