God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades


By Rodney Stark, Published in 2009



Professor Rodney Stark has little use for modern efforts to recast the Crusades as a justification for various barbaric acts undertaken by modern Muslims; in his words:

Current Muslim memories and anger about the Crusades are a twentieth-century creation, prompted in part by ‘post-World War I British and French imperialism and the post-World War II creation of the state of Israel.’ … Eventually, the image of the brutal, colonizing crusader proved to have such polemical power that it drowned out nearly everything else in the ideological lexicon of Muslim antagonism toward the West — except, of course, for Israel and paranoid tales about the worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

Stark realizes that most discussions of the Crusades in the media and academia have become reality-free zones; often the fact that Muslims had waged centuries of pitiless warfare in an effort to exterminate Christian civilization is simply elided in a swift motion, castigating the 11th-century leaders of Christendom for having the audacity to fight back. In Stark’s words:

Many critics of the Crusades would seem to suppose that after the Muslims had overrun a major portion of Christendom, they should have been ignored or forgiven; suggestions have been made about turning the other cheek. This outlook is certainly unrealistic and probably insincere. Not only had the Byzantines lost most of their empire; the enemy was at their gates. And the loss of Spain, Sicily, and southern Italy, as well as a hose of Mediterranean islands, was bitterly resented in Europe. Hence, as British historian Derek Lomax (1933–1992) explained, “The popes, like most Christians, believed war against the Muslims to be justified partly because the latter had usurped by force lands which once belongs to Christians and partly because they abused the Christians over whom they ruled and such Christian lands as they could raid for slaves, plunder and the joys of destruction.”

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