February 18, 2015

1,000-plus years of Christian Crusades

President Barack Obama has been raked over the coals recently for his mentioning that the Christian Crusades, as well as Islam at times, had their history of brutality.

That said, Obama cut short the history of crusading.

The first crusade wasn't in 1095 but more than 300 years earlier ...

You heard me right.

The wars of Charlemagne against the pagan Saxons to the northeast and Avars to the east, as well as against the Muslims in Spain, were all to some degree Crusades. And bloody, including the killing of nearly 5,000 surrendered Saxon prisoners. After this massacre, Charlemagne promulgated a new law code for dealing with Saxons, that made failure to convert a death penalty offense.

That said, we shouldn't forget that in what is called the First Crusade, as in others, often it was Jews at crusading sword-point, as in 1095, before any other religion.

Speaking of that, though, let's also not overlook that the crusaders of the First Crusade committed cannibalism at the end of one siege in Syria.

After the end of the Crusades as conventionally understood, folks like the Knights of the Sword and Teutonic Knights decided they would convert Baltic peoples — Lithuanians, Letts, Estonians, etc. — with that same point of a sword. Then, just 100 years after, peacefully, a Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas, for the crown of Poland, peacefully took the pledge of Christianity, a whole new vista opened.

American Indians, in the Caribbean, North America and South America, were converted at the point of a sword. African enslaved captives were converted in the grasp of coffles and shackles.

Considering that Ferdinand and Isabella bade Christopher Columbus "godspeed" with the mission of extending Christianity as well as finding riches, and, without a Pope or Inquisition, the British further north in America felt the same, calling this another set of Crusades isn't a stretching of the truth.

If we extend this to the end of the Indian Wars, against Geronimo in the Sonoran Desert and the Sioux at Wounded Knee, it's more like 1,100 years, not 1,000.

And, I've not even mentioned Christians killing Muslims in the name of religion, as well as vice versa, in today's sub-Saharan Africa.

In other words, about as often as church has been associated with state in Christianity as in Islam, there's been religious coercion of some sort.

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