Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mark Silk on the Revival of the Crusades as 2012 Election Cycle Begins

As a follow-up to what I posted yesterday about Rick Santorum and his recent remarks about the crusades, I'd like to point to a very valuable posting on the same topic at Mark Silk's Spiritual Politics blog.  Mark kindly provided the link in a comment on my Santorum posting yesterday.

Mark notes he happened to be teaching the history of the First Crusade right when Santorum opined that the crusades were not in any way an act of Christian aggression, and that "the left" has revised the history of that bloody period due to an animus against Christendom.  He provided students with a copy of Santorum's remarks, and then let them comment.

And they found Santorum's take on the crusades ridiculous.  They did so because they had just been studying Fulcher of Chartres' account of the crusaders' actions in Jerusalem in 1099.  For those who want to read this account, which is regarded by historians as an exceptionally accurate depiction of what happened when the crusaders took Jerusalem, Paul Halsall of Fordham University has made the text available online at his Medieval Sourcebook site, using the text provided by August. C. Krey in his The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants (Princeton: 1921).

As Mark Silk notes, it appears that the call to crusade is back as the 2012 election cycle approaches.  And as Karen Armstrong, whose work on the crusades is now a classic source for the history of that period, noted several years ago, "We simply cannot afford this type of bigotry."  

Not any longer.  The price is too high--for Americans, for the global community.  The shameless pandering of politicians like Gingrich, Huckabee, and Santorum to the religious right feeds on our ignorance, counts on our remaining ignorant.  One of the key educational challenges we face in the U.S. is expanding our knowledge of other cultures and other religions.  

As the Pew Forum's study of religious knowledge in the U.S. last fall revealed, knowledge of religion in general--including Christianity--is abysmally low precisely in those areas of the nation dominated by the religious right.  In those areas of the nation on whose votes Messrs. Gingrich, Huckabee, and Santorum are counting.

In order to do better as a people, we need to know better.  The onus is on us to inform ourselves.  And for people of faith who continue to be duped by the empty, self-serving showmanship of the family values crowd, that means, I would propose, taking the kind of close critical look at politicians like Rev. Huckabee that David Corn and John Brummett take per Max Brantley's summary today at the Arkansas Times blog.

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