Did the Crusades Advance the Cause of Christ?
The reasoning behind the creation of the Crusades has always been thought of as to take back Jerusalem, the Holy Land, from Muslim hands through the use of military force. To which it tried to do so in numerous military campaigns that resulted in both success and defeats. What must be wondered is did the Crusades through military force really advance the cause of Christ or was it simply misguided slaughter? Historical accounts have stated that when the Crusaders laid siege to cities within the region of Jerusalem and even to Jerusalem itself it was common practice to ransack the city and slay all the inhabitants therein.
Roger Bacon, an English Philosopher and a Franciscan monk, criticized the Crusades stating that the survivors of the ransacked cities were more embittered against the Christian faith than they were for it. This is technically true since the indiscriminate killing of people and the ransacking of cities as practiced by the Crusaders at the time wouldn’t exactly hold them in high esteem with the local populace . Another aspect of the crusades that must noted was that those who participated in it were granted plenary indulgences by the pope.
Indulgences can be described as exemptions from sin that allowed a person who participated in the Crusades to be exempt from the sins they committed in life upon death. It is this particular aspect of the crusades that actually lead to even greater atrocities since individuals were under the assumption that any act they committed would be forgiven. What this paper will seek to do is examine the reasons behind the Crusades, the instances where it deviated from the doctrine of Christ and to answer the question of whether or not it truly advanced the cause of Christ.
Political Reasons Though the reason for the Crusades was supposedly to retake the Holy Land the original for the start of the Crusades can actually be traced to 2 factors. The first would be the direct request of the Byzantine emperor Alexio the first to Pope Urban the 2 for help in repealing the encroaching Muslims who were invading his territory at the time . The second would be the fact that Catholic missionaries and pilgrims who went to Jerusalem in order to pray and pay their respects were regularly killed by the Muslims at the time.
This resulted in the pope justifying the potential violence of the Crusades with the need to protect the pilgrims making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The resulting propaganda advertising the need to take back the Holy Land from the Muslims started a religious fervor that resulted in many joining the Crusade. While it must be noted that the reasons were justifiable with the need to protect the pilgrims on their journey the resulting massacres of innocent people that came as a result of the Crusades could have been avoided if the invading army actually took the lessons of Christ to heart instead of devolving in mindless savagery.
Massacre of the Jews and Arabs An unfortunate consequence of the Crusades was the indiscriminate massacre of civilians whenever a city was captured. Jews and Muslims alike were killed along with their children which resulted in literal rivers of blood flowing on the streets of the city. Such actions were justified under the pretext of waging a Holy War against the Muslims. The teachings of Christ emphasized the need for tolerance regarding your fellow man. In this regard the Crusaders actually fail since instead of tolerance they instilled the fear of death and instead of helping their fellow man they killed him.
The end result of such actions was that those who lost loves ones. , friends, family or close acquaintances were more embittered against Christianity than they were for it. The result was those affected by the slaughter chose to fight against Christianity in revenge for the atrocities that were committed against their friends and family in the name of Holy War . Today the actions of the Crusaders would not constitute a Holy War rather it could be considered the systematic genocide of Muslims and Jews in a region in order to instill their own doctrines instead cooperating and coexisting.
Up till today the region is still rife with anti catholic sentiment and this goes to show that the actions of the crusaders at the time were a far cry from the teachings that they supposedly were suppose to adhere to. Granting of Indulgences It was during the Crusades that the granting of plenary indulgences became a customer in order to recruit more soldiers to the cause. The idea behind it was that if a person went on a Crusade and died all his sins in life would be forgiven.
This practice can be compared to the creation of St. Peter’s Basilica where in order to raise funds to build it plenary indulgences were sold to the general public in the form of written letters stating the indulgences that they were exempt to. The reason why this is comparable to that is due to the fact that as a result of the granting of these indulgences soldiers in a Crusade were more likely to heinous acts such as the brutal murder of an entire family and justify to himself that he would be exempt from the sin.
It was through the indulgences that violent measures involved during the Crusades actually escalated since more and more brutal acts were justified under the holiness of their cause and that they would be exempt from the sin . In the teachings of Christ it doesn’t state that sin can be exempted via large forms of money nor does it make sense that a person can be cleansed from the sin of murder when that person doesn’t regret it at all under the false belief that what they do is justified under some cause greater than themselves. Military conquest
The end result of the first Crusade was both the conquest of Jerusalem as well as several of the outlying regions close to it. The Crusades that came after also conquered numerous territories at the expense of more blood and civilian lives. The end result was instead of spreading the word of Christ the Crusaders wound up conquering and pillaging numerous territories while supposedly under a “Holy” cause . The original purpose of the Crusades was to capture Jerusalem and prepare safe passage for pilgrims but what happened was the mindless ransacking of cities and the conquering of territories.
In the Hollywood film “Kingdom of Heaven” we see can see that some Crusaders did not join the war for the sake of a religious cause rather it was due to the fact that to the victor goes the spoils. The numerous territories that were captured as shown in the film were given to the Crusaders as their own territories. This created a culture wherein people believed that they could make new fortunes for themselves if they fought in the crusades.
The film wasn’t a far depiction from reality with numerous territories in the region put under the control of high ranking crusaders and their numerous allies. Conclusion Based on the fact that as a result of the Crusades numerous innocent people were slaughtered, that soldiers indiscriminately butchered people under the belief that what they were doing would be forgiven immediately, that in the end people joined the Crusades not for any sort of religious vindication but for the chance to make new fortunes.
It can be said the Crusades did not advance the cause of Christ at all due to the fact that the more the Crusades came the more innocent people they killed and the more embittered the people in the region became towards Christianity. The Crusades actually set back the cause of Christ from being willfully accepted by the people. Instead of creating converts what the Crusades did was create more enemies instead.