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4 Myths About the Crusades

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Msgr. Charles Pope - published on 02/18/15 - updated on 06/07/17

MYTH #4: The crusades taught Muslims to hate and attack Christians.

Muslims had been attacking Christians for more than 450 years before Pope Urban declared the First Crusade. They needed no incentive to continue doing so. But there is a more complicated answer here, as well.

The first Muslim crusade history did not [even] appear until 1899. By that time, the Muslim world was rediscovering the crusades—but it was rediscovering them with a twist learned from Westerners. In the modern period, there were two main European schools of thought about the crusades. One school, epitomized by people like Voltaire, Gibbon, and Sir Walter Scott, and in the twentieth century Sir Steven Runciman, saw the crusaders as crude, greedy, aggressive barbarians who attacked civilized, peace-loving Muslims to improve their own lot. The other school, more romantic, saw the crusades as a glorious episode in a long-standing struggle in which Christian chivalry had driven back Muslim hordes.

So it was not the crusades that taught Islam to attack and hate Christians. … Rather, it was the West which taught Islam to hate the crusades.

Yes, this is the strange, self-loathing tendency of the dying West to supply our detractors and would-be destroyers with ample reason to detest us.

I am interested in your thoughts. I don’t think it is necessary to defend the Church’s and the Christian West’s series of Crusades vehemently. There are many regrettable things that accompany any war. But fair is fair; there is more to the picture than many, with anti-Church agendas of their own, wish to admit.

And to those secularists and atheists who love to point out “how many have died as a result of religious wars and violence,” I say, “Recall how many died in the 20th century for secular ideological reasons.” English historian Paul Johnson, in his book Modern Times, places the number at 1oo million.

Does this excuse even one person dying as the result of religious war? No. But violence, war, conquest,  and territorial disputes are human problems not necessarily or only religious ones. Our current sufferings at the hands of radical Muslims show the problem with simply doing nothing. Life is complex; not all decisions are perfect or precisely carried out. Lord, help us, and by miracle convert our enemies.

This video shows some of the Christian ruins in North Africa, including the See of St Cyprian of Carthage.




Msgr. Charles Pope

is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, DC. He attended Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary and holds Masters degrees in Divinity and in Moral Theology. 

He was ordained in 1989 and named a Monsignor in 2005. He has conducted a weekly Bible Study in Congress and in the White House, for two and four years, respectively.  

Reprinted with the permission of Msgr. Pope. Originally published on his blog on the website of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

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