Saturday, February 7, 2015

Crusades, Counter-terrorism, and Historical Honesty

A great deal has been made about President Obama's address at the Annual Prayer Breakfast regarding the heinous acts of ISIS/ISIL (seriously, let's just pick one and move on), but also the historical damage of violent acts in the name of religion throughout history, specifically Christianity, and specifically the Crusades and Inquisitions (yes, this was not a singular event). Many in the Christian community are appalled at the President's remarks because they seem to be a moral qualifier meant to limit our judgment of terrorists' full spectrum attack on all of humanity.

The blunder of the President's (and most of Western culture's) lack of knowledge about the reality of the Church's role in the Crusades and Inquisitions has been more than adequately dealt with in the Catholic Christian blogosphere, so as a starting premise and recap of those posts, U.S. drone attacks (not including other Western nations) number more per attack than were actually lost in a year in the Inquisitions, and the Crusades were actually mounted in defense of Christian lands against the attack of Muslim armies. Yes, we were defending Christian lands against against what was then, mainstream Islam. Today is a much different story, including the much smaller percentage of Muslims involved, and to equate historical events like these with today's bloody genocides is as intellectually dishonest as it is just plain ridiculous, and here's why:

In a span of 250 years in the Spanish Inquisition, the number of people killed by secular authorities was about 3,000; that amounts to about 12 per year. Compare that with just the targeted drone strikes by the U.S. today under President Obama himself. Here are some numbers:

24- the number of terrorist men targeted in Pakistan by this administration
874- the number of people killed in those attacks
142- the number of children killed in those attacks
6- the number of targeted men who actually died in those "targeted" attacks

 Now, math isn't exactly my strong suit, and that's one of many reasons I write, but I'm pretty sure that beats the Spanish Inquisition (again, secular rulers doing this), both in percentage of people vs. those "targeted" and in the sheer volume for the length of time, not to mention the inclusion of innocent children among the collateral damage of the "targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us" (John Brennan, CIA director). That "moral high ground" the President is standing on is beginning to look more like a small iceberg than a "high horse." As a side note to address the President's, "People committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," allegation, the original intent of the Inquisition was not massacre, but was an investigation to respond to a heresy that was causing great confusion within the Church, and people were given a great number of opportunities to recant, convert, defend themselves, etc. before being given fairly light penances, excommunication (this doesn't mean death), with death only being imposed by secular rulers (as a last resort).

So, what's my point? The point is, like I tell my children, just because someone does something mean to you, it doesn't justify returning the favor...certainly not several centuries later, when the basis for that claim is bogus anyhow. We can't use excuses, and fairly unhistorical ones to justify the violence of today, so rather than putting down a faith that created and operates hospitals, universities, orphanages, and other centers of humane and merciful care for people of all beliefs, perhaps the President should reconsider his own "targeted killing" policies. The killings perpetrated by these radicals are also "targeted"; does that still make it okay, or is it simply that, rather than commanding someone to press a button in secret, they instead viciously kill someone in front of a camera? Violence is never the answer, but our leaders must be honest about their own actions, keeping in mind that, the more we offer excuses for the behavior, the more it will continue, emboldened by the lies we believe are in our own history.

For a deeper historical exploration of the myths and truths of the Crusades, consider reading this article and its supporting documents.


  1. We needed Communists to help us in the cold war ie China. We need Muslim countries to defeat ISIS. Extremists unfortunately attach or hijack to religions to lend legitimacy, justification. Typically hijacking and perverting contexts from those religions. MLK calls itself Christian. I admired some of your writing until you threw up your ulterior motive GOP banner. The Pope, OUR POPE praises Barack Obama and we who are commanded not to judge should be careful not to throw away chances to reach out. Your small iceberg analogy completely showed your colors. You dislike the guy the Pope praises. STOP using my beloved Catholic faith as a platform for your political rhetoric or as credibility, justification to judge. My follow and bookmark are now removed as you have hijacked, twisted Catholicism for political views. Similar to what MLK and ISIS do. Disgusted.

    1. Dear Dezi and Cynthia, I agree that we need Muslims around the world to stand up and help defeat ISIS, and I was encouraged by the swift action of Egypt in response to the martyrdom of our Coptic brothers and sisters.
      As for my motives, I would caution you in judging my thoughts vs. my writing. My goal is not, in any way, to be a mouthpiece for ANY political party or individual. The Holy Father did praise the President in regards to his actions in Cuba, and I have no argument with that. He has never praised his use of targeted drone attacks, and certainly, has never praised the President without qualification, that is, in every action and policy. To believe that is so would be dishonest.
      My article was not judging the President's heart, but his actions and misuse of history, whereas you judge my intentions and heart, not to mention outright claiming my misuse of what is also my faith for political reasons.
      The history is simply very different than what is presented by President Obama, criticizing the Church for its role in the Crusades and the Inquisitions (there were multiple). His history is incorrect, and it is actually being used for political reasons, which I find interesting that you do not criticize.
      I have in no way distorted the teachings of the Church as you say, and I would challenge you to find the doctrines or even the traditions of the Church that I "twisted...for political views." My goal isn't to press the political agenda of any party. If it were true that I pressed the GOP agenda, wouldn't I actually support these targeted strikes, since that party openly advocates aggressively going after terrorists in this way?
      My criticism of the President is his misuse of history to morally equate the Church's history with what is happening today within ISIS. I disagree with him on some policies, like the push to force people and organizations of Catholic faith violate their conscience regarding medical issues, but I believe he is right to say that all people need access to health insurance. I also agree that we need a more just approach to those who desire to come to this country, and especially those who have been brought to this country as children, not by their own choice. Border security is important, but so is respect for the lives of people, and we cannot dehumanize them as "illegals". My beliefs are not partisan, but very Catholic, and as a Catholic, I find it necessary to set the record straight on a history that never was. I hope you will exercise goodwill in taking me at me word. May God always bless you.