ISIS burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot. In response to the world’s understandable humanitarian reaction, the President of the United States said this to attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast:
“Unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. So it is not unique to one group or one religion.”
Let’s analyze these comments. First, the phrase “unless we get on our high horse” is another way of saying ‘we can’t get upset about radical Islamists decapitating or burning alive their prisoners, because Christians have done the same thing, for a long time’. There is no recorded instance in the history of the Crusades of decapitation nor burning prisoners alive. It didn’t happen. What did happen is that in the seven Crusades (1096-1272 AD) tens of thousands of Christians responded to the call of their church to oppose, by force of arms, if necessary, the Muslim usurpation of Jerusalem, the slaughter of Christian occupants of the Middle East and occupation of entire nations which had for centuries been Christian. Is it any wonder that Muslims today attack Crusaders? The Crusaders were the primary attempt by Christendom to stop the spreading scourge of Islam from absorbing the entire Middle East.
Think about it for a minute. Jesus came to earth and established Christianity through His followers. His followers obeyed His admonition and shared the Gospel in Judah, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. From His time on earth forward thousands of Christians shared with tens of thousands who shared with hundreds of thousands. Eventually millions of residents of the Middle East became Christians. Until the seventh century the nations of the Middle East saw widespread growth of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, with the building of churches, Christian organizations and other demographic growth. Even in Egypt Christians grew and expanded, eventually becoming known as Coptic Christians, spreading south into Ethiopia.
In the midst of this widely perceived success, Muhammad “high jacked” Christianity, referring in his writings to Jesus and some of the Prophets, and occasionally borrowing a Biblical concept, though warping what he stole to become what he wanted, a tome of death and destruction. By the time of his death in 632 AD Muhammad had conquered the Arabian peninsula by killing those who opposed him. His followers quickly swept across the Middle East and headed outward to Europe and Asia. In 637 Jerusalem fell to invading Muslim forces. As Muslims expanded into areas which had for centuries been Christian they won by killing those who were not Muslim, or refused to convert to Islam. Look at a world map. How did the Christian nations of the world become Muslim nations? It was not a peaceful transition where Christians voted to turn over their homes, churches, towns and nations to Islam. What happened then is the same process we are watching today in Iraq and Syria. Pillage, rape, burn, terrorize and murder.
These bloody conquests, of course, came to the attention of the leaders of the Catholic Church in Rome. They could have just ignored the slaughter of Christians and the fall of entire nations, but they didn’t. Pope Urban in 1095 recognized that the church had to resist Islam, lest it conquer the nations of the known world by the use of terror, bloodshed and mayhem. He proclaimed the First Crusade, ordering that Christian access be restored to the Church’s Holy Places in and around Jerusalem. The battles raged intermittedly for two centuries, followed by six major Crusades and some minor. The centuries long battles to secure access to Christian holy sites and forestall Muslim conquests literally fill many volumes. Were there abuses by the Crusaders as they marched to Jerusalem? Some historical accounts mention that the armies needed to be fed and thus there were understandable complaints by people who were forced to feed them. But, they didn’t behead or burn those whose towns they passed through as they headed east to stop Islam.
In talk shows discussing the President’s amazing comments most referred to what happened in the Crusade and in the Inquisition as “facts”. Really? It is slanderous to accuse the Crusaders of “terrible deeds” if, in fact, they did no such thing. The men and women who sewed the red cross of Christ on their clothes, left hearth and home and marched off to Jerusalem acted to secure the birthplace of their faith from marauding Muslims. Individual Crusaders, of course, may have misbehaved, but they were not instructed by their Church to do so, nor did they behead or burn. Muslims, on the other hand, can and do point to verses in the Quran which order them to kill unbelievers and to conquer the world for Allah.
The next time you hear someone talk about the “terrible deeds” of the Crusaders ask them to be specific. What terrible deeds? Who were the victims? Were innocents killed or did Crusaders oppose and fight murderous Muslims intent on conquering the world for Allah? Ask them if they know why the Crusaders crusaded? Who were they opposing? Why?
As for the charge that ISIS today can’t really be singled out for criticism because of what happened ‘in the name of Christ’ in the Inquisition, that’s flat wrong. The people killed in the Spanish Inquisition were all killed by Spanish authorities, not by Christians, nor by the Church. The Spanish Monarchy controlled all aspects of the Tribunal. As for references to Jim Crow laws and American slavery, it must not be forgotten that it was Christians who led the fight to abolish slavery and who were in the leadership of the civil rights movement. It’s an insult to attempt to argue moral equivalency between those who behead and burn and those who reformed and corrected. Surely the White House has access to the facts of history. Unless, of course, is to the benefit of some to obfuscate the issue and convince Americans that ISIS is just another group of religious fundamentalists out on a spree.