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Old 02-18-2010, 01:56 AM
 
Location: Peterborough, England
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As to whether the Crusades were justified, it depends on your priorities.

They were probably a boon to Western Europe, as they resulted in a lot of barons who would otherwise have been breaking heads and committing mayhem at home, to travel a couple of thousand miles and commit the mayhem at the other end of the world. A good deal, if you happened to live in Western Europe.

Talking about a Moslem threat to Europe is anachronistic. West of Asia Minor, they were mostly on the retreat, having by now lost Sicily to the Normans and half of Spain to the Castilians and Aragonese. A serious Moslem threat didn't develop until the 15C, when the Turks started pushing up to the Danube and Adriatic - but the Crusaders themselves were in large part responsible for this. Had they not sacked Constantinople in 1204, and crippled the Byzantine Empire, the Turks might never have got into Europe at all.

Nor, btw, was it a question of invading a peaceful country. The Seljuk Turks had just conquered the Arab lands as far as the Egyptian border, and then broken up into a cluster of warring states not unlike contemporary Europe. You might class the Crusades as a dust up between two lots of barbarians - the recently Christianised Normans etc and the recently Islamised Turks. Two centuries earlier, both groups had been mostly Heathen. Like the earlier Barbarian invaders, Germanic and Arab, they were basically carving up lands formerly belonging to the Roman Empire. The Fourth Crusade just took this to its logical conclusion.

In sum, the Crusades were about as "justified" as any other war - or as unjustified. War was a permanent feature of Eleventh Century life, and it was mostly a matter of diverting it to where it would do you least harm. Pope Urban II succeeded in that aim, so from his pov I suppose it was justified.
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Old 02-18-2010, 07:02 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Mikestone8 View Post
As to whether the Crusades were justified, it depends on your priorities.

They were probably a boon to Western Europe, as they resulted in a lot of barons who would otherwise have been breaking heads and committing mayhem at home, to travel a couple of thousand miles and commit the mayhem at the other end of the world. A good deal, if you happened to live in Western Europe.

Talking about a Moslem threat to Europe is anachronistic. West of Asia Minor, they were mostly on the retreat, having by now lost Sicily to the Normans and half of Spain to the Castilians and Aragonese. A serious Moslem threat didn't develop until the 15C, when the Turks started pushing up to the Danube and Adriatic - but the Crusaders themselves were in large part responsible for this. Had they not sacked Constantinople in 1204, and crippled the Byzantine Empire, the Turks might never have got into Europe at all.

Nor, btw, was it a question of invading a peaceful country. The Seljuk Turks had just conquered the Arab lands as far as the Egyptian border, and then broken up into a cluster of warring states not unlike contemporary Europe. You might class the Crusades as a dust up between two lots of barbarians - the recently Christianised Normans etc and the recently Islamised Turks. Two centuries earlier, both groups had been mostly Heathen. Like the earlier Barbarian invaders, Germanic and Arab, they were basically carving up lands formerly belonging to the Roman Empire. The Fourth Crusade just took this to its logical conclusion.

In sum, the Crusades were about as "justified" as any other war - or as unjustified. War was a permanent feature of Eleventh Century life, and it was mostly a matter of diverting it to where it would do you least harm. Pope Urban II succeeded in that aim, so from his pov I suppose it was justified.
Mike,
A good overview of the crusades! I, too, read that the territorial expansion of the Seljuk Turks had waned by the time of the crusades. Over a period of almost two hundred years there were times of relative peace, but at other times it must have been like a barroom free-fo-all. Things got pretty crazy, even in northern Europe. There were the so-called northern or Baltic crusades, by the Christian kings of Sweden and Denmark and some German groups against pagan peoples living around the Baltic Sea. Although the Muslims were the prime enemy, anyone who didn't believe as the crusaders was a potential enemy, and "campaigns were waged against pagan Slavs, Jews. Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the popes." It would be hard to imagine the turmoil that must have existed in Europe as well as Palestine. There is no doubt the crusades have had far-reaching consequences down to our present day.
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Old 02-18-2010, 09:04 AM
 
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The Muslims that the Christians attacked in the Holy lands were not threatening Christian lands. Except in Turkey, there were few signficant Muslim attacks on Christian lands at the time, indeed Muslims were on the defensive in places like Spain. Had the early crusades really being interested in dealing with threats to Christians they would have engaged the Muslims in Turkey, Spain and the islands of the Mediterean. They rarely did
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Old 02-18-2010, 09:11 AM
 
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That is like looking at the european wars before WWII and asking if they were justified. No different than why the Pomans conqurered. Its basically about what civilization will be like and still is.
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Old 02-18-2010, 10:24 AM
 
Location: Peterborough, England
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Originally Posted by John Walmsley View Post
Mike,
some German groups against pagan peoples living around the Baltic Sea. Although the Muslims were the prime enemy, anyone who didn't believe as the crusaders was a potential enemy, and "campaigns were waged against pagan Slavs, Jews. Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the popes." It would be hard to imagine the turmoil that must have existed in Europe as well as Palestine.
Not too different in the Moslem world. Even at the height of the Crusades, they spent as much time fighting each other as they did fighting the Christians, while if you look up a map of the growth of the Ottoman Empire, you will see that it conquered far more Moslem lands than non-Moslem. FTM, the current boundary between Islam and Christendom is relatively little changed from a millennium ago, still roughly following the line of the Mediterranean. Political boundaries within the two societies have changed far more.
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Old 02-18-2010, 11:12 AM
 
Location: Aloverton
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Originally Posted by Irishtom29 View Post
The Christian world had been under attack by the Moslems for several hundred years; I figure a counterattack was justified. Cultures have a right to defend themselves.

This book sounds interesting, I think I'll get it.

Amazon.com: God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades (9780061582615): Rodney Stark: Books
Stark has changed a lot since I took sosh with him at UW (intro survey and an upper division religious sociology course). Yet in some ways I think he hasn't changed much at all.

He was a real maverick in my college days, and one of the most loved professors at the university. He reveled in the fact that he would sign any number of overloads, so many that they revoked his overload privileges. Even so, his survey was in the largest lecture hall on campus, which seated 764 including the balcony. The aisles were piled with students sitting on the steps during the first week; there had to be 850+ people in there. I remember a lecture item about Lombrosa's theory of deviate behavior (that you could tell a criminal by his ear shape). Prof. Stark pointed out that he himself had criminal ears. In fact, this question appeared on a midterm: "T/F: According to Lombrosa's theory, Professor Stark would be a biological criminal." Glad I attended lecture that day. And it seems germane that I retain this information nearly thirty years later. One learned things from Stark.

His religious sociology class was one of the best I ever took. He advanced the redefinition of the term 'cult' away from its pejorative context, to mean simply the initial phase of the evolution of a deviant/breakaway religious movement (proceeding to sect and then to church). As someone who had studied the Moonies when there were very few of them, he had direct perspective on the growth of religious movements. He brought in representatives of many faiths to talk to us, covered a wide variety of views. His class definitely challenged my preconceived notions and forced me to think. It has been a tremendous help in perspective during all my studies of the history of humanity.

In my day he was not religious. I know because I asked him, and given the context, he agreed that my question was germane and answered me candidly. (He also told me that had I asked in any other context, he would have told me to "go soak my head." Quote is exact.) He felt that some people had a need for religion, an inclination toward it, and that he simply lacked this.

Time marches on for all of us. Today he is a professing Christian and has moved on to Baylor. Reading between the lines, I strongly suspect that his life of education has taught him a certain admiration for the concept of faith, which he found at odds with UW's generally aggressively secular academic environment. Professors at sixty usually don't just up and move from Seattle to Waco without some pretty good reason. I think he decided he liked religious people better than atheists (at UW, in academic circles, a fairly scornful breed at times) and decided to locate somewhere that suited this belief. I also think he simply got older, like all of us, and started to consider life differently. In any case, there was a time when he probably wouldn't have written this book.

Part of it, too, is that in later life Stark has developed a strong interest in antiquity. I know so because he says so in another book (title forgotten just now), where he challenges the view of early Christianity as a movement primarily of the poor. In his foreword or afterword, can't recall which, he comments that given his deficiencies in ancient history studies he had to consult heavily with those more learned in the field, and found antiquarians among the most forthcoming, helpful people he ever had the pleasure of knowing and learning from. As someone whose education by Stark was a direct contributor to my own degree in ancient history (history, after all, virtually mandates at least a fundamental understanding of most social sciences, humanities and natural sciences), that warmed my heart quite a bit and made me feel very good about my choice of collegiate discipline.

I get the impression a lot of people think Stark has gone off the reservation these days, especially by trying to justify the Crusades. I don't share that impression, though I don't have enough evidence to reject it as I haven't yet read his take for myself. I do think it is further evidence of his deep maverick personality streak. It's just like the Rod Stark I knew to write something provocative that would send secular academia off the deep end. It would be very unlike him to write a stupid book. Academia has a tendency toward knee-jerk dismissal of anything it doesn't like, so I remain skeptical of that reaction because it was fairly predictable.

Of one thing I am certain: he was a master educator when I knew him, exactly the sort of person you pay university tuition to benefit from. UW's loss was Baylor's gain.
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Old 02-18-2010, 02:14 PM
 
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J_K_K,

An interesting commentary as always. I assume that Rodney Stark that you mentioned at UW is the same professor who co-authored "The Churching of America 1776-1990." As you say, his move to Baylor would seemingly raise some eyebrows, but it could be indicative of a change in interests.

BTW, a book on the crusades that I enjoyed was "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade." The author James Reston, jr, received some review criticisms for what was perceived as his biases toward Saladin and his forces. Regardless, it's a highly readable book.
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Old 02-18-2010, 04:23 PM
 
Location: Aloverton
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Originally Posted by John Walmsley View Post
J_K_K,

An interesting commentary as always. I assume that Rodney Stark that you mentioned at UW is the same professor who co-authored "The Churching of America 1776-1990." As you say, his move to Baylor would seemingly raise some eyebrows, but it could be indicative of a change in interests.

BTW, a book on the crusades that I enjoyed was "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade." The author James Reston, jr, received some review criticisms for what was perceived as his biases toward Saladin and his forces. Regardless, it's a highly readable book.
That's the same Rod Stark. Why he moved to Baylor I do not know. He must not have a great need for student adulation, because unless something changed about him, his students were predisposed to like him. The word was out, and the word was good: take Stark. There might be more than one reason he moved to Waco, too. I didn't know about _Churching_ but the very language of the title takes me back to those days in his class.

I'll keep an eye out for Reston. When it comes to religion-tinged topics, it doesn't matter what you write--someone will be critical of it. Either the author is not making enough kowtows to religion (in which case he is 'joining the all-out war against people of faith') or he is making too many (in which case he is 'deluded by the need to validate superstition'). One can't win. Thus, the presence of criticism in reviews only suggests to me that he took a stand.
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Old 02-18-2010, 07:13 PM
 
2,377 posts, read 4,751,572 times
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Originally Posted by John Walmsley View Post
J_K_K,

An interesting commentary as always. I assume that Rodney Stark that you mentioned at UW is the same professor who co-authored "The Churching of America 1776-1990." As you say, his move to Baylor would seemingly raise some eyebrows, but it could be indicative of a change in interests.

BTW, a book on the crusades that I enjoyed was "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade." The author James Reston, jr, received some review criticisms for what was perceived as his biases toward Saladin and his forces. Regardless, it's a highly readable book.
John, great Thread.. I read "Warriors..." and "Dogs of God" also by Reston, both on your recomendation
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Old 02-18-2010, 09:10 PM
 
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The christian faith is central to my life, but I don't believe that slaughtering Muslims (and Jews) is justified by that faith. The Lord said "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of gods," and "those that live by the sword, perish by the sword." Peace verging on pacifism is in the New Testment and was the dominant view of Christians many believe unto the fourth century. Indeed St Augustine created his concept of a just war specifically because Christians of his era argued that all wars were wrong. The Roman Catholic church, at present, and the Amish and Quakers are examples of christian groups that condem most or all wars.

Nor do I agree with argument that in the 11th century the crusaders attacked Muslims who were campaigning to conquer Christian lands. Their campaign was offensive in nature, aiming to take back the Holy Land rather than stop future attacks. Islam was on the offensive in the 7th through 10th century and from the late 14th on, but not for the most part in the central crusading era.

When the crusaders captured Jeruselum they slaughtered everyone they found. That has nothing at all to do with biblical christianity.
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