Friday, October 15, 2010

The Crusades and Christians

I have been reading an excellent book on the crusades recently in which the author made a very insightful observation. He said that medieval knights in Europe were very violent, very immoral, and very religious (God's Battalions by Rodney Stark).

I was reading in Ephesians this morning and came across the passage in which St. Paul writes:
No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient (Eph. 5:5-6).
Paul apparently does not mean that if a Christian stumbles and falls into sin he is no longer a Christian since his first letter to the Corinthians is to "carnal" Christians who are sinning. In fact Paul warns that those who think they stand should take heed lest they fall (1 Corinthians. 10:12). In other words, no one should think they are so holy that they could not fall into sin. St. John goes so far as to say that if anyone says he is without sin, he is a liar (1 John 1:8).

On the other hand, in Ephesians 5 Paul is certainly saying that those who live lives characterized by immorality and greed demonstrate by their "fruit" or behavior that they are not really Christians at all regardless of what they may profess with their mouth. Paul says essentially the same thing in Galatians 5:19-21 and First Corinthians. 6:9-10. Paul is simply following the teachings of Jesus (cf. Matthew 7:15-23).

I find this interesting because Christians are regularly attacked for all the evil that took place during the crusades. I have no doubt that some crusaders were genuine Christians who were responding to 400 years of violent and relentless Muslim expansion and imperialism, but I'm also quite sure that the vast majority of Europeans who took part in the crusades were no more Christian than Muhammad who was just as violent, brutal and ruthless as any of the crusaders.

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