By 1080, Europeans had heard of the losses of cities and mass executions of pilgrims that caused fear and anger. It was now hard to ignore the creeping threat quickly approaching from Spain and Byzantium. It took Pope Urban almost a year to gather men and soldiers to join him in the Crusade. It was his hands-on approach which inspired more people, including Priests to believe in the crusade. This campaign further advanced the motivation of crusading for a sacred cause over that of penance for massacres and aggression. Pope Urban’s primary motivation for the Crusades was to reclaim Jerusalem and help the Byzantines who had already lost more than half of their territory. While the church at the time considered the Byzantines to be heretics, Urban must have thought it was better to share a border with heretics rather than Muslim heathens.
In addressing the question of determining if the First Crusade is representative of a Christian Worldview, my response is inconclusive. On one hand to agree the Crusades is representative of a Christian Worldview would also be to also excuse the immoral and un-Christian acts committed by the Crusaders. One would have to admit that the slaughter of all of Jerusalem’s inhabitants and forced conversions of Jews was a benefit to Christianity. On the other hand, the Crusaders included men and women who sacrificed their lives trying to stop the spread of unwarranted Muslim aggression. It also begs the question of is an eye for an eye always the best method. Conversely, coming to the opposite conclusion that the First Crusade does not represent a Christian Worldview ignores the bloodshed and suffering that took place in Europe and Byzantium.
My answer to this question lies somewhere in the middle. The First Crusade may have begun because of good intentions, but the persecutions, executions and massacres are difficult to overlook. When you measure scripture against the Crusades, there is justification for war in Mathew 24: 6, And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately . Even in Deuteronomy 20: 1, verse 4 states, For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies . Additionally, philosopher of the day, St. Augustine offered his theory on waging war and military practices with his Just War Theory. The argument gave moral standards for war many of which were not followed during the Crusades, including the seventh theory that the killing of innocent citizens is never justified.
There should be no shame among Christians when discussing the First Crusade, or any of the Crusades for that matter. Wrongs were committed by Crusaders and people today should not have to apologize for the actions of other people more than 900 years ago. It is interesting to note that, Most Christians today feel an acute sense of shame over the Crusades, finding it hard to understand how a succession of Popes could encourage so much violence and bloodshed Christ in order to win the Holy Land back from the control of Islam.
The Crusades was a war of defensive reasons which were to stop the spread of Islam and take back Jerusalem. Many Christians sacrificed their lives to halt the invasion of Islam. Perhaps these events should be a guide for us in understanding modern-day secularism and religious differences.
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