A Review of "God's Battalions — The Case for the Crusades"

By:  James Heiser
03/26/2012
       
A Review of "God's Battalions — The Case for the Crusades"

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists on the United States, and the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, vague invocations of “the Crusades” have gained a new relevance. Both sides of the conflict have sought to link the current series of wars to those of the Crusades — either by way of justifying or denouncing of their current course of action. History is one of the victims of the current conflict, as the much-maligned and ill-remembered Crusades have been recast time and again to serve various agendas.

 

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists on the United States, and the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, vague invocations of “the Crusades” have gained a new relevance. Both sides of the conflict have sought to link the current series of wars to those of the Crusades — either by way of justifying or denouncing of their current course of action. History is one of the victims of the current conflict, as the much-maligned and ill-remembered Crusades have been recast time and again to serve various agendas.

In God’s Battalions — The Case for the Crusades, Professor Rodney Stark is dedicated to the task of setting forth a popular history of the Crusades. He has little use for modern efforts to recast the Crusades as a justification for various barbaric acts undertaken by modern Muslims; in his words:

Current Muslim memories and anger about the Crusades are a twentieth-century creation, prompted in part by ‘post-World War I British and French imperialism and the post-World War II creation of the state of Israel.’ … Eventually, the image of the brutal, colonizing crusader proved to have such polemical power that it drowned out nearly everything else in the ideological lexicon of Muslim antagonism toward the West — except, of course, for Israel and paranoid tales about the worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

Stark realizes that most discussions of the Crusades in the media and academia have become reality-free zones; often the fact that Muslims had waged centuries of pitiless warfare in an effort to exterminate Christian civilization is simply elided in a swift motion, castigating the 11th-century leaders of Christendom for having the audacity to fight back. In Stark’s words:

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