2.2 The Crusades: Answering the Call

The call for a crusade excited the imagination of the knights of Europe. They were strong believers in the Church's mission and most were more than happy to take up the cross and kill Muslims. For their part the Saracens also believed if they died for a righteous cause they too would go to heaven.

Who did God support in this conflict spanning four centuries? Well, Muslims, Christians and Jews all worshipped the same God. There were and are differences between these faiths of course. For example, Muslims regarded Jesus as a prophet but not as a God. Jews didn't recognize Jesus as either a prophet or God. The Jews and Christians denied Muslims worshipped the "one true God." The fact remains is that all three religions are Abrahamic faiths: this means the origin of each faith is directly traceable to the God of Abraham; and in terms of who God could side with in such a dispute, that question is impossible to answer. Nonetheless, both Muslims and Christians alike were convinced God was on their particular side and not on the side of the enemy.

Religious leaders from both sides of the conflict managed to convince their followers to kill for the promise of personal salvation. The Pope, also known as the Vicar of Christ, was asking Christians to murder. Wasn't the Pope asking Christian knights to break the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" while ignoring Jesus' command to "love thy neighbor"?

At least one knight had a problem blindly following the Pope. Tancred of Normandy had a genuine moral problem with being commanded to kill by the same Church that taught him life was sacred. In particular, Tancred was concerned he might go to Hell if he committed murder (even in the name of God). The clever Urban II put Tancred at ease about the whole murdering things. Urban said Jesus had simply been misquoted about loving one's neighbor. Jesus commanded his followers to love and never to kill fellow Christians. However, it was perfectly alright to kill non-Christians.

Problem solved. (Well, not really.)

I found an interesting story about Tancred during the massacre of the citizens of Jerusalem (1099). While his fellow Christians were massacring the people of Jerusalem, he offered asylum to several Muslims by allowing them to hide in his living quarters. Unfortunately, Christian soldiers discovered these Muslims hiding in Tancred's apartments and killed them on the spot.

In addition to the promise of eternal salvation, knights also participated in the crusades because these wars provided them with an opportunity to become wealthy through plunder.