In Defense of the Crusades

Why Medieval Thought is Better Than Modern Thought

Congratulations. You are the product of Modernism. You have moved out of the "Dark Ages" into a time of "Enlightenment."
  • The Age of Science: of space flights; of laboratories with men in white coats; of Atom Bombs. And no God to tell us what to do.
  • The Age of Democracy: of government planning; of government schools; of "arms-for-drugs"; of "Desert Storm." And no God to tell us what to do.

"Secularism" is a world-and-life-view that has no place for God. "Humanism" is the worship of man. But not the worship of man in his weakness, suffering, or poverty. But Man the wielder of Power. Man the exemplar of "the Survival of the Fittest."

The Age of Humanism is inevitably The Age of Statism, the worship of the State, the epitome of Man's Power.

Vine & Fig Tree publications defend a brand of fanatic agrarian Fundamentalism with a sense of urgency and pessimism. The urgency stems from the fact that as we look back over the 20th century - the century which saw the triumph of Modernism and Secularism over traditional Christianity - we see the corpses of over 200 million human beings, deliberately put to death in furtherance of the political goals of Secular Humanism. But this history is virtually unknown to the graduates of Secular Humanist public schools, who know only that we "can't legislate morality," because we have a "separation of church and state." The grisly track record of Secular Humanism is also largely unknown to graduates of Catholic schools and parishioners in its churches. The "Humanist Manifesto" is seldom denounced from Catholic pulpits. The Christian traditions of the Medieval Age have been replaced in Catholicism by the trends of modern politics and pop psychology.

The Medieval Age was not perfect, but it was committed to Christianity and was moving in the direction of Vine & Fig Tree.

America's secular leaders are leading the next generation away from the Medieval Age, away from the Law and the Prophets and into the ditch. It is not an accident; their hostility to Biblical Christianity is open. One professor of religion at a Washington university, writing in a local newspaper here in Desert Hot Springs, reveals his ignorance or his religious bias by writing:

The point has often been made that behind every gun is a religious scripture. The point has also been made that 90 percent of all the violence in this world has come from the "people of the book," the Bible.

This viewpoint is typical of our secular age: it is a pathological lie. The Professor's hatred of Christianity will ignore history in order to escape responsibility to God.

Both as a Catholic Worker (the "left") and as a participant in Operation Rescue (the "right"), my desire to have Christian values shape our culture and political policies inevitably raises this by-now hackneyed cliché from secularists and other atheists: "What would you do, inaugurate another series of holy crusades?"

And so in this essay I write in defense of the Crusades and in defense of the Domination of the Middle Ages by the Church.

You heard me.

Thirteenth-century religious murder is nothing compared to twentieth-century secular murder.

Of course, murder is murder. But Christianity was moving away from the "divine right of kings" to defend their reigns by murder. The "Enlightenment" has institutionalized political genocide in defense of the Divine Secular State.

I should point out that I am a pacifist, and cannot support even so-called “defensive” wars. I am also an anarchist, and cannot support the use of coercion and threats of violence by any institution to impose its will and its values on others. As usual, I write with a touch of sarcasm.

What I am saying is that with Modernists at the wheel, we have taken a wrong turn, and are heading full speed toward a dead-end, or worse, off the edge of a cliff. What I am saying is that we need to turn around, or "go backwards," and return to the main highway if we are to continue making progress toward the Kingdom of God. And we have to follow the Bible as our road map. Otherwise we're going to go over the cliff. This sense of urgency and tradition is offensive to the Secular Humanist mentality.

It may be that we can cut across some territory and re-enter the main highway at a point on down the road from where we left the highway, but we have to
“go back.”

The cliché about the Crusades assumes that religious warfare is uniquely the product of Christian culture, and that the Crusades characterized Christian medieval civilization. Both assumptions are false. But Modern Catholicism accepts the characterization of Christianity offered to us by those who hate Christianity. Modern Catholicism has repudiated the Medieval Age. Modern Catholics are reluctant to press the moral agenda of Christ the King on the State. The results have been disastrous.
Christianity emerged from an Empire which justified war and slavery. And the doctrine of Original Sin tells us that every Christian is a convert, and brings habits of thought and action from the Old Empire into the Kingdom of God. The Church, to too great an extent, brought Aristotle into its theology. Thomas Aquinas is the key figure here. No Christian should accept the theology and politics of Aristotle and the Roman Empire. No pacifist, judging history in terms of the standard of Perfection written by Moses and the Prophets and lived out by Christ, can condone everything that went on during the Crusades. But we can look back - almost longingly - for The Day of Infants; a day when babes in Christ did not understand the full implications of the teachings of their Savior, and unbelievers did not understand the full implications of their quest to "be as God" (Genesis 3:5).

In the Middle Ages, many were trying to make progress along the Biblical Highway that leads to the Kingdom of God. They sought to govern all areas of their lives - even their politics - by the Word of God. Whatever mistakes they made in reading their Divine Compass, I share their intended destination, and note with sadness the Secularist mentality in our day which denies that we should even be on this Highway at all.

The term "Crusade" was never used in the era in which the four major ones took place, 1096-1204. It is a modern term. "People at that time spoke of the road to Jerusalem, the voyage, the journey, the pilgrimage."[3] And these crusades were perceived as defensive actions against an expansionist Islamic empire.[4] If I'm in a critical frame of mind, I can lash out at the Crusaders' failure to take Jesus seriously, and speak harshly of the violence they returned against the violence of the Islamic armies. But I recognize that loving one's enemies is difficult, and that I am not perfect, and that in my own pilgrimage I am constantly making unnecessary and unjustifiable detours off the main Highway. The one who is growing should be praised for the direction in which progress is made, not criticized for the awkwardness of those first steps.

Christians in the crusades believed in moral duty and the sanctity of life, even if they felt it necessary to take the life of a Muslim soldier. In this they distinguish themselves from Secularists in our day who de-sacralize the world in their flight from their sacred duties to their Creator. In the Middle Ages, common people were not deliberately chosen as victims. In this infant Christian civilization, wars were limited to battles between professional armies. Christians had not yet challenged the essentially military feudal order of Europe, but a code of honor had been "imposed" on warfare by Christian activists. It was considered dishonorable for a soldier to battle against peasants or commoners.

In the fourth Crusade of 1204, Constantinople was sacked in an outrageous act of violence. The crusaders had only raised half of their expected troops, so they could pay only two-thirds of their transportation bills to the Venetians, who demanded payment.
R.W. Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1953) p. 58.

As a result of the growing Christian conscience, society was decentralized. Against this influence, the desire to "be as God" generated expansionist and centralist rhetoric which justified war; those on the Highway continually challenged these detours. As a result,

It would be impossible to talk of a nation in arms in the Middle Ages. Most wars were fought by small armies, costly for those who equipped them, but lacking in the total effort which typifies modern warfare. Kings who started wars had no wish to exterminate or unduly spoil their adversary; they wanted to bring the issue to a successful negotiated conclusion. Wars were rarely national in any modern sense of the word, but conflicts over rights and honour. . . . Moreover the numbers involved were small. The Viking raiders (each of whose ships can hardly have carried more than thirty-five warriors) can rarely have had more than 1,000 men at their disposal. When William of Normandy invaded England in 1066 he cannot have had many more than 5,000 men. . . . The Normans who conquered Sicily started their venture in 1061 with some 160 knights and never in any subsequent campaign appear to have had more than 700 at their disposal. [5]

In contrast to the Christian Middle Ages and its "Crusades" - four limited, brief medieval battles, three of which were battles between small professional armies, Christian and Muslim - the triumph of Secularism has brought Babel-like centralized states and horrifying mass executions of innocent civilian populations.

The twentieth century in particular has marked the (temporary) triumph of Secularism, with nations for the first time declaring themselves officially atheist, arguably led by our own nation, which still has "In God We Trust" on its coins, but is thoroughly materialistic.

Secular warfare has become total, sparing almost no one and few institutions. In World War II, more civilians were killed than combatants.[6] The saturation bombing of civilians was standard operating policy by the Germans and the Allies, culminating in the senseless bombing of Dresden in 1945, a German city with no military targets, where at least 135,000 civilians, and possibly a quarter million, perished in huge fire storms that were created when almost 2,000 bombers dropped 650,000 incendiary bombs on a defenseless city swollen with refugees from the east. [7]

Air raids involving the indiscriminate killing of enormous numbers of civilians were the current step in the natural evolution of the art of war. The very concept of the civilian hardly remained valid. The traditional distinction between men setting forth to risk their lives and those who stayed behind out of range of death disappeared in the first half of the twentieth century. [8]

Yet there is little evidence that such indiscriminate area bombing contributed significantly to the defeat of Germany. [9]

Current military "defense strategy" (adopted by the United States government during the Kennedy Administration), "Mutual Assured Destruction" (MAD), involves deliberate plans of massive nuclear retaliation against millions of innocent Russian civilians.

In its pursuit of its "New World Order," the United Nations lashed out at the upstart nationalist "fundamentalism" of Iraq. Its dictator, Saddam Hussein, is still in power; a quarter of a million Iraqi men, women, and children are not.

In contrast to the hundreds killed during Medieval battles waged under codes of honor, stand the millions indiscriminately slaughtered by a lawless Secularist 20th Century. In 1972, Gil Elliot surveyed the carnage in his Twentieth Century Book of the Dead (NY: Scribner's). He settled on a total of 110 million homicides through 1969. He claims the figure could be as "low" as 80 million, but as high as 150 million. As information on the deadly reign of atheistic State Socialism has come to light since Elliot's calculations, the figures are more likely to come to 200 million, with Soviet Russia and Communist China each murdering over 60 million of its citizens. As Elliot concludes,

See the research of Prof. R.J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii. He has devoted much of his career calculating the genocidal damage done by secular governments, which he calls “democide.” A recent  book is published by Rutgers University: Death by Government (1995).

To set such a figure against the scale of violence in previous times involves the difficulties of comparing like periods and of allowing for population increase. However, every attempt to do so shows the twentieth century to be incomparably the more violent period.

It is possible - in my view, certain - that in a future perspective this explosion of human lives will be seen as the significant "history" of our period. Yet the events which have accumulated to form this history - millions upon millions of individual violent deaths - are often recorded in the historical footnotes or in quickly read and rather meaningless statistics. Many written histories don't even mention them, although dealing in detail with the events that lead up to and followed them. [10]

The publications of Vine & Fig Tree are designed to bring life to the footnotes of Secular Humanism, and to bring its corpses out of the shadows for all to see. Vine & Fig Tree is committed to returning to "traditional values" -- not of the 1950's, but of the 1500's and before -- and to growing in terms of that paradigm. These values, and not those of Secularism, will prevent Crusades.

Military conflict has not been the only source of civilian deaths in this century. Domestic wars against civilian populations have been launched repeatedly by national governments. On page 155 of Elliot's book appears the most horrifying statistical chart ever published (I say this without fear of contradiction), "The Death Process." With chilling "scientific neutrality," the chart blandly but starkly sets out the methods by which Secular Humanist governments annihilate complete populations, including "scorched earth," concentration camps, and deliberately induced famines. No one does Crusades like a Secularist State.

What we must understand is that it was only with the political triumph of Secular Humanism that systematic mass murder began in earnest in human history. When God became irrelevant in the minds of the world's leaders, the blood bath accelerated rapidly. This is Secularism's chief legacy to the world. This is modern science at work. God warned: "All they that hate Me love death" (Proverbs 8:36b).

There are only two options: The absolute authority of God, or the totalitarian authority of Man. By rejecting the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura, Catholicism has nothing to say to the Modern World, which emphatically rejects the same doctrine.

Vine & Fig Tree exists to stand before the advancing tanks of Secular Humanism. Vine & Fig Tree exists to stick a tiny finger in the cultural dike which holds back the flood of violence unleashed by Secular Humanism. The effort will seem futile to many. Many people are even willing to say nice things about Jesus and Christianity, but feel that a fanatic resolve to obey the Lord is not "respectable."

So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? If you want to enter into life, keep the Commandments." (Matthew 19:17)

In the face of escalating brutality, impersonalism, and death, how can we oppose the worship of Man with mere "moderation"? Did the prophets seek a "happy medium" between righteousness and abominable idolatry? Did they seek a "middle ground" between the health of their nation and its destruction and captivity? Has a "respectable" Realpolitik saved the lives of 200 million innocent people? Jesus says,

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

Revelation 3:15-16

Obviously God had become irrelevant in the eyes of citizens as well as their leaders. A Dictator can command the execution of millions, but – as the old phrase goes, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” In a world of several billion people, the murder of 200 million means at least a hundred million people willing to pull the trigger just because the President says so; probably a hundred million who manufactured the triggers and attached them to the guns; a few million to make the sales to the government and fill out the paperwork; a few million to make sure the banks get their interest; and probably another half a billion who fixed them all breakfast that morning. We all believe in Secular Humanism, to one degree or another, and we all play our parts. We think it is better to play our part in a world of mass death than to be called a “Fundamentalist.” We're not “fanatics,” you know. We're “responsible,” and we take care of our families. We can't afford to be too "religious."

The fanaticism advocated by Vine & Fig Tree is not the kind that takes up a sword or builds a prison. But when Modern Man asks why we do not worship man, or believe the modern theories, we show them the corpses of Secular Humanism with a sense of urgency and a gentle, justifiable fanaticism.

. . . always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

1 Peter 3:15-16

In a nutshell, this is Vine & Fig Tree's message:

". . . therefore choose life"

Deuteronomy 30:19

Suppose a nation in some distant region, should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. What a Eutopia, What a Paradise would this region be!

John Adams, 1756

The principles of all genuine liberty, and of wise laws and administrations are to be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man therefore who weakens or destroys the divine authority of that book may be accessory to all the public disorders which society is doomed to suffer.

Noah Webster


[1] How about the gospel according to Darwin: The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. This is the holy scripture that inspired George Bush, the United Nations and the Council on Foreign Relations to “preserve their race” against the lower races in Iraq.

[2] Tell this to the Jews who were killed by the religious zealots of pagan National Socialism in Germany. Prof. William Edelen, “Letter reminds us to beware of ‘destroyers of peace.’” The Desert Sun [Palm Springs, CA], Dec. 9, 1995.

[3] Regine Pernoud, The Crusades, (NY: Capricorn, 1964), p. 13.

[4] Ibid., pp. 15-17.

[5] . V. H. H. Green, Medieval Civilization in Western Europe (NY: St. Martin's, 1971) p. 238.

[6] . Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (NY: Macmillan, 1966), p. 661.

[7] David Irving, The Bombing of Dresden (London: William Kimber Co., 1963); cf. Alexander McKee, Dresden 1945: The Devil's Tinderbox (NY: Dutton, 1984).

[8] Peter Calvocoressi and Guy Wint, Total War: Causes and Courses of the Second World War (NY: Penguin, [1972] 1981), p. 489.

[9] Ibid, p. 508.

* This article was extensively plagiarized from Gary North, "The Demographics of Decline," in Moses and Pharaoh, pp. 358ff.

See also To Destroy a City -- review of To Destroy a City: Strategic Bombing and Its Human Consequences in World War II, by Hermann Knell (Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2003); 373 pages; $32.50.

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