Sunday, November 1, 2009

God's Battalions by Rodney Stark

The recent thinking about the Crusades is that Christendom wanted to expand, was imperialistic and "brutalized, looted, and colonized tolerant and peaceful Islam." (P. 20)
No so, says Stark. The Crusades arose as a result of centuries of Islamic provocations. There had been bloody Islamic attempts to colonize the West and there had been new attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places.
Stark argues that family heads spent much more than could ever hope to be gained in the effort. The crusader kingdoms established in the Holy Land required subsidies from Europe and were not sources of revenue.
In opposition to what some would have us believe, Stark says the Muslims have not been harboring resentment about the Crusades for centuries. Such feelings did not arise until around 1900 as a reaction to the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of actual European colonialism in the Middle East.
Stark reviews history beginning with the seventh century and the rise of Islam. He reminds his readers of the many massacres of Jews and Christians at the hands of Muslims. His conclusion, "...efforts to portray Muslims as enlightened supporters of multiculturalism are at best ignorant." (P. 29)
Start does not claim that the Crusaders were pure and selfless. Pope Urban's call for a Crusade included the proposal "that participating in the Crusade was the moral equivalent of serving in a monastic order... Certainly salvation would be gained by those who took part." (P. 107) Thus a knight could keep his violent lifestyle yet obtain God's grace.
This is not a politically correct book. Stark uses many sources, however, as he builds his case. His argument should certainly be received as worthy of study.
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