Feb 15

Fighting Words

Obama said it, it must be wrong.

At the National Prayer Breakfast the president dared to suggest that Christians have their own history of organized, and even state sponsored, terrorism by bringing up the Crusades and the Inquisition. Most of the criticism of the President's remarks have been the equivalent of listening my toddlers get ready in the morning: "Nuh-uh!" and "She started it!"

Yes, the Crusades were a direct military response by the nations of Europe and the Church (nominally just the one all encompassing at the beginning) to the military expansion of the followers of Mohammad and their conquest of territory that was historically Christian. They lasted roughly from 700 CE to 1500 CE (CE=AD) and began with the war for the southern half of what is today Spain. It was, in fact, the end of the Crusades that led to the age of exploration and discovery of North America by modern Europeans.

If that is all it was the criticism of the President's remarks might hold weight, however we are not talking about simple liberation campaigns. This is not the Americans rolling through France after driving out the Nazis. In terms of motivation the Crusades were as much political and financial as they were religious. Conflicts between Europeans were ended by the Pope calling for a new Crusade. Once the Crusade was called and accepted, anything was permissible. One of Martin Luther's examples of corruption in the Church was the selling of Indulgences. A little Get Out of Hell Free Card that said you could commit any crime you wished as long as you paid your money and went on a Crusade. Once in the Holy Lands, the Crusaders found wealth - not just in precious metals or land but in art, learning, and historical artifacts. Let's not forget to add slaves to that list. The modern banking system came out of the need to deal with all of that wealth generated by the Crusades. Modern Westerners might remember the Crusades as a chapter in history class, the people of the middle east still curse the West with the name "Crusaders."

Not that it was a one sided atrocity either. The cruelties and mass slaughter were dealt out by all involved. It was all done in the name of religion, but not always for religion. It was terrible and cruel and the President is completely right to call Christianity out on it.

Notice, however, no one mentions the Inquisition in their criticism (at least to my knowledge.) The Inquisition, usually referring to the Spanish Inquisition of 1478 to 1834, is universally known as a travesty of justice and persecution conducted in the name of religion for all the wrong reasons. Not that there are any good reasons for what they did. Torture, as we seem to have forgotten, only produces confessions, not evidence of guilt.

He need not have stopped there. The example of Christians committing acts of violence in the name of God are many:
- Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament in the great Gunpowder Plot as an act of terrorism sponsored by English Catholics
- Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, and his followers were kicked out of Massachusetts for the great crime of preaching separation of church and state and the need for religious liberty
- Google "Ethnic Clensing Romania"
- The KKK believe, and still does, that the only way to have a White Christian America was to kill or drive out anyone who looked different
- Google "Troubles Northern Ireland"

Actually, I think I have been down this road before. The verdict of history is that some Christians, in the name of Christ, have committed terrible acts against their fellow human beings. Muslims have done so as well. So have Jews. So has, I suspect, followers of any faith back to the time that we were arguing over whether Wolf or Bear was a better god.

Why Christians in America are so set on taking on the role of persecuted minority is beyond my ability to understand. Christians in America: YOU ARE NOT PERSECUTED. You may experience some push back on occasion, but that is not PERSECUTION. I will be more than happy to put you in touch with friends in the former Soviet Union who had to hide their identity so they would not lose their jobs or worse just for being Christians.

Not being able to tell everyone what to do is not persecution. It is justice.

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