5/21/2008

McCain's Spiritual Guides



The principle of the crusades was a savage fanaticism; and the most important effects were analogous to the cause. Each pilgrim was ambitious to return with his sacred spoils, the relics of Greece and Palestine; and each relic was preceded and followed by a train of miracles and visions. The belief of the Catholics was corrupted by new legends, their practice by new superstitions; and the establishment of the inquisition, the mendicant orders of monks and friars, the last abuse of indulgences, and the final progress of idolatry, flowed from the baleful fountain of the holy war. The active spirit of the Latins preyed on the vitals of their reason and religion; and, if the ninth and tenth centuries were the times of darkness, the thirteenth and fourteenth were the age of absurdity and fable.

Edward Gibbon
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


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"Some Christian ideals change with time and culture. Today, we do not share many of the assumptions of medieval Christians. The modern world exalts democratic individualism, religious liberty, and the separation of church and state. Urban II and the crusaders lived in a world with different ideals. Still, we consider it unfortunate that the crusaders never understood two basic truths: Christianity’s highest satisfactions are not guaranteed by possession of special places, and the sword is never God’s way to extend Christ’s kingdom."

Dr. Bruce Shelley
Christianity Today

2 comments:

Roadkill said...

Sunny,

Edward Gibbon was a gifted and important historian, and his insights were generally sound – particularly with regard to ancient Rome, the subject of his seminal work. In his commentary on the Crusades – which occurred some 600 years after the fall of Rome – he correctly observes that fanaticism was a prominent feature of the war to free the Holy land.

Yet the cited passage does not paint the full picture and does not attempt to explain the causes of the Crusades. Will Durant, in his Story of Civilization, Volume 4 (The Age of Faith) is more helpful in this respect. Durant recounts Moslem expansion and conquest throughout the Mediterranean basin from 649-1071: First Syria and Egypt and the rest of the Levant, then across Northern Africa and the Mediterranean – Corsica, Sardinia, Crete, and Malta, Sicily and the southern Italian Peninsula, and eventually across the Straits of Gibraltar to all of Spain. Europe was caught in the pincers of an aggressively militant jihad that presented three options for the conquered populaces: Convert, Submit to dhimmitude under Sharia Law, or Die.

With this backdrop, Durant cites three proximate causes of the Crusades: One Religious, one Military, and one Commercial:

The first proximate cause of the Crusades was the advance of the Seljuq Turks. The world had adjusted itself to Moslem control of the Near East; the Fatimids of Egypt had ruled mildly in Palestine; and barring some ex¬ceptions, the Christian sects there had enjoyed a wide liberty of worship. But in 1070 the Turks took Jerusalem from the Fatimids, and pilgrims began to
bring home accounts of oppression and desecration.

The second proximate cause of the Crusades was the dangerous weakening of the Byzantine Empire. For seven centuries it had stood at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, holding back the armies of Asia and the hordes of the steppes. Now its internal discords, its disruptive heresies, its isolation from the West by the schism of 1054, left it too feeble to fulfill its historic task. While the Bulgars, Patzinaks, Cumans, and Russians assaulted its European gates, the Turks were dismembering its Asiatic provinces. In 1071 the Byzantine army was almost annihilated at Manzikert; the Seljuqs captured Edessa, Antioch (1085), Tarsus, even Nicaea, and gazed across the Bosporus at Constantinople itself. If Constantinople should fall, all Eastern Europe would lie open to the Turks…

The third proximate cause of the Crusades was the ambition of the Italian cities – Pisa, Genoa, Venice, Amalfi – to extend their rising commercial power. When the Normans captured Sicily from the Moslems (1060-91), and Christian arms reduced Moslem rule in Spain (1085), the western Mediterranean was freed for Christian trade; the Italian cities … planned to end Moslem ascendancy in the eastern Mediterranean, and open the markets of the Near East to Western European goods.

You probable know a lot of this, but I think it’s useful to illustrate the Crusades on a broader canvas lest some get the impression that the “culminating act of the middle ages” was solely a product of Christian religious fervor.

By the way, if you want to round out your gallery of politicians and preachers, you should include a picture of Barak Obama and his spiritual mentor of the last 20 years. You know, Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- the guy who married Obama, baptized his children, and inspired the title of his personal memoir.

Unlike Obama, I not aware that John McCain even goes to chuch.

Sunny Badger said...

Roadkill:

Thanks for the additional information. It helps paint the picture of the Crusades with more enlightened hues.

I think most people look at the Crusades as a black v. white issue or a Christain v. Evil Arabs issue. There was a lot going on back then and Roman didn't fall overnight in the West or East branches of the Empire.

It's interesting to note that the Arabs were the culture that most embraced science and technological innovation at the time and the European's embrace religious fanaticism. Likewise, it's interest to see how important money and power played in the spread of the Christian and Muslim religions.

Today we have a cartoon debate flag-drapped American patriots battling the Islamofasists of the Middle East. Once again, the money and power support beams get obscured by the surface debate and passions the enflame the discussion.

I believe there was previous posts related to Obama and Rev. Wright. Personally, I've heard little from Wright that seem out of line -- coming from a Black man living in the United States. It certainly challenges one's comfort zone. Of course, Obama had to throw the reverend under his campaign bus because people aren't about to take time out from watching American Idol to discuss and learn about the cultural realities of life in these United States. Afterall, the Constitution says "All men are created equal..."

When I was at the bar a few weeks ago, the talk got around to Obama and Wright and one guy said "If those niggers get in charge, they'll have us all picking cotton!" He added that he wasn't prejudice, but he just wishes they blend into society like the Irish and Pollacks did.

Another guy pointed out that he couldn't vote for a Black man, but would vote for Hillary..."even though she's a bitch." When I asked how he knows she's a bitch, he told me "everybody knows that."

When I asked how many women politicians he's met? Zero. How many men politicians? A couple. My point is that politics is a TV game show that borders on one-dimensional cartoonism. I voted in the Wisconsin primary and waste like time paying attention to the horse race known as the 2008 primary.