FIGHTING FOR CHRISTENDOM: Holy War and the Crusades, by Christopher Tyerman. Oxford University Press, 2004. pp. xvi + 247 pp. (D157.T88).
In trying to understand the animosity between Islam and Christianity today, it may seem reasonable to trace the hatred back to the military operations between 1095 and 1500, called the “Wars of the Cross.” It was Pope Urban II’s call to arms for the deliverance of the Holy City Jerusalem from Islam that launched the first Crusade in 1095. War stories have always been passed on from generation to generation. Is there a relationship between the Crusades, 1095 to 1500, and now, that stirs deep prejudices when the Crusades are mentioned?
Tyerman says this reasoning is too simplistic, even bogus, and wrong. The author clarifies the Crusades in terms of colonialism, cultural exchange, economic exploitation, politics and power.
FIGHTING FOR CHRISTENDOM addresses Augustine’s theology of the just war as important to justifying the Crusades, undertaken by Christians in the name of Christ. It seems the author overlooks no detail in his role as an Oxford University lecturer on medieval history.
So, is the war in Iraq today an outgrowth of the Crusades? “Saddam Hussein was not the new Saladin, even though they shared a birthplace.” P. 208. On the next page is a propaganda poster showing Saladin and Hussein, both born in Tikrit, northern Iraq. “Ironically, Saladin was a Kurd, people Saddam Hussein persecuted and massacred.” The poster shows Saladin with his horses of war and Saddam Hussein with his tanks, both combat ready.
In his book Tyerman gives many illustrations of Muslim against Muslim which did not issue from the Crusades. Hugh Kennedy, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, comments on the author’s view of any relationship between the Crusades and today’s hatred. “This vigorous argument is an important corrective for anyone who would argue for the long-term inevitability of conflict between Christianity and Islam.”
…The Library Committee