... And thus was born the 11th-century Hammer writ large: the Crusades.
Like Martel's campaigns before them, the Crusades were defensive actions designed to stave off Muslim aggression. Oh, this isn't what you learned in college, I know. It's not what we hear from the media. It isn't what's portrayed by Hollywood. But it is the truth. And it was explained well by Thomas Madden, Chair of the History Department at Saint Louis University. In "The Real History of the Crusades" he wrote:
The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins.
... [But] Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War.... In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece.
... [The Crusades] were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.And that is why I defend them today. No, they weren't perfectly executed, nor could they achieve all their objectives any more than the Cold War truly vanquished the left. Evil is always afoot. But note that the Mideast and North Africa had more Christians than Europe at the time of the early Muslim invasions -- but no one to Crusade for them. Thus, it's easy to imagine that, were it not for our hammering medieval heroes, we could well be what the Mideast is today. And unless we shelve multiculturalism and become what those crusaders were yesterday, we may not have a tomorrow.
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