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Friday, February 06, 2015

Where Obama Got The Idea

Conservative circles have recently been making hay over Obama's comparison of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition to recent jihadi activity. But, to be scrupulously fair, this wasn't Obama's idea.

In 2001, former president Bill Clinton delivered a speech at Georgetown University in which he discussed the West’s response to the recent terrorist attacks of September 11. The speech contained a short but significant reference to the crusades. Mr. Clinton observed that “when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem [in 1099], they . . . proceeded to kill every woman and child who was Muslim on the Temple Mount.” He cited the “contemporaneous descriptions of the event” as describing “soldiers walking on the Temple Mount . . . with blood running up to their knees.” This story, Mr. Clinton said emphatically, was “still being told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it.”

Both Clinton and Obama were playing to their Protestant base. After all, Protestants have advanced the "Crusades were evil" myth for a LONG, long time.
"This is the greatest of all sins and is one that no Turk commits, for Christ’s name is used for sin and shame and thus dishonored. This would be especially so if the pope and the bishops were involved in the war, for they would bring the greatest shame and dishonor to Christ’s name because they are called to fight against the devil with the word of God and with prayer, and they would be deserting their calling and office to fight with the sword against the flesh and blood." (LW 46:165) 
Luther believed that the pope used war as a means to steal from his followers. For him, the idea of a Christian crusade was nothing but a sham concocted to gain riches for the church. He states that “the pope never seriously intended to wage war against the Turk; instead they used the Turkish war as a cover for their game and robbed Germany of money by means of indulgences whenever they took the notion” (LW 46:164)
The original Martin Luther saw the papal attempt to stop Muslim encroachment as evil. Luther preached that the Muslims were a divine scourge on Christianity meant to pay Europe back for the evils of the papacy. Attempts to fight Islam were sinful attempts to fight against God. The Muslims of the era, on the other hand, saw the Crusaders as honorable opponents.
“During the Middle Ages you could not find a Christian in Europe who did not believe that the Crusades were an act of highest good. Even the Muslims respected the ideals of the Crusades and the piety of the men who fought them. But that all changed with the Protestant Reformation. For Martin Luther . . . argued that to fight the Muslims was to fight Christ himself, for it was he who had sent the Turks to punish Christendom for its faithlessness. . . . It was in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century that the current view of the Crusades was born.”
The MSM smear is just the half-millennium old Protestant smear, writ large. Obama and Clinton repeat the smear because it sells to America's largely Protestant audience.

Unfortunately, conservative commentators who are now correcting the history on the Crusades are no more interested in the truth than were Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. After all, look at the facts. Like the popular history of the Crusades, the popular history of the Inquisition is at least as fictional, it is certainly as unrelated to the historical facts, as the popular history of the Crusades.

Yet the conservatives who want to wage war on Islam don't attempt to clear up the injustice done to the history of the Spanish Inquisition. It doesn't serve their purposes to do so. They want war. Whether that desire is a good idea or not is a separate question. The "Crusades were bad" meme interferes with their ability to make such a war popular. The inaccurate perception of the Inquisition doesn't harm their ability to wage war, so those inaccurate perceptions are ignored. Instead, they focus entirely on cleansing away the falsehoods surrounding the Crusades.

The Da Vinci Code was popular primarily because it simply re-packaged the Protestant version of Catholic history. The MSM "Crusades were bad" meme is just the same kind of re-packaging, a product that sells well in Protestant America. After all, you'll never hear about the Lutheran Crusades, or how the Zwinglians were willing to fight against the Islamic domination of Europe. Catholics were the only ones who put their bodies between Europe and Islam, defying the cruelty we see today.

Obama, Clinton, the MSM play the "anti-Crusade" meme because it is popular. All of them are playing to a VERY receptive audience. So, when conservative pundits claim Obama is wrong, they are - whether intentionally or not - completely missing the point of the comments. Protestants have fought to make Obama's remarks the truth for a long, long time.

Protestant American chickens, meet your historical roost.

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