The crusades were religious wars in Europe. The wars began because the people in West Europe wanted to take back Holy lands that hand fallen into the hands of the Muslims. The crusades resulted from religious revivalism in Europe. The religious wars lasted for a period of two hundred years with eight crusades.
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Historians say only two of the eight were success the first and the third one. Many people volunteered to participate in the wars to recapture the Holy lands. Various factors motivated the crusades. The crusade movements did not represent a Christian worldview.
The first crusade movement of crusades started in 1095 under the motivation of a new form of salvation and recapture of Holy land. Pope Urban spoke to a gathering of people in 1095 and he called them to take action and rescue the holy lands. He inspired the people to take up arms through his inspiration speech that told the listeners to free the Holy lands from “the Muslim infidels”1.
He told the gathering of the story of the Jesus concerning his crucifixion and death. He referred to his burial place and told them that the places where Jesus had walked were holy places and the Muslim Turks were defiling the holy places and mistreating the pilgrims touring the holy places.
The information about the spoiling and mistreatment of pilgrims angered the crowd and hence they were ready to take whatever action the Pope told them would be necessary to take back the Holy land.
He did stop at calling for action but he motivated them by promising them a reward for fighting for the Holy land. The rewards included reduction of time in purgatory for those who went to war. He promised them that the suffering they would encounter would be greatly reduced in purgatory. In addition, those who died in the battle would go directly to heaven and bypass purgatory.
The Christians of the medieval era believed they needed penance in purgatory because they felt a heavy burden of sin and hence a promise of the omission of penance was readily embraced2. The promise of entering heaven directly gave people hope and another way of earning salvation and many were greatly enticed by the new concept of salvation. Therefore, the spiritual promise enticed people to join the war.
The crusaders were motivated by their love for God. The love for God and religious fanaticism made it easy for people to join the crusades. The Christians of that time were hungry for God and wanted a way to prove their love for him. The crusades provided a very good avenue and they could serve in line with the rejuvenated papacy. The crusaders believed that by participating in the crusades they were exercising their faith.
Thus, they were ready to invade their neighbours who were not believers like them. The spiritual motivation worked during the second and even the third crusades. The need to express love for God was very strong and even if it meant dying in the battlefield, it would be an honour. The crusaders were sincere in the war against the Turks because they believed they were doing the will of God.
Furthermore, the crusaders were told that if a man wanted to follow God and loved him with all his heart he could not hesitate to take the road hence many went for the pilgrim to rescue Jerusalem. Pilgrimage was an important act of showing devotion to God and hence the crusaders wanted to go Jerusalem and to do so they would have to liberate it from the Turks2.
The crusaders were told they would attain a dual liberation. They would liberate their faith from the infidels and liberate the Holy land. Moreover, the crusaders who would rescue the Holy land would be considered as heroes by the papacy. The liberation of the land would foster unity in the Christian community.
People who wanted to be seen as valiant went in the pilgrims even if they could not understand the significance of joining the war. The social reward of being recognized by the papacy was sufficient. The people got further motivation as they were told it was good to kill heathens or people who did not believe in God collectively2.
Acquisition of riches from the spoils of war motivated many people to go the battlefield. The crusaders desired to recapture Jerusalem, which they had heard overflowed with milk and honey. They also heard that the city had many jewels. They wanted to capture the city and share in its wealth.
On the other hand, some of the peasants who joined the war were very poor and did not worry about losing anything. Furthermore, a peasant preacher called Peter inspired many of them to join the war. The peasants believed that they would get help with supplies from the people along the way and so joined unfortunately they did not get any help and many died 2.
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The motivation for the first crusade was not a representation of a Christian worldview. The battle began after Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus approached the Pope and told him about the land the Muslim Turks had taken. His sole purpose was to regain that land but he knew he could not do it and decided to enlist the help of the Pope.
He told the Pope that that core goal of the battle would be to capture the Holy land and he convinced him easily because at that time the Christians were very devout. He was not concerned about promoting Christianity but he decided to use it for selfish reasons. Hence, the first crusade did not represent a Christian worldview.
Furthermore, the pope promised people things that were not written in the bible and hence he misguided them into taking arms such as promising them a new way of earning salvation2.
The movements did not promote a Christian worldview because when the peasant lacked support from the people on the way for their basic needs they resulted to stealing. They stole from the Jewish people hence troubled people they were not fighting. Moreover, the main goal of the crusades was not to recapture the Holy land for worship but selfish individuals drove it for territorial expansion.
Furthermore, the crusaders were also selfish and went into the war for selfish gains such as acquiring wealth. The papal teaching was against acquiring worldly possessions yet during the crusades, that message was not practiced.
The crusades did not represent the true picture of a holy war because some scholars say that the lands to be recaptured were in fact fertile prosperous and economically viable that the few aristocratic wanted for themselves and disguised the territorial expansion with the crusades 3. Thus, the crusade movements did not advance any Christian worldview but selfish interests.
The military from of the crusades were not different from other military battles in the world. That explains why Francis of Assisi took a different route about the crusades after his conversion and decided to preach to the Muslims instead of war because he preferred a peaceful alternative to the war4.
Christianity teaches peace and yet the crusades were violent and did not represent a Christian worldview at all. Violence begets violence and many of the crusaders lost their lives for a cause that was not worth because even today the Islam religion is expanding rapidly across Europe.
Finally, the crusaders who took part in the war achieved some rewards for instance riches. However, the promises about escaping penance and going straight to heaven were misguided as the bible talks of Jesus Christ being the only way of life and salvation.
The aristocratic leaders made people venture into a senseless way for their own selfish gains and they did not care about spreading a Christian worldview though they purported to be working for God.
The joining of the crusades by thousands of people shows that people can be sincere in their action but not fulfil the will of God. Moreover, misguided zeal is dangerous as most of the crusaders had zeal that they used to bring about untold suffering to the Muslims and Jews and that is unchristian.
Altmann, Barbara and Regina Psaki. “Considering Holy War in le Charroi de NíMe.” Medium Aevum 75, no. 2 (2006), 247-272.
Douglas, James. “Christians and the first crusade.” History Review 1, no. 53 (December 2005). EBSCOhost Database.
Hoose, Adam. “Francis of Assisi’s way of peace? His conversion and mission to Egypt.” Catholic Historical Review 96, no. 3 (July 2010). EBSCOhost Database.
Phillips, Jonathan. “The call of the crusades.” History Today 59, no. 11 (November 2009). EBSCOhost Database.
1 Jonathan Philips. “The call of crusades.” History Today 59, no. 11(November 2009). EBSCOhost Database.
2 James Douglas. “Christians and the first crusade.” History Review 1, no 53 (December 2005). EBSCOhost Database.
3 Barbara Altmann and Regina Psaki. “Considering Holy War in le Charroi de Nime.” Medium Aevum 75, no. 2 (2006), 247-272, 252.
4 Adam Hoose. “Francis of Assisi’s way of peace? His conversion and mission to Egypt.” Catholic Historical review 96, no. 3 (July 2010). EBSCOhost Database.