Thursday, July 19, 2007


The positive uses of the words "crusade" and "crusader" have almost disappeared from public discourse. As recently as World War II, Eisenhower engaged in a "Crusade for Europe." The terms, today, supposedly remind us [and especially the Islamic world] of an unprovoked, imperialistic, assault on an innocent and peaceful, advanced civilization. But Muslims had previously conquered much that had been Christian - the Levant, north Africa - and their attacks would continue to threaten Europe for centuries. Once, the Crusades were viewed simplistically as a war for good against evil. Now, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. History doesn't provide very many instances in which all the heroes and villains are clearly on opposing sides, and the Crusades aren't among them. A recent history, Christopher Tyerman's God's War: A New History of the Crusades, is reviewed in Christianity Today by Alfred J. Andrea. An excerpt:
Adjectives for God's War almost fail. "Comprehensive," "monumental," and "epic" come to mind, and they are appropriate but scarcely adequate.

In brief, this is a work by a master historian that will replace Runciman's classic as the standard survey in the field. ....

Among the...misconceptions that Tyerman attacks head on is one that Runciman did not articulate but which has become fashionable today. It says that medieval holy wars between the Cross and the Crescent led directly to such phenomena as Western imperialism and contemporary Islamic anger over a presumed millennium-long assault on it by the Christian West.

Tyerman dismisses such putative connections as nonsensical inventions. In doing so, he mirrors an emerging consensus among Crusade historians that the Islamic world largely forgot about the Crusades after 1300. After all, it had been the victor, and under Ottoman leadership, it put Christian Europe on the defensive for about 400 years. All of this changed around 1900. At that time, Muslim anger over European imperial designs on the Middle East provided sufficient context for it to create the image of the "crusading Christian West."

A book that runs more than 1,000 pages (including notes) might be ponderous and unreadable. It is not. Tyerman's touch is light, his prose sparkles, and his delightful wit gives it spice. ....
Onward, Christian Soldiers | Christianity Today

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.