Inventing Grievances

As Riley-Smith explains, however, the Muslim memory of the Crusades is of very recent vintage. Carole Hillenbrand first uncovered this fact in her groundbreaking book The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. The truth is that medieval Muslims came to realize that the Crusades were religious but had little interest in them. When, in 1291, Muslim armies removed the last vestiges of the Crusader Kingdom from Palestine, the Crusades largely dropped out of Muslim memory.

—Thomas F. Madden, “Inventing the Crusades” (HT: Aquila Report)

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One comment

  1. These may be the most provocative paragraphs from Madden’s review:

    “All the Crusades met the criteria of just wars. They came about in reaction attacks against Christians or their Church. The First Crusade was called in 1095 in response to the recent Turkish conquest of Christian Asia Minor, as well as the much earlier Arab conquest of the Christian-held Holy Land. The second was called in response to the Muslim conquest of Edessa in 1144. The third was called in response to the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem and most other Christian lands in the Levant in 1187.

    In each case, the faithful went to war to defend Christians, to punish the attackers, and to right terrible wrongs. As Riley-Smith has written elsewhere, crusading was seen as an act of love—specifically the love of God and the love of neighbor. By pushing back Muslim aggression and restoring Eastern Christianity, the Crusaders were—at great peril to themselves—imitating the Good Samaritan. Or, as Innocent II told the Knights Templar, ‘You carry out in deeds the words of the gospel, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”‘”

    Good. It’s long past time for someone to say this. The work of Madden and others has helped to bring needed balance to long-standing evangelical (and Reformed) views of the Crusades. We need to spend less time apologizing for the excesses and more time praising the virtues. Of course there were some seriously defective religious convictions that helped fuel the crusading spirit. Yet we must not neglect the Crusades as defensive wars and effective geopolitical strategy borne out of a Christian civilization, as defective as it was.

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