Richard A. Sokerka
World History is a course most of us have taken. Among the topics covered in that course were the Crusades and the reasons for it: to protect pilgrims visiting the Holy Land against Muslim conquerors.
To the consternation of all who call themselves Christians, President Obama seemed to have forgotten that history lesson when he said the following earlier this month at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington: “Remember that during the Crusades, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
Commenting for the Catholic League, this is what Princeton scholar and Islamic expert Bernard Lewis said: “At the present time, the Crusades are often depicted as an early expansionist imperialism. To people of the time, both Muslim and Christian, they were no such thing. The Crusade was a delayed response to the jihad, the holy war for Islam, and its purpose was to recover by war what had been lost by war — to free the holy places of Christendom and open them once again, without impediment, to Christian pilgrimage.”
This week the EWTN Global Catholic Network re-aired its four-part mini-series, “The Crusades.” Featured were three scholars on the Crusades: Professor Jonathan Phillips, professor of Crusading History at the University of London; Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith of Cambridge University, Britain’s leading historian on the Crusades, and Professor Thomas Madden, chair of the Department of History at St. Louis University, a widely recognized expert not only on the Crusades, but also on Christian-Muslim conflict. None of them held to Obama’s re-telling of history at the National Prayer Breakfast.
We hope that the president, or at least his staff who prepares his speeches, viewed the series on EWTN. At the least, they know they really need to fact check any further comments he makes on the history of Christianity.