I watched a film about the crusades the other day. I thought it would be best not to write immediately because I was feeling very very angry. Now, I would like to record some of my thoughts here.
Firstly I think its worth realising how thankful we should be for mass literacy. That most of us can read the holy scriptures for ourselves. In the time of the crusades, most people relied on priests to tell them what God was like and what God was saying. God’s word was available to the people only through the mouths of weak, corruptible men. I believe the Holy Spirit must have been active, directly speaking the word of God to people, but the evil in men and the culture at the time meant that anybody contradicting the pope was labelled a heretic. The pope was basically god.
The film said that pope Urban (the 2nd?) called a huge meeting to decide what to do about Islam. What I cannot begin to understand is how such a huge gathering of people who were fortunate enough to be able to read and study the words of Jesus were not able to grasp that violence was exactly the opposite of what Jesus stands for. How could the outcome of a meeting of Jesus lovers possibly be to start a violent slaughter of Muslims? Did they not know Jesus says “love your enemies”? My only conclusion is that they did not care what Jesus would have to say about it all. That they were not bothered about Christ. They were only interested in self preservation, in conquest. They were not men of God, but men of empire. Christ was only a symbol they melded meaninglessly to their war machines.
The other thing I was led to think about again was the use of hell as manipulation. I do not believe at all in eternal punishment, but that aside, hell was used as a threat. Basically, do what the pope says you must do, or be tortured forever and ever in the bowels of hell. Hell as we know it was created to scare people into submission to the madness of the medieval catholics.
The crusades were violently anti-Jesus. They ruined Christ’s reputation and it stayed ruined for centuries to come. Still today it tarnishes the holy name of Jesus.
I want to be clear, Jesus would NEVER command a slaughter, a genocide or even a war of any form. He called us to love our enemies, to bless them, to bring peace, to bring harmony.