Q. I have something of a personal issue – my history class is discussing the Crusades, and, naturally, the Catholics are being cast in a rather negative light. However, they are being labeled as Christians, which, while to us, would cause an issue, the non-Christians (or the uninformed) have no qualms about it.
To add to the issue, my teacher (who is Jewish, although to what degree of devoutness I’m not sure) tells the class that there were “only two branches of Christianity” back in those times, Catholic and Orthodox; thus, they should all be labeled as “Christians” as opposed to Catholics or Orthodox in particular.
So, my question is, how do I solve this problem without looking like I’m trying to convert the class? Due to the situation about the Catholics being so forward about their religion, it wouldn’t be a good time to come off as a pushy, self-righteous Christian.
Honestly, I grieve at the entire thing – what’s the solution?
A. Good question. What no secular history class has ever been taught is how the Crusades demonstrate the consequences of manipulating God’s word to suit man’s needs.
This is a grossly over simplified explanation, but the basics are sound. When the Romans adopted Christianity as their official religion in the 4th Century they had one giant obstacle to overcome: the idea that the Lord would come back to establish a kingdom superior to theirs. Church leaders re-interpreted Scriptures to say that the 1000 year Kingdom on earth represented the age of the Church after which the Lord would come back. This view is still around today, although the 1000 years is obviously considered symbolic now, and is known as a-millennialism. It’s the official position of the Catholic Church and most mainline protestant denominations. Pre-millennialism, which had been the prevailing view from the beginning, was declared a heresy and the Romans were happy.
Six centuries later, when the 1000 years were up and the Lord hadn’t returned, the Catholic Church, which now called itself the Holy Roman Empire and controlled Europe, determined that He couldn’t return as long as Jerusalem was in the hands of non-believers. So they demanded that the governments of Europe muster up huge armies to free the Holy Land, which they did for
the first time time in 1099. As these armies marched across Europe they came up with the idea of plundering the Jews on the way to punish them for being the “Christ-killers” (and probably as a way of compensating themselves for taking on “the Lord’s work”).
There were 8 Crusades in all, spanning nearly 200 years, and because of them the cross became a sign to be feared and hated among the Jews and has been the number one deterrent preventing Jews from coming into the Church ever since. In a later Crusade the European armies even attacked Constantinople causing the split between the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) churches that exists to this day.
The literal interpretation of end times prophecy didn’t re-emerge until the 1800’s when believers once again began to teach that the Lord is coming back to establish a literal 1000 year Kingdom on Earth.
Even the Catholic Church has apologized for its behavior during these times. The Reformation (1500’s) and the Great Awakening (1800’s) were efforts by the true church to separate itself from the corrupt and politically motivated entity that called itself the Church in those days. The evangelical Church of today bears no resemblance to it.
Mentioning these things may help you to distance todays church, both protestant and catholic, from the times of the crusades and help you show the dangers man encounters by trying to take the Word of God and twist it to achieve his own ends.