The Dumbing Down of America

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The Crusades and Islam

 

The Crusades are generally portrayed by revisionists as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have left a stain on the history of Western civilization in general and the Catholic Church in particular.

So what is the truth about the Crusades? The Crusades were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression. It was an attempt by Christians to turn back Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew in war.. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword.

 

The Birth of the Crusades

During the tenth century Christianity included the entire Mediterranean area; therefore, it was a prime target for Muslim leaders. The Muslims attacked the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were very successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt quickly fell, then North Africa and Spain, and by the eleventh century, all of Asia Minor.  Christianity was reduced to little more than Greece.

In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of Western Europe asking for help. Christianity had to defend itself and the Crusades were that defense.

In 1895, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to push back the conquests of Islam. The response was tremendous. Many thousands of warriors took the vow of the cross and prepared for war. Urban II gave the Crusaders two goals; the first to rescue the Christians; the second to recapture Jerusalem.

Crusading knights were generally wealthy European men willing to give up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was also not cheap; even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves by joining a Crusade. Why did they do it? It is for similar reasons we would (and I hope will) defend Christianity today. In addition. they were eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Medieval charters attest to these sentiments.

 

Revisionists

Revisionists often state the Crusaders were those who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. Of course, Crusaders were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had, and they did not wish to leave it to the Islam survivors either. Few people got rich. The vast majorities of Crusaders returned with nothing, or were even impoverished.

It is often assumed that the central goal of the Crusades was forced conversion of the Muslim world. This is basically untrue as the Crusaders' task was to defeat and defend against the Muslims. That was all. Muslims who lived in territories retaken by the Crusaders were generally allowed to retain their property and livelihood, and always their religion. Indeed, throughout the history of the Crusades, Muslim inhabitants far outnumbered the Catholics. In the 13th century the Franciscans began conversion efforts among Muslims, but this effort failed and was dropped

The Crusades were wars, and like all warfare, there were mishaps, blunders, and crimes. During the early days of the First Crusade in 1095, a ragtag band of Crusaders made its way down the Rhine, robbing and murdering all the Jews they could find.

The Popes, bishops, and priests made it clear the Jews of Europe were to be left unmolested. In a modern war, we call tragic deaths like these "collateral damage." Even with smart technologies, the United States has killed far more innocents in our wars than the Crusaders ever could, but no one would seriously argue that the purpose of American wars is to kill women and children.

 

The First Crusade.

            The First Crusade was terrible yet successful. There was no leader, no chain of command, no supply lines, no detailed strategy. It was simply thousands of warriors marching deep into enemy territory, committed to a common cause. Many of them died, either in battle or through disease and starvation. It was a rough campaign, one that seemed always on the brink of disaster, yet it was miraculously successful.

 

The Second Crusade

When the Crusader County of Edessa fell to the Turks and Kurds in 1144, there was an enormous groundswell of support for a new Crusade in Europe. It was led by two kings, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany. It was an utter failure. Most of the Crusaders were killed along the way. Those who made it to Jerusalem only made things worse by attacking Muslim Damascus, which formerly had been a strong ally of the Christians. In the wake of such a disaster, Christians across Europe were forced to accept not only the continued growth of Muslim power but the certainty that God was punishing the West for its sins. Crusading in the late twelfth century, therefore, became a total war effort. Every person, no matter how weak or poor, was called to help. Every one prayed for the war effort. Warriors were asked to sacrifice their wealth and, if need be, their lives for the defense of the Christian East.

Still, the Muslims grew in strength. Saladin, the great unifier, had forged the Muslim Near East into a single entity, all the while preaching jihad against the Christians. In 1187, at the Battle of Hattin, his forces wiped out the combined armies of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem and captured the precious relic of the True Cross. Defenseless, the Christian cities began surrendering one by one, culminating in the surrender of Jerusalem on October 2.

 

The Third Crusade

The Third Crusade was led by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa of the German Empire, King Philip II Augustus of France, and King Richard I Lionheart of England. The aged Frederick drowned while crossing a river on horseback, so his army returned home before reaching the Holy Land. Philip and Richard came by boat, but their incessant bickering only added to an already divisive situation on the ground in Palestine. After recapturing Acre, the king of France went home. The Crusade, therefore, fell into Richard's lap. A skilled warrior, gifted leader, and superb tactician, Richard led the Christian forces to victory after victory, eventually reconquering the entire coast. But Jerusalem was not on the coast, and after two abortive attempts to secure supply lines to the Holy City, Richard at last gave up. Promising to return one day, he struck a truce with Saladin that ensured peace in the region and free access to Jerusalem for unarmed pilgrims. The desire to restore Jerusalem to Christian rule and regain the True Cross remained intense throughout Europe.

 

The Fourth Crusade

The fourth Crusade ran aground when it was seduced into a web of Byzantine politics which the Westerners never fully understood. They had made a detour to Constantinople to support an imperial claimant who promised great rewards and support for the Holy Land. Yet once he was on the throne of the Caesars, their benefactor found that he could not pay what he had promised. Thus betrayed by their Greek friends, in 1204 the Crusaders attacked, captured, and brutally sacked Constantinople, the greatest Christian city in the world. Pope Innocent III, who had previously excommunicated the entire Crusade, strongly denounced the Crusaders. But there was little else he could do. The tragic events of 1204 closed an iron door between Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox, a door that even today our popes have been unable to reopen. It is a terrible irony that the Crusades, which were a direct result of the Catholic desire to rescue the Orthodox people, drove the two further apart.

 

The Fifth Crusade

The Fifth Crusade managed briefly to capture Damietta in Egypt, but the Muslims eventually defeated the army and reoccupied the city. St. Louis IX of France led two Crusades in his life. The first also captured Damietta, but Louis was quickly outwitted by the Egyptians and forced to abandon the city. Although Louis was in the Holy Land for several years, developing defensive works, he never achieved his goal: to free Jerusalem. He was a much older man in 1270 when he led another Crusade to Tunis, where he died of a disease that ravaged the camp. After St. Louis's death, the ruthless Muslim leaders waged a brutal jihad against the Christians in Palestine. By 1291, the Muslim forces had succeeded in killing or ejecting the last of the Crusaders. This erased the Crusader kingdom from the map. Despite numerous attempts and many more plans, Christian forces were never again able to gain a foothold in the region until the 19th century.

 

Conclusion

By the 15th century, the Crusades were no longer errands of mercy for a distant people but desperate attempts of one of the last remnants of Christendom to survive.  

Europeans began to ponder the real possibility that Islam would finally achieve its aim of conquering the entire Christian world. It did not happen, but it very nearly did.

In 1480, Sultan Mehmed II captured Otranto as a beachhead for his invasion of Italy. Rome was evacuated. Yet the sultan died shortly thereafter, and his plan died with him.

In 1529, Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna. A run of bad weather forced him to leave. Thankfully he did not succeed.

            Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. Christianity not only survived but flourished. Without the Crusades, it might well have followed others of Islam's rivals into extinction.

Jim Fritz

 

Footnote: Excerpts were taken from Real History of The Crusades by Thomas F. Madden

 

 

 



The Dumbing Down of America

 

Maybe I am just getting old, but it certainly seems many in this country are getting dumber by the day. We have all seen TV shows with a news reporter interviewing people on the street, asking them simple questions like, “Who is the Vice President?” and no one can give a correct answer. I know this is a TV show, and maybe only the dummies were selected from the group; nevertheless, I encounter stupefying ignorance daily.

We are fortunate to have good Catholic radio here, and I seldom listen to anything else. Last week I traveled to the Washington DC area and had to tune in a different station. I knew better, but I turned on NPR to a show called Science Friday which sounded interesting. Their guest was a professor who had done a study comparing current effects of the weather with the effects recorded by Henry David Thoreau in the days of Walden’s Pond. Thoreau kept fairly detailed records of the first signs in Spring of certain insects, birds and flowers. The college professor used this information with information he collected in the same area comparing the dates of the arrival of the same insects, birds and flowers today with the dates recorded by Thoreau in 1845.

From this analysis the professor proclaimed the climate is warming. He ignored the possibility of unusually colder weather in Massachusetts in 1845 as well as some other conditions. Historical records indicate periods when average temperatures rise slightly and others when drop. For the global warming enthusiasts, actual weather or the buffer of atmospheric phenomena like cloud cover make no difference. We are supposed to trust their analysis just because “It is science.” I think if I had submitted this analysis as a high school science project, my science teacher would have thrown it out. The guest professor used a famous name and famous place to support his agenda promoting more government control.

Recently, in another attempt to promote a political agenda, a self-professed Catholic (let’s call him Ken) declared his friend who is running for a political office is pro-life when his friend definitely has a clear record of just the opposite. The candidate claims he is pro-life even though he sells birth control and abortifacients in his pharmacy and supports the choice of a woman to abort her child. In trying to rationalize this, Ken states everyone is pro-choice when it comes to making their own decisions without government mandating what they can or cannot do. He is really defining anarchism. How unbelievable! The candidate believes a woman should have a choice, yet calls himself pro-life.

Narrowing the issue to “a woman’s choice” indicates complete ignorance of the real facts. Statistics show over 60 percent of women “choosing” abortion are forced to do so against their will. This is not choice for the majority of women as the blather coming from the so-called ‘pro-choice’ politicians would indicate. In addition, the women who do choose abortion often suffer depression, and in some extreme cases, even suicide following their abortions. To believe women who resort to abortion will not likely suffer any physical or psychological effects (even serious regrets or guilt) is simply blind ignorance.

Having spent many years on the sidewalks in front of abortion “clinics” attempting to provide some counseling to the women entering these facilities, I can testify to the accuracy of claims that 60 percent going in against their will. Many are physically forced by their boyfriends who wish to avoid having to pay child support. Also, a great many younger girls are forced to enter by their parents and even by grandmothers. This, definitely, is the saddest scene to witness in front of an abortion facility. I had the experience of trying to counsel a mother and father bringing in their very young teenage daughter for an abortion when the girl was adamant she did not want to abort her baby. Seeing she had reinforcement from me, she became even louder and more adamant. Her mother was in my face and would not listen to anything I said. They went into the abortion facility, and I can only imagine what went on in there. About a half hour later the parents came out, then the girl. The girl said it all when she gave me a huge smile which I will never forget. They left, but not before the girl took some literature on how to obtain help.

A few years ago another woman was being dragged in by both her boyfriend and her mother. She did not want the abortion. She had been using drugs and her mother and boyfriend insisted the drugs had already damaged or would damage the child. The mother was very vocal and could be heard half a block away. Two counselors, one talking to the mother and one to the boyfriend finally convinced all three of them to go to a local OB/GYN and get a true analysis of the baby’s health. This they did, escorted by the two counselors, and were told by the doctor the baby was fine. Aborting it would only worsen the girl’s chances of getting off drugs as it would worsen her depression. They finally agreed, and the girl eventually had a beautiful baby boy which she proudly brought back months later to show off to the sidewalk counselors who had helped to save the baby. The young woman herself recovered entirely from her drug addiction, and her little baby was the joy of her life.

What right do these politicians, completely ignorant of the truth, have to support the pro-abortion agenda and call it pro-choice?  They make the same uneducated decision in promoting contraceptive birth control as a health benefit when in truth it is a carcinogenen with no health benefits.

Crisis Magazine recently published an excellent article describing how secularists are known to dismiss religion as mere espousal of a set of blind-faith beliefs without evidence to support them. The crudest among them will often do so in a snide and sneering way, holding that religious belief is imagination and fantasy—a childhood fairy tale—in contrast to the “scientific” view they espouse. Actually, they reveal themselves as the truly ignorant ones.

Even as the secularists scorn religion as blind faith, one is awestruck by their own blind faith beliefs. These are beliefs that often have no basis in the empirical science they claim to be devoted to. We can find such blind faith beliefs everywhere in the secular culture. Christians have even unthinkingly accepted some of these because they have heard them so often. One of these is global warming which we mentioned previously.  Another is the theory of evolution. People routinely call evolution a theory yet the evolutionists treat it essentially as a law. At best we could call it a hypothesis.

We have covered examples of blind faith in sexual and family matters before with the exception of homosexuality which has spawned “science” that declares same-sex attraction is intrinsic from birth in a “gay gene”. The evidence clearly points otherwise. There has never been any proof of a “gay gene” no matter how often this fable is repeated.

            These examples of secularist blind faith beliefs are just the tip of the iceberg but illustrate the ignorance of those expounding on the blind faith which characterizes secularism, not true religion.

            Ignorant people are not all as obvious as the young man wearing his visor cap on backwards and holding up his hand to keep the sun out of his eyes. Most of these people are politicians, college professors and others in authority. As the Book of Wisdom indicates, it is more difficult for a person in high standing to achieve wisdom than the faithful.      Jim Fritz


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