The Crusades: The Reward of Imperishable Glory?

The Crusades were such an evil witness of Christ. It has been centuries since the Crusades, but even today Muslims hate Christ because of them. Can the blood ever be washed off the Church that called for them? The same Church and the same pope that forgave the Crusaders for their sins in advance, assured them “ of the reward of imperishable glory .” Yet the horror of the Crusades far exceeds what happened to the “infidels” in the Middle East, as unbelievable as that may be. Steven Runciman, modern historian of the Crusades, writes “ The harm done by the Crusades to Islam was small in comparison with that done by them [the Crusaders] to Eastern Christendom.” 1

The Fourth Crusade made it as far as the capture and looting of the Eastern Capitol of Constantinople, whose church and people, although Christians, were not under the authority of the Pope. The Byzantine Empire would never recover from this blow, which further alienated the Eastern and Western divisions of Christianity.

Max Dimont, writing in his history of the Jews, The Indestructible Jews , says the Christians suffered at their brother's hands far worse than the Jews:

Jews who had the bad luck to reside in the paths of Crusaders en route to the Holy Land were the first to feel the lethal effects of their mobilized zeal. Their stores were ransacked, their women violated, their communities burned. But though they suffered grievously, the devastation which befell the Jews does not compare in total horror to what befell Christians also in those same paths. 2

Dimont goes on to list in numbing detail the trails of blood the Crusaders left within Europe itself as they marched across their own continent, fighting, plundering, and dying at the hands of their fellow Christians. 3 Among “ the most reprehensible Crusades ” he writes, was the Albigensian Crusade of the early thirteenth century, 4 where more than 99% of the sect was eliminated -- close to a million people -- in “ a holocaust more devastating to the Albigensians than the Nazi holocaust to the Jews .”

So, the historian Runciman writes the Crusades were “a tragic and destructive episode” where:

There was so much courage and so little honor, so much devotion and so little understanding. High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self-righteousness; and the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which in itself is a sin against the Holy Ghost. 5

So, were the Crusades the will of God or the will of the devil? Can you know a tree by its fruit? The evidence demands the verdict of the Epistle of James about these wars, the Crusades.

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?

You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)

How many others of the many, many wars of Christendom does this apply to as well? All? Know for sure that where James 4:1-3 applies, so does verse 4:

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

  • 1. From the conclusion to Steven Runciman (1954), A History of the Crusades: Volume III: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 0521347726)
  • 2. M. Dimont, The Indestructible Jew (Signet reprint of the New American Library hardcover edition, 1973), p. 272-275
  • 3. For instance, of the 600,000 men who began the First Crusade, 25,000 remained alive three years later to capture and slaughter the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “The rest had perished of disease and hunger, or had died gruesome deaths in revengeful uprisings by the Christian populations whose lands the rapacious Christians had traversed.” ( Dimont , p. 273-274)
  • 4. Known in Europe as the Cathars .
  • 5. S. Runciman , quoted in J. Riley-Smith, “The Crusading Movement and Historians,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades , p. 6.

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