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    A Story from the Crusades

    Apparently, some people are very upset that President Obama suggested that some Christians did bad things during the Crusades. Where does he get off saying something like that? Let me tell you a little story from the Third Crusade.

    in 1191, King Richard the Lionhearted (or rather, Richard Coeur de Lion, Roi de l'Angleterre; Richard didn't speak any English) was besieging the city of Acre. The siege had been going on since before Richard had arrived in the Holy Land, and capturing Acre would be his most important victory during the Crusade. And eventually the defenders of Acre offered to surrender. 

    Richard accepted their surrender and promised to spare their lives. He gave them his promise as a king that they would be spared.

    And then, naturally, Richard began negotiating a ransom deal with the Muslim Sultan, Saladin (Salah ad-Din). They made a deal that Richard would turn over his 2700 Muslim prisoners in exchange for 1500 Christian prisoners, a ransom payment in cash, and a piece of the True Cross (an object everyone involved considered a fragment of the actual cross on which Jesus had been crucified). Richard set a one-month deadline for payment. So far, so good.

    When the deadline rolled around, however, Saladin was caught short and didn't have the full ransom together. When Richard and Saladin tried to work out an alternate payment plan, things got testy. Richard's idea, for what it's worth, was that Saladin hand over the money and captives he had, Richard hold onto all the Muslim prisoners, and Saladin take Richard's promise as a king that Richard would turn the hostages loose when he got the final payment. Richard figured his promise as a king should be good enough. Actually, the implication that it wasn't was fairly insulting.

    Then, with negotiations stalled, Richard got angry about waiting. So he took out all 2700 prisoners and had them killed.

    He did it on a hilltop outside Acre where Saladin and his army could see the executions happening. That would teach them. The fairly small Muslim army on the scene tried to rescue the prisoners, but the larger Christian army held them at bay until all the hostages were dead.

    A few follow-up questions: hadn't Richard given those prisoners his promise that he would spare their lives? Why yes. Yes, he did.

    And wasn't the original plan part of a prisoner exchange? What about the 1500 Christian prisoners that were supposed to be swapped for the 2700 Muslims who got killed?

    I think you know what happened. Those 1500 people got executed as a reprisal. Saladin didn't really have a choice. His troops had been made to watch their fellow-Muslims executed in cold blood, and after that they weren't ready to deal with Richard, or any of the other Crusaders, at all. The whole war got bloodier and more ruthless.Once you kill your prisoners, the new rule of war becomes No prisoners.

    Is there an upside to this story? Why yes. The good news is that in the Fourth Crusade, Christians did not commit any atrocities like this against Muslims.

    You see, the Fourth Crusade never got to the Near East at all. It only got as far as Constantinople, the capital of Orthodox Christianity, which the Crusaders promptly sacked. Then they went back to Western Europe. The Fourth Crusade didn't do anything despicable to Muslims because the Crusaders decided to do despicable things to other Christians instead. Happy ending, right? Deus vult and all that.

    This has been a brief message from History Everyone Has Known for a Long Time. Thanks.



    Thanks for the history lesson, Doc! Frankly, I think Obama shouldn't have waded into the crusades at all. The post-Reformation wars between Catholics and Protestants were bloodier, more vicious, and more contemporary.

    Oh, believe me, I know. That post-Reformation stuff is my wheelhouse. And I'm always looking for an excuse to link to this:


    I think Obama picked the Crusades because he knew what he said would also have an audience in the Middle-Eastern world, for whom the Crusades are very much alive as a metaphor for contemporary events.

    And I think Obama got burned, as he often has, by picking an example that no reasonable person could consider controversial at this point. The crazy right's willingness to dispute everything often takes him by surprise, but I also don't see how you could plan for that.

    Oh, Doc, are you sure?  That was a long time ago and since there was no internet how do I know you and those other historian guys didn't just make that up?  After all, we're talking about religion.  So watch your step.

    Oh right.

    Anyway, it might not have been King Richard I. It might have been Sir Francis Bacon.

    I'm definitely going to start telling people that I'm giving them my word as a king.  Though I might have to change my avatar.

    I give people my word as a Burger King.

    Y'all got me to thinkin' 'bout King's X. laugh

    Maybe I could be the always regal King Haku...

    I think this look could work for me.

    Obama also mentioned the use of Christianity to support both slavery and Jim Crow. There was such tension between factions in churches that the Baptists and Methodist churches split over the issue of slavery. The justifications used for slavery in the United States is eerily similar to the justification for slavery by ISIS/ISIL and Boko Horam, Fanatics are always certain that they have the right of dominion over others.

    Conservative Catholics go "tilt" when the listen to some of the words of Pope Francis. The Pope is the final word on Catholic doctrine, but Conservative Catholics are questioning the statements of the Pope. 

    The Bible and the Koran contain statements of peace and statements of freedom and not being a slave to any man. Southern Baptists and Southern Methodists of the past ignored those peace-seeking passages to focus on the ones that supported the vile practice of slavery in the United States. Slavery was followed by the brutal Jim Crow. Many Christians made a conscious decision to take an active role in Jin Crow by standing mute on the sidelines. Taking no action is an action. Those Christians are known by their works and they receive a failing grade on morality. Southern Baptists apologized for their failings.

    Members of Islamist fanatic groups today support slavery as based in religion. Like the pro-slavery supporters of the past, the evil evidenced by their deeds has to be called out. You can find peace and freedom in religious texts, but only if you are seeking peace and freedom. Keeping a person in bondage is not peace.

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