One of the key reasons why we MUST study and know history is the fact that it does in fact tend to repeat itself. Sometimes the repeating may take place over many centuries, but nonetheless many dynamics of nations and societies, and religions, do not change. This has led me to question whether the world may be currently at the precipice of a new “holy crusade”. I am not advocating that, or trying to be a war-monger, but the questions must be asked and people need to consider what the possibilities might be in the years and decades to come.
First, what is a “holy crusade”? Many of us have not read about this topic since junior high school, and back then probably half of us were not paying any attention. A crusade is a holy war. From the website http://historymedren.about.com/od/crusades/p/crusadesbasics.htm, “For a conflict to be officially considered a Crusade, it had to be sanctioned by the pope and conducted against groups seen as enemies of Christendom.” So it is clear that we are talking about wars based on religion, and specifically we are talking about Christianity and those who (allegedly) are fighting against Christians or the ideals and doctrines of Christianity. Today in the United States that seems very foreign, and it seems rather medieval.
Well, it is.
Here in this country we are so open and tolerant of a variety of religions and practices, we would never consider, as a society, of going to war with another group or country based on their religion. But, as we know, religious conflicts still take place today in many parts of the world. Religion is how most people identify themselves, and for some it is the most important aspect of their life.
The Crusades, per se, are focused on the Middle East region, even though there were a handful of latter Crusades which were outside this area. For the sake of our quick study, we will narrow in on the Middle East.
There were nine holy crusades. The first began in 1095 and lasted 4 years. The ninth started in 1272 and lasted just a year. In between, there were various Crusades in different countries and nations. The link between them all was often Jerusalem, or at least the Israeli region. This area had mostly been under the control of various Muslim groups or empires, and the Pope, and others, wanted to at least preserve the area as a safe haven and potential home for Christians that desired to be there.
The Crusades involved so many Kings and Popes and Emperors, and various other characters. Many persons, from hundreds and thousands of miles away, would choose to “go on Crusade” and leave what they had behind and venture to the Holy Land to fight for what they felt was the will of God. In many ways the Crusades was a unifying catalyst for all of Christianity. Keep in mind the last Crusade ended hundred of years prior to the Protestant Reformation; there was not (yet) the kind of splintering of the Church that was soon to be.
The current social and military unrest in this same part of the world is cause for concern, and at the base of the protests and killings and such are 2 very different religions- Islam and Christianity. The current U.S. and European political leaders are doing their best (generally) to evade and avoid all-out catastrophe under their watch. Can politics and diplomacy overcome strong differences in religion that have gone on for over a thousand years? I believe that all of us hope so; the people of this country, and of the world, are not prepared for a holy war. But then again, the peasants and various citizens living in 1095 A.D. probably were not ready or willing either. I pray that a new Crusade will not come to pass, and that is a prayer I think all Christians, and Americans for that matter, can agree on.