Aug 28 2010

Stark’s Battalions

There are a lot of myths about the Middle Ages. I suppose we have the Enlightenment humanists and the Victorian romantics to blame for most of those misconceptions. But the myth-making goes on, especially when it comes to the Crusades of the 11th-13th centuries.

The current impetus, as far as I can tell, comes from two directions. On one side we have Postmodern cultural relativists who are embarrassed by the success of Western civilization. They see Anglo-American support of Israel and two Gulf Wars as painful reminders, if not rehearsals, of the old Crusades in which cross-wearing brutes attacked a more tolerant and more sophisticated Middle Eastern culture. Ridley Scott develops some of these themes on the big screen in his Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

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Jan 26 2010

The Book’s the Difference

The Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925 could not have happened without the influence of Fundamentalism. When I use this word with an uppercase ‘F’ I refer specifically to an American religious movement that rallied behind The Fundamentals (1910-1915). A total of twelve inexpensive volumes covered a variety of topics ranging from the inerrancy of Scripture to the doctrine of atonement. A further defense of premillennial dispensationalism set Fundamentalists apart from other conservative groups. At its core, however, the movement rose up in opposition to theological liberalism.

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Dec 28 2002

Jihad Double Trouble

For centuries now, the cry of “Jihad!” has stirred up fear and religious fervor. With Islam gaining an ever-growing political presence, both critics and friends of Islam have weighed in on what this provocative word “really” means. Public responses from non-Muslims have tended to cluster around the extremes. At one end are those who see jihad as a central tenet of Islam which sanctions, and even encourages, ongoing violence against non-Muslims. On this view, Islam is itself a clear and present danger, both on the world stage and in our own backyard.
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