Book Review: God’s Battalions – Chapter 11: Mission Abandoned

March 22, 2011

This is part of a multi-part review of God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark. The summary is here. You can use the table of contents found there.

Support for the crusades had waned. There were a variety of reasons.

Money was a big factor. The taxes that had been levied, especially in the later Crusades, were resented. Many of the taxes were on the clergy so even the religious orders were starting to resent the crusades.

The losses were an omen. There was a clear questioning on the part of many as to whether God wanted them to retake the Holy Land. Poems and letters from this time express this question.

Theology was questioned. There were many who questioned the theology of the wars. Killing infidels would send them to hell… that a good thing? Should Europe attack if not attacked?  Is the death penalty appropriate for Christian forces? These questions caused many religious people to pause in their support for the crusades.

After St. Louis, there were no more full scale crusades. There were a few smaller efforts but no major campaigns.

In time, Muslim forces took over the remaining Crusader kingdoms of the Holy Land. Acres, Tyre and Tripoli fell. For perspective, Stark notes that we must remember that some of these Crusader Kingdoms lasted as long as the United States has been in existence.

Stark closes by noting that our modern view that the crusades are somehow the reason for today’s strife worldwide between Christians and Muslims is simply wrong. He says that Muslim literature hardly mentions the crusade prior to the 19th century. They were a footnote and the crusades were largely characterized as an attack on the Turks (not all of Islam).  He says that it was Christians who have reintroduced the crusades to Islam during the 20th century.


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