The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #90: The Crusades

General Introduction
– Dissertation guilt
– Listener feedback
– The Christian Humanist Chess League

Background to the Crusades
– The difficulty of Crusades history
– The build-up
– The Crown and the Church
– Do the Crusades make sense?
– Long memories and semi-legends
– Cairo, Baghdad, Turkey

Pope Urban II
– Is he worth defending?
– Slow-moving troops
– Urban’s famous sermon
– A sacramental journey
– Monstrous theology

The Third Crusade
– Giants in the land
– The end is the beginning
– Consolidating power
– Who was Richard?
– The irony and nostalgia of the Third Crusade

Robin Hood and the Crusades
– An ahistorical Robin Hood
– The Renaissance changes the story
– We complain about the Russell Crowe Robin Hood—again
– The skulking scumbags of society
– The evolution of the legend

Chanson de Roland
– The historical truth
– Mirroring between sides
– Misunderstanding Islam
– Turpin’s famous sermon
– Friendship amidst the bananas

Other Crusades
– The Children’s Crusade
– The Knights Templar
– Pre-Godwin’s Law
– Conspiracy theories galore

The Crusades and the 21st Century
– Religious wars are not novel
– Not a uniquely Christian problem
– Revisionist history
– No excuses

11 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #90: The Crusades

  1. Nice episode, guys.  Loved David’s history lesson at the beginning.
    I think I thought the crusaders had in mind God’s instructions to Joshua concerning the conquest of Canaan as part of the justification for what they were doing.  I was surprised that didn’t come up in the episode.  Am I off base in making that connection?

    1. BrettGilbert There’s no allusion to Joshua or the conquest of Canaan in any version of Urban II’s speech that I could find. That’s not to say that no chronicler or preacher of the multiple Crusades ever invoked that passage of scripture: I by no means a specialist on this topic, and the primary material is huge. I wouldn’t be surprised to see references to Joshua—because, as you suggest, it seems a natural connection to make—but I haven’t encountered them so far.

  2. Excellent episode!
    Three quick things:
    1) I’d suggest that what’s baffling about the First Crusade is not so much its immediate cause as the fact that it seems to have been somewhat successful. The fact that the Western army wasn’t exterminated along the way, didn’t die of plague or starvation, and even managed to capture Jerusalem seems to defy the odds (if a word like “odds” can be applied to history).
    2) I’d be interested to know if you guys buy into the “Crusaders are just Christianized Vikings who didn’t want to give up Pillaging” argument. 
    3) Three important Crusades  worthy of attention that were left out: a) The Crusade against the Albigensians; b) the Crusades against the Pagans in the Baltic; (the two that “worked”, if by “worked” what is meant is that they exterminated the people they set out to exterminate) c) The Billy Graham Crusade. (perhaps less violent than the others, but an interesting use of the word)
    Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts on the episode. Which was a good one 🙂

    1. Coyle 1. I’ve encountered a few explanations to account for this “baffling success”: 
      a) the Muslin defenders of Jerusalem and Palestone didn’t see the First Crusade coming, and didn’t take it seriously at first—the “Franks” were thought to be barely capable of wiping their own noses, much less doing war effectively;
      b) Palestine was continually contested territory, and any military activity there, whether Fatimid, Abbasid, Turk, or Byzantine, was an “foreign war,” with all of the attendant logistical difficulties—if the Crusaders had invaded Cairo itself, the outcome probably would’ve been very different;
      c) the Crusaders’ way of doing war was different enough that the defenders could not effectively counter it—heavy cavalry trumps, and the defenders didn’t have any (or enough, at least);
      d) Deus vult.
      2. That perspective IS kind of embedded in Urban II’s speech, in which he rails against the feudal aristocracy for disrupting society with their own military squabbles—from one angle, that speech could be read along the lines of “Hey, you kids stop playing army in the house! Go outside to do that!” Pillaging was part of the Crusades, but it was a part of all medieval warfare, regardless of the target. For most of the last century, it tended to be said that the Crusades were really motivated by economics and a desire for territorial acquisition. That view’s been contested in more recent decades, though. Most Crusaders actually took a financial loss to go Crusading, and that was part of what made Crusading a penitential act. Yes, Europe was enriched culturally by its encounter with the Islamic East, but I’m pretty sure the Crusades didn’t turn a profit in the more usual sense.
      3. You left out the Campus Crusade for Christ! Certainly the anti-heretical Crusade in France and the anti-pagan Crusade in the Baltic (Nathan’s Teutonic knights!) are worth discussing. Still, it made sense to me that we left them out of the conversation: the conditions of those Crusades were radically different, and they form no significant part of the Crusades in the popular imagination, so far as I can tell. (The one exception I can think of is the role Catharism plays in the vein of conspiracy theories that underlies The Da Vinci Code: the Cathars are, reputedly, the link between the Gnostic and the feudal culture that gave rise to the Arthurian Grail legend. It is difficult to cast the Cathars as the keepers of the “married Jesus” secret, though, since they believed sex and reproduction are evil. That’s just one of the things Brown et al. get 180 degrees wrong.)

      1. dgrubbs Coyle  
        Speaking of Charlemagne and campaigns in the north:

         “I shed the blood of the Saxon men!”
        I wonder about the word “crusade” attached to Billy Graham and Campus Crusade, seeing as how we have watered the term down to refer to any extended energetic campaign to achieve a goal (suffragettes as crusading for women’s rights, etc).  Should we drop the term for fear of creating the wrong impression, or should those who would get the wrong impression get over themselves?

        1. Charles H dgrubbs Coyle I’d say find a new word, but then again, I still get antsy when people refer to themselves or to others as “grammar Nazis.”

  3. Two things guys:
    1.  Shame on you for that horrendous closing song.
    2.  No mention of the fourth crusade?  It is probably of greater consequence to Christianity even than Urban’s theology launching the first.

  4. I would have been interested to hear a comparison or contrast between a Crusade and a Jihad, maybe even a further explication of the Assassins (more than the video game reference, anyway). Since a Crusade is a type of Holy War, and the Jihad is ostensibly a contemporary issue, it would be interesting, anyway…Kudos to you guys for trying to tackle such a huge topic, no complaints, just comments!

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