Friday, August 7, 2009


Rodney Stark, the author of several books about the history of Christianity, is about to release God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades — and it may excite some controversy. The publisher describes it thus:
In God’s Battalions, distinguished scholar Rodney Stark puts forth a controversial argument that the Crusades were a justified war waged against Muslim terror and aggression. Stark, the author of The Rise of Christianity, reviews the history of the seven major crusades from 1095-1291 in this fascinating work of religious revisionist history.
The table of contents:
Introduction: Greedy Barbarians in Armor?
  1. Muslim Invaders
  2. Christendom Strikes Back
  3. Western “Ignorance” Versus Eastern “Culture”
  4. Pilgrimage and Persecution
  5. Enlisting Crusaders
  6. Going East
  7. Bloody Victories
  8. The Crusader Kingdoms
  9. The Struggle to Defend the Kingdoms
  10. Crusades Against Egypt
Conclusion: Mission Abandoned
In an article about the book, the Religion News Service asks "Did the Crusades get a bum rap?":
The Crusades, when Christians tried for two centuries to oust Muslims from the Holy Land, left over a million dead, with territory lost and gained and lost again - all in the name of Jesus. ....

"I get tired of people apologizing for the Crusades, like Christians were a bunch of dirty looters that went over there and killed everybody," [Rodney] Stark said. "It just wasn't true." ....

Stark argues that Muslims asked for it, that the Crusades were the first military response to Muslim terrorists and their looming, advancing Islamic empire. "It wasn't like they were harmless, little people minding their own business and tending their sheep," Stark said. ....

Stark balks at the theory, in vogue 30 years ago, that the Crusades were spurred on by the promise of wealth and land. The Crusades were bloody and expensive, he argues, and far from being a profitable, colonial enterprise, they made paupers of princes.

Thomas Madden, professor of medieval history at Saint Louis University, agrees that recent analysis reveals the "crusades were a big money pit." He said it is important to understand the crusaders on their own terms, and like Stark, he sees faith as their primary motivator.

"These were men who lived by the sword," Madden said. "...They were keenly aware of their own sinfulness and their crusade was a way to get around damnation or at least a very long time in purgatory." ....

Stark does not worry about how his sympathetic portrayal of crusaders will be handled.

"If you sit there and worry about people misusing your stuff, you're never going to have anything to say," he said.
RNS Feature: "Did the Crusades get a bum rap?"

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