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Friday, 6 February 2015

"One Who Does Not Have a Sword Should Sell His Cloak and Buy One"

An interesting review of a new book on the Crusades, and the seeming futility of counteracting the popular conception about them with anything as unbelievable as actual history, actual scholarship, actual facts.
It is generally thought that Christians attacked Muslims without provocation to seize their lands and forcibly convert them. The Crusaders were Europe’s lacklands and ne’er-do-wells, who marched against the infidels out of blind zealotry and a desire for booty and land. As such, the Crusades betrayed Christianity itself. They transformed “turn the other cheek” into “kill them all; God will know his own.”
Every word of this is wrong.....
we continue to write our scholarly books and articles, learning more and more about the Crusades but scarcely able to be heard. And when we are heard, we are dismissed as daft.....
One of the most profound misconceptions about the Crusades is that they represented a perversion of a religion whose founder preached meekness, love of enemies, and nonresistance. Riley-Smith reminds his reader that on the matter of violence Christ was not as clear as pacifists like to think. He praised the faith of the Roman centurion but did not condemn his profession. At the Last Supper he told his disciples, “Let him who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned with transgressors.
St. Paul said of secular authorities, “He does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” Several centuries later, St. Augustine articulated a Christian approach to just war, one in which legitimate authorities could use violence to halt or avert a greater evil. It must be a defensive war, in reaction to an act of aggression. For Christians, therefore, violence was ethically neutral, since it could be employed either for evil or against it. As Riley-Smith notes, the concept that violence is intrinsically evil belongs solely to the modern world. It is not Christian.
I heard someone on a Catholic radio program earlier this week talking about how we should encounter  Islamists and referencing the Crusades, "not our finest moment."
Is that really relevant at this point in time? (Never mind true, though such a throwaway bromide can't really be either true or false....)
I remember baby-sitting and helping a girl who was seven years or so younger than I. I went to public school, she went to a Catholic one, private, IIRC.
I was helping her with Social Studies homework, and I remember very clearly being struck by something in her textbook, (well, not so clearly that I can remember what it was, precisely,) some matter of European history, (NOT the Crusades, the "Age of Exploration" perhaps?) which presented exactly the same facts as I remembered them from my textbooks, but somehow conveying an entirely different impression of .....fault?  who had more of right, of integrity on their side. Well, a very different impression of the nobility of the motives of the major players.
Not many years later, the textbooks used by another Catholic school, (baby-sitting same family, different child,) seemed to bend over backwards to blame Christianity, if not the Catholic Church per se, for most of the ills of the medieval world, of modern Europe....
Public school or not, my sixth grade teacher was a great medievalist, and it's hard to wax rhapsodic about the Middle Ages without praising the Catholic Church, (he was not Catholic himself.)
This suited me just fine, I adored the Darkness of the "Dark" Ages, I thought the Cloisters was the most beautiful place on earth, making our own "illuminated manuscripts" was my favourite art project EVAH, and sagas and chivalric epics thrilled me down to my toes.
And politically incorrect as I've always been, no matter how noble Saladin was, I wanted him defeated.

Oh, and even then, I though Roland was a JACKASS!. Seriously, dude? for a shot at a little bit of extra glory you are willing to risk the future of all of Europe? Jackass...
"Idiot....", Charlamagne mutters to himself.

Anyway, I'm sure it is a great defect of mine, but I've never gone in for self-loathing.

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