How should we deal with the topic of the Crusades, both in our own thinking and in engagement with Muslims? - Pathfinder

How should we deal with the topic of the Crusades, both in our own thinking and in engagement with Muslims?

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    • #1439
      pathfinderlms
      Keymaster
    • #1984
      Marina Ghaly
      Participant

      When it comes to the topic on the Crusades, I believe one of the most valuable things Christians can do is own the history. If Christians deny the atrocities of the Crusades and only focus on the differing theology(ies) the Pope had in calling for men to participate the Crusades, then we are not going to move the conversation forward. Christians should own that part of history and own up the mistakes. The Crusades is a horrific part of the Christian history. Crusaders not only massacred the Jewish people and Muslims, but at one point, Catholic Christians were warring with Orthodox Christians.
      If one finds themselves conversing with someone who is Muslim, I think Christians need to be compassionate and even apologetic for this part of Church history. My feeling is if Christians defend the Crusaders it will do more harm than good in the conversation. An apology goes a long way, even if it is for an act committed in the past.
      This is what I think but I would love to hear thoughts.

      • #2191
        Katelyn Hernandez
        Participant

        Hey Maria, I think you make a great point about the importance of owning our history. Ignoring or denying the atrocities of Christians during the Crusades alienates others and puts us further away from the possibility of interfaith dialogue. Crusaders massacred Jews and Muslims, they even were warry of Orthodox Christians- reinforcing an archaic idea that only homogenous groups could co-exist.

      • #2282
        Collin Bastian
        Participant

        Hi Marina,

        I agree with you. It is astounding to me that people of various traditions all over the world still point to the Crusades as the fundamental failure of Christianity, which, for many, nullifies the entire project. I think it is not helped when people try to theologize or defend the claims of the Crusade, which is unfortunately not all too uncommon. Agreeing that the Crusades were bad, but also noting that they were emblematic of a flawed Christian understanding, is the path forward.

      • #2707
        Evan Crain
        Participant

        I think there should be considerable caution in personally “owning” the actions of a different people in a different time who were unjustified in their actions based on true Christianity. There were many reasons for the Crusades, such as religious manipulations, politics, and national security, right and wrong – I think it better to understand the bigger picture and emphatically say “regardless of the reasons, never would the Jesus of Nazareth mandated violence in building His Kingdom!”

    • #2147
      Hans Vogel
      Participant

      Conquests were (and are) unfortunately part of human history, also of different religions and denominations. There was also a big lack of cultural and religious understanding among the European Christians, during the time of the Crusades.
      I find this particularly sad and worrying because the context ​of the Middle East is much closer to the Bible than in Europe. But Europe was closed and culturally and religiously isolated, what a contrast to the diversity of the Biblical Ancient World.

      One of the Crusades also «liberated» Portugal and the capital Lisbon from the Muslims. All inhabitants ​of Lisbon were killed: Muslims, Mozarabic Christians, and Jews. What ignorance and arrogance of the holy warriors.

      What encourages me, in the sad story of the Crusades, is that Francis of Assisi, during the Fifth Crusade visited the Sultan of Egypt. A result of this visit is, that the Franciscans got the Custodian of Holy Places in the Holy Land for over 800 years – and still have it.

      • #2215
        Mary Schulten
        Participant

        Hi Hans, I think that you make some great points here. It is sad to think of how isolated and self-righteous Europe was. This serves as a very important example to us that before engaging with other faiths, we must be grounded in ours and have an understanding of the other religion. Imagine how different this period might have been with a bit of cultural competence and humility.

        That’s encouraging to hear of the good that St Francis did – one person truly can make a difference!

      • #2760
        Janae Robinson
        Participant

        Hans, you make great points about the positive and negatives of the Crusades. Generally, the standard line of thinking regarding the Crusades is Christians doing terrible things. From my preliminary research, Europe lacked a lot of understanding about the Near East and this allowed for some poor decision making that did result in things like regaining custody of Holy Places that are still held today. Additionally, it seems to me that those doing the actual fighting on behalf of the religious rulers seemed to have been fed the lie that this “holy war” would punch their ticket to heaven.

    • #2192
      Katelyn Hernandez
      Participant

      War and the destruction of minority people have sadly been a part of human history. During the rise of Christianity in Europe, leaders used the Church to empower the destruction of people groups. Amongst these were Muslim and Jewish populations.

      The most important element of addressing the topic of the Crusades is owning the entire history of our faith. The Crusades were a very dark period for Christians. The church became hyper-politicized and used its influence to order out the destruction of non-conforming groups. We must own that throughout history people have come and distorted the mission of the church to their own will. When we approach this topic it is hard to not naturally become defensive.

      • #2204
        Clay Shackelford
        Participant

        I agree that it is easy to become defensive when I think of this topic. It’s easy for me to immediately justify how this tragedy is not my responsibility. While it isn’t my responsibility, it is an injustice inflicted upon my neighbor by someone who also identifies as Christian. I must consider how a Muslim sees Christianity see how that Muslim views me and views my God.

      • #2917
        Jamila White
        Participant

        Katelyn,

        My personal take is that I will maintain that Christians are imperfect, however, we are commanded and ought to strive to be perfect. Progressive sanctification is crucial in the Christian life. I am careful to take responsibility for certain parts of history that have hidden agendas and people hiding under the guise of Christianity. This has been done in ancient times, in slavery of America and the Islands, and even till this day. What I remind people of other faiths who may not know is that anyone can profess to be Christian, but that does not mean that they truly are born again. Above all, these acts do not represent Christ and the Gospel. It is human nature to take the sinful nature of people and projects that unto Christ, however, Christ perfect in every communicable and non-communicable attribute. Have Christians been imperfect, certainly. However, I do not support the Crusades being true disciples of Christ for the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit is not there. The real enemy is actually not people, but the adversary, the one who presents himself as an angel of light. He is the real deceiver and father of lies that has influenced people to commit atrocious acts under the guise of Christianity. This then attacks the faith of believers and unbelievers who observe such contradictions.

        Jamila

    • #2202
      Clay Shackelford
      Participant

      First, I think we should consider how the Church got so out of line. If we don’t know what we believe about violence and interfaith relations, we might fall into a similar trap again.

      Second, reconciling this with my own thinking is complex. How did the Church get so completely outside of the will of Christ? Were the crusaders even truly followers of Jesus?

      Lastly, I must consider my Muslim neighbor. I must consider the centuries-old trauma that the Church I belong to inflicted upon their ancestors. This can’t be something I just ask them to forgive and forget, this must be something that I recognize and rebuke.

    • #2216
      Mary Schulten
      Participant

      I believe that as Christians we must own our history, even the most awful and uncomfortable parts.

      During this time, all types of leaders weaponized the Church’s influence to turn ordinary people into what they believed to be righteous soldiers in God’s holy war. In learning about the Crusades in a Christian setting, we need to ask each other if these people were even followers of Jesus. Were they following His teachings? How did they get to that point of distorting it so much? All of this needs to be discussed constructively.

      In discussions with other Christians about Muslims, often times jihad or a misunderstanding of jihad is brought up. When this happens, I think it would be helpful to bring up the fact that Christians have also fallen prey to the idea that they must take to violence in order to be obedient to God or righteous in his eyes. However, violence is not in our doctrine and was not taught by Jesus.

      • #2918
        Jamila White
        Participant

        Mary,

        The response I would provide is in my post so I can refer you to my post listed in this discussion. In any case, I have been observing a misunderstanding of true born again disciples of Christ and those that were never with Christ in their heart, which Scripture speaks of in Isaiah 29:13 and Matthew 15:8. I had an amazing dialogue with a Muslim physician who had a better understanding of the Crusades and other acts in history, such as the slave masters using the Bible to justify slavery. Should every American Christian take responsibility and hold on to this? As a descendant of the tribe of West Africans that was taken to this country for enslavement, I know that these slave masters were either deceived or never were with Christ and served as agents of the adversary. Since giving my life to Christ in college, I have learned to revisit history. I learned that what I often taught was not necessarily the entire story or truth. I learned how to research the research presented to me. Above all, I learned how to use the Holy Spirit for discernment in topics such as this. After many conversations with Muslims, many of them I met, have expressed seeking true hope, peace, and rest for their souls. The Crusades is often brought up as a blocker of the Gospel. Once I got past this after respectful but truthful dialogue, I was able to share my faith with them and they in return, looked differently (in a good way) at Christ and the Gospel.

        Jamila

    • #2759
      Janae Robinson
      Participant

      Overall, Christians and Muslims need to give each other grace about our past, work toward a future where both groups respect, and advocate for religious freedom for all. Personally, I need to become more educated on the Crusades. I have been raised in non-denominational churches and went to public schools. Throughout my time in Israel, I was made aware how little I know of Christian history. Most of that, I admit, was because I don’t or didn’t, (not sure where I land on this topic,) see the history of the Orthodox and Catholic churches as my own. The church I work at and am a member of is 70 years old and that is the Christian history I have grown up claiming. To go back to the question, education and the willingness to call out the wrong doing of both sides while acknowledging the reasoning of both sides is important. Realizing that both sides thought they were in the right is important in how we engage with Muslims. If we can agree that both sides did bad things and thought they were right, we lay the groundwork to have real conversations about our differences that start from a place of respect, not playing a circular blame game that does nothing to forward positive engagement. However, we cannot just call out where Christians were wrong in the Crusades, but where Muslims were wrong too. Giving Muslims a pass for bad Christian actors during the Crusades does not excuse their bad actions either.

      • #3024
        Cara Brown
        Participant

        Janae,
        Two main points stuck out to me in your response for where we can begin with the Crusades that I found to be true and helpful: 1.) Education 2.) Grace and Respect
        The Crusades are often looked over in Western education, at least in my experience. They were hardly mentioned or only given a cursory review. As Christians, we should encourage discussion and education, especially about grievous errors and sins that the Church committed in the past, so we can be better prepared to discuss with Muslims and do better as the Church. While we need to remember the past, none of us should be condemned for it. We need grace so we can forgive and seek out mutual respect. We need to acknowledge the past, but do so in a spirit of love and understanding so we can move forward.

    • #2902
      Hannah Longo
      Participant

      In high school, I read a book called The Thousand Year War in the Mideast by Richard Mayberry. The author explains that the mindset of the people in the Arab world is different from that of those in the West–they have a much greater focus on and remembrance for the past. Something like the Crusades, which to us is past history, is a current event to them. I think understanding this is crucial in our engagement of the Muslim world.
      Also, Westerners often see historical events, particularly negative ones, as something they are not responsible for. In some ways they are right; no one alive today took part in the Crusades. But it was Westerners (and so-called Christians) who committed all the heinous atrocities that Muslims still remember today. It is not until we as a collective group acknowledge what our civilization and religion did in the past that we will be able to have meaningful engagement with the Muslim world.

    • #2916
      Jamila White
      Participant

      This question is all too familiar. I worked in the ER as a medical scribe for 3.5 years. During this time, I worked with an ER physician that was a Pakistani Muslim, devout Muslim he might add. One night after a long shift, he inquired about my Christian apologetics book. This then turned into an unforeseen opportunity to witness to him. He began by stating that no Christian has ever been able to answer his questions or inquiries about issues, such as the Crusades. I felt intimidated initially, but the Holy Spirit stepped right in. When the topic of the Crusades came up, I brought up that anyone can profess with their lips that they are a Christian. I made mention of the early followers of Christ were known as a Jewish sect that were often referred to as followers of “the Way” or disciples of Christ. It was not until the Acts when the disciples of Christ were called “Christians.” This simply meant to be Christ-like. I also added that there have been many professed “Christians” that have cherry picked scriptures to justify their selfish and oftentimes, demonic interests. I brought up the example of slave masters in America and the Islands using certain scriptures to justify the slavery of a certain tribe from West Africa. The Bible in its entirety was often kept from slaves and slaves would be beat or killed if they were found to try to get a hold of a Bible to read for themselves or have someone read it to them. In sum, the physician began to understand that someone who is truly born again would not commit these acts of violence. I ended that part of the conversation with making note that the Crusades are a reflection of the sinful nature of human kind and the need for a Lord and Savior, but not reflect Jesus Christ himself.

      The basic principle that ought to be applied when dealing with this topic in relation to engagement with Muslims, is to encourage them not to judge the tenets of the Christian faith on the basis of acts in history committed by people who hid under the guise of Christianity. One must then explain what it truly means to be born again. Oftentimes, Muslims I have encountered stated they had more of a problem with the followers of Christ than Christ himself. In this case, we are to always approach Muslims with the same love that we demonstrate or should demonstrate toward other believers. Hear their perspective and offer the true history with scriptures to support. Above all, this is to be done in love for the soul of the person and not to simply win an argument over the Crusades. There is underlying curiosity many Muslims have about the Christian faith. Do not allow the enemy to use topics such as this to cause division and hinder you from showing the love of Christ.

      Jamila

    • #1985
      Marina Ghaly
      Participant

      Hi Yasmin,
      Thank you for your post. I agree that one should have discernment and a spirit of grace. I also agree with what you wrote down about what Christians should consider. I wonder if the teachings of Muhammad and Jesus may bring tension to the conversation? I think if both individuals come with an open mind and a spirit of grace then this would be a good conversation to have. I am interested to see if anyone had a conversation regarding the Crusades and a conversation on the topic of violence in the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad.
      Thank you!

    • #2107
      Michael Caplan
      Participant

      Yasmin,

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful words. It reminds me how I was anxious to take a history course on the Crusades during my time at university. Nevertheless, the experience proved to be illuminating because even my professor (definitely not sympathetic to the Christian cause) presented facts and historical studies to demonstrate the nuance of the Crusades detached from modern views of it. First and foremost when it comes to historical controversies it is most important to take up a comprehensive study for yourself. Then, if that topic comes up in dialogue with Muslims refrain from judgement but listen in order to respond to the impressions of the person in front of you.

    • #2212
      Mary Schulten
      Participant

      Hi everyone, it has been very helpful for me to read these discussion posts. I have always struggled with the Crusades, I think of it as a very dark part of Christian history. What concerns me is that there are still Christians today that will defend the Crusades and think of the Crusaders as heroes. Reading everyone’s thoughts here is very helpful, and is giving me new ideas for how I can begin to tackle this very difficult topic.

    • #2190
      Katelyn Hernandez
      Participant

      Hey Felipe,
      You are right, it is important to recognize the atrocities that have happened like the Crusades. I think you made a great point. Sticking to the historical aspects is very important, while not disregarding the modern-day implications of the Crusades. As Christians, it is easy to get defensive when people criticize the history of the church. As a Catholic, I get attacked for all of the shortcomings of Catholics throughout time.

    • #2205
      Clay Shackelford
      Participant

      Felipe, I think you bring up an interesting perspective. We must be accurate in the historical details that took place. When we agree on the facts of the event, we can start to work through them in a helpful way. However, I think we should also consider what to do when people don’t agree on the facts. How do we care for them even then? What’s the best way to do that?

    • #2321
      Joseph Danaher
      Participant

      Thanks Felipe. You’re right, we MUST acknowledge errors and guilt. I truly don’t understand much of the push on the Right today to whitewash history and ignore immense failures. Did Columbus find America for the Europeans? Sure. But did he also do absolutely heinous things to native Americans and rule as a tyrant? Yes! I don’t understand why many are so opposed to simply acknowledging the historical facts of his misdeeds. And the same with the Church. Using force and the sword against civilians for religious reasons is inherently illegitimate according to the natural law. We have to recognize that faults occurred and express compassion like you said. Otherwise we are simply willfully blind and dishonest.

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