Church history’s darkest moment? Looking back at the Crusades

crusadersWhat’s the worst thing Christians have ever done?

If you said “the Crusades,” it’s hard to argue with you. What could be more disturbing than the followers of Jesus Christ—whose most famous sermon specifically praised peacemakers and encouraged his followers to “love your enemies”—taking up the sword to slaughter their foes? The Crusades’ bloody legacy continues to plague Christian-Muslim relations even today, 900 years after the fact!

Church historians have struggled for centuries to figure out exactly what went wrong—how the church of Jesus Christ came to champion violent “holy war.” As uncomfortable as it is to think about such an ugly period of church history, Christians need to grapple with the Crusades if they’re going to understand the story of the Church.

We’ve tracked down several resources from around the community that should help you better understand what the Crusades were, how they happened, and why they’re still so important to us today. If you know the Crusades were a stain on church history but don’t know exactly how and why, explore these links and see what you learn:

When confronted with the Crusades, Christians often feel defensive and even angry that the modern-day Church still cannot shake the legacy of these wars. After all, it’s been almost a millenium since they were launched, and isn’t it true that the Crusades were carried out by individuals acting specifically against the teachings of Christianity? That’s true, and Christians today aren’t responsible for what others have done in the name of Christ. But the Crusades remain a powerful reminder of what happens when fallen human beings decide to follow their own desires rather than the teachings of Christ, and it’s important that Christians understand how and why that happened.

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