The Crusades – God’s Battalions

StarkI’m working my way steadily through God’s Battalion’s by Rodney Stark. The sub-title of the book is ‘The Case For The Crusades’. If you were to look for a sub-text however, there isn’t one because he lays out his aim early in the book. So we read:

To sum up the prevailing wisdom: during the Crusades, an expansionist, imperialistic Christendom brutalised, looted, and colonised a tolerant and peaceful Islam. (p. 8.)

Not so. As will be seen, the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations: by centuries of bloody attempts to colonise the West and by sudden new attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places.

The whole book then is written to redress centuries of Western condemnation. Often, the Crusades are wheeled out to justify Islamic aggression. It isn’t always presented as starkly as that but that’s clearly the meaning.

It’s a book many will not like. In order to placate political correctness I’m left wondering just how much historic revisionism has and is taking place in order to accommodate Islamic teaching.

Later in the chapter ‘Bloody Victories’ Stark writes (p. 155.) about the taking of Jerusalem.

‘The Muslim forces were overwhelmed, and a massacre began; by the morning of the 16th the city was littered with corpses. (p. 157.)’ This the sort of record that keeps being brought up by Muslims. But Stark writes:

This is the horror story that has been used again and again to vilify the crusaders. Consequently, let us pause here to consider the matter from several perspectives. First of all, it is not only absurd but often quite disingenuous to use this event to “prove” that the crusaders were bloodthirsty barbarians in contrast to the more civilized and tolerant Muslims. Dozens of Muslim massacres of whole cities have been reported in previous chapters, and the crusaders knew of such occurrences. (page 157.)

Basically, several myths, it would seem, have emerged in order to create a false impression of the Crusaders. Stark urges caution when dealing with these events. ‘Granted, it was a cruel and bloody age, but nothing is to be gained either in terms of moral insights or historical comprehension by anachronistically imposing the Geneva Convention on these times.’ (page 158.)

The past, as someone has said, is another country.

I’m enjoying reading this book. I’d recommend it.

One thought on “The Crusades – God’s Battalions

  1. Man I need to lounge at a seminary library near me to read this book! Thanks for your review. Fascinating. I have not read any thing by Rodney Stark yet and have heard mixed things about him

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