The first papal proposal for a crusade was in 1074 by Pope Gregory VII. Gregory was responding to the conquests of Antioch and Nicaea, the reports of Christians “slaughtered like cattle” and reports of Constantinople threatened. You can read some of what he said here. For a number of reasons, his proposal did not substantiate into much. That’s too bad, if you ask me.
Near the end of the eleventh century, Alexios and the Byzantines from the Christian East were anxiously writing western princes and Church leaders for military assistance, citing attacks on Nikomedia in the early 1090s and their plight at the hands of the Turks within Cappadocia, Byzantium and Syria. Their reports indicated that churches were being burned or desecrated, that lands were taken, and that some Christians were forcibly converted, enslaved, killed or prevented from entering Jerusalem. Thus, their reports conveyed a dire threat to Christians and the eastern Christian empire. Muslims were thus behaving aggressively and badly toward Christians, taking their land, liberty and life.
This call from the East is probably the primary reason why, in 1095, Pope Urban II ordered a crusade. He wanted to help his Christian brethren and regain Christian land from Muslim aggression. Urban’s order resulted in the First Crusade, which involved thousands and thousands of Christians travelling to fight Muslims within the aforementioned lands. You can read Urban’s famous statement here.
Was the First Crusade justified? I think so. Considering these reports and the situation within the East, the conditions of jus ad bellum were met, because a united Christian action would have been (1) sanctioned by some authoritative leaders of the West and the empire of the East; (2) it would have been defensive; (3) it would have been proportional to the threat; and (4) it would have been a last resort to regain Christian lands and safety. I thus have no bones with the motivation for the First Crusade and Urban II’s decision – it was a just war. Of course, I am not here saying that every Christian acted properly during this war (jus in bello), but only that the motivation for war is justifiable. In fact, as a Catholic, my only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner. For more, read here.
Now consider modern times. ISIS and their goons are eradicating Christianity from Syria and Iraq. They’ve burned churches and desecrated holy places, killed Christian men and children, enslaved our women for sex and banished Christian towns. ISIS and their ilk have also attacked Christians in Yemen and Libya, and in surrounding areas. Christians are thus under siege and enduring genocide, and they are being pushed out from the land of Christianity’s birthplace. Heck, the New York Times once questioned whether Christianity was going to be extinct in the Middle East.
The conditions of jus ad bellum are thus present, and some nations are justly engaged in war with ISIS. I think that’s awesome: Kill them all. But what about a crusade? Or something crusade-like? Why isn’t that part of our Christian mentality anymore? Why isn’t our pope calling for it? Why aren’t Christians trekking in the thousands to defend their brethren and Christian holy places?
It seems to me that the pope could call for something like a crusade, citing the above-mentioned reasons, and encouraging Christian men across the globe to join the Kurds and other groups who are already trying to exterminate ISIS. We’ve seen cases where Americans and Europeans have travelled help the Kurds fight ISIS, and these persons are welcomed by the Kurds and considered heroic in the West. The pope’s call could just be a request for Christian men to help in that same way. Thus, they’d be fighting alongside Muslim Kurds and other groups against ISIS and for Christians. So why doesn’t the pope do that?
Modern Christians might say that this sounds too militant, but it didn’t always seem this way. So what changed? Indeed, why were we once a bunch of ass kickers but now settle for tweets in response to terror, aggression and genocide? Heck, even current pope acts this way, making mere statements of disappointment and grief while our churches are burned; and while Christian men are murdered; and while Christian women, even young girls, are gang raped and sold to slavery.
Our modern impotence, indifference or deference has an explanation: Since World War 1, we have been encultured to rely on global institutions such as the League of Nations or the UN to solve conflict. But I think that there is more than this: I suspect that after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the principles and ideas of Westphalian sovereignty spread and solidified, replacing the primacy of religion with the primacy of the nation. In effect, the bonds of oikoumene and Christian unity were gradually eroded. Hence, at the present time, if Iraqi Christians endure genocide and expulsion from holy lands, we just type our outrage on FB, quickly returning to our Pumpkin Spice Lattes and first world comforts without much of a second thought. Yet, if the nation is attacked, as it was on 9/11, or at Pearl Harbour, then we are prepared to release the dogs of war. Nation thus largely replaced religion and confined our loyalty to religion within its parameters.
So here is how I see it: The goal of the Peace of Westphalia was to get Christians to stop killing Christians. It meant to stop the inquisition mentality. But in its longterm effect, it also stopped the crusader mentality — that is, it also stopped Christians from defending other Christians, because it eroded the bonds of oikoumene and Christendom. In other words, the consequence of getting Christians to stop fighting with each other is that we stopped fighting for each other. What a shame.
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