“…if the Christians are victorious, no one stays behind to defend the occupied lands. Nor are unbelievers converted in this way, but killed and sent to Hell. Those who survive the wars, together with their children, are more and more embittered against the Christian faith because of this violence and are indefinitely alienated from Christ and inflamed to do all the harm possible to Christians everywhere. – Roger Bacon, Opus Magus, 1226. 1
    Only twice in history has a united force under the banner of Islam posed a ‘universal’ military threat to Christianity – and even those cases you could argue were historical 'accidents'. The first was during the mid-7th to mid-8th c. A.D., when the mounted armies of Arabia, fresh with the vigor of a newly unifying faith, burst out the desert, swept up into Asia Minor as far as Constantinople, while also moving in the space a few decades across all of North Africa. They crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, moved quickly through Spain, and were only stopped at the Pyrenees by some very lucky French forces from the Low Lands, who just happened to be stationed around Toulouse at the exact moment the armies of Tariq showed up. The second major confrontation did not come until the Turkish expansion of the 15-17th c., when again, this time exploiting naval power, armies under the Crescent banner pushed as far as Vienna.

    Notice no mention of the Crusades. Well, as it turns out, compared to the two big ‘pushes’ mentioned above, the Crusades never really much registered on the radar of the Caliphs – it was a provincial problem occurring in a far away area. Most of the politicos and historians of the Arab Empire lived comfortably in Baghdad or Damascus, which was completely removed from Jerusalem – and they were mostly orienting their foreign policy towards the Far East, namely their new colonies in India and Asia. They cared about as much about European knights romping about Syria as the people of Rome cared about Vikings attacking Scotland – it just wasn’t much of a big deal, especially given that Europe really had nothing to trade anyway, especially compared to the Chinese. As a result (not to get too enmeshed in medieval diplomatic relations),western historiographical tradition has largely obscured the significance of the two major offensives ‘by concentrating upon certain regional conflicts ad grouping them together as The Crusades’ which was never more than ‘a minor event which occurred on the periphery of the Muslim world and constituted little more than a nuisance to Islam.’2 However, the initial threat in the mid 8th c. BCE caught the Church clearly off-guard, and so the just war thesis of St. Augustine was dredged up and re-tooled to fit the new ‘barbarian’ threat – martyrdom and absolution being the hot features for this latest version – the Crusades were a kind of re-releaser, a Holy War 2.1, where by ‘the church encouraged the leaders and followers of the faithful…promising eternal life to those who fell in battle against the heathen.’ 3
1 Funny, I think I read an editorial in The Guardian last week that reasoned along these lines, almost eight centuries later (so much for progress). Bacon, an English Benedictine, felt the Crusades were a horrific waste of money, manpower and a vast drain against the spiritual capital and moral credibility of the Church. He thought the use of Saint Augustine’s precept of just war was a complete sham, and wrote frequently that, had anyone in Europe other than the Church been able to actually read Augustine, or experience the hospitality of the Moors (Bacon actually knew & read a bit of Arabic, and exchanged letters with a scholar or two in Moorish Spain), no right-minded Christian would ever have gone. Augustine, it’s helpful to remember, was writing the City of God Against the Heathens as the Vandals and Visigoths were making away anything in Rome that wasn’t nailed down – so as a pious Christian bishop in the colonial settlement of Hippo who tended to support the Church, he was a little put-off.
2J. Johns, “Islam and Christianity”, from The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity (NY: 1990), 166. Incidentally, what this essentially means to the current conflict, is that Western history has proved so compelling in its storytelling, that the belligerents of the West still use ‘Crusader’ as a label and envision it as if it were a massive, apocalyptical struggle. It was, but not for Islam, because they won, without breaking so much as a collective sweat.
3 Johns, p. 171. Again, important note: Islam had no well-defined concept of martyrdom at this time (they didn’t need it, there was no one with the power to threaten them until the Mongols arrived by the Eurasian backdoor in the 13th c.) – so once more, Paradise obtained by killing in God’s name is a wholly European medieval concept, that was only appropriated long after by clerics in the Middle East. And it was only after the dissolution of the Arab world after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire that things truly went off the rails, as the five big European powers: Britain, France, Spain, Holland and Russia occupied all but nine of the former Ottoman states. That’s when ‘crusader’ became synonymous with ‘imperialist’ and things really got ugly. In 1920, just as an example, when French jeeps rolled into Damascus, the Gallic general leading the convoy took his troops for a spin around the tomb of Saladin, and they sang ‘nous revoila,” i.e. We’re Back!, while drinking champagne. As a result, intellectual leaders throughout the region after the 1950s, totally disheartened by modernization, became increasingly medieval in their outlook and rhetoric (Malulana Maudoodi of Pakistan, Sayyid Qutb of Egypt, Sa’id Hawwa of Syria) – to the point where again there is open dualist talk of two forces in the world: Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. The Home of Submission or the Camp of War.
As residents of Colorado Springs are aware (and as was brought to more public attention by Ira Glass of NPR fame), the New Life Church has instituted a "tactical prayer assault" in Colorado Springs. No, this isn't a joke. This has been going on since the 1980's. Somewhere, in a shining holy war room the devotees of the New Life Church have a huge map of the city, carefully divided into sectors. To each sector is assigned church member(s) who systematically pray in front of every building in their sector on a regular basis. Effectively, the whole town is under a constant prayer assault more insidious than a World War I blitzkrieg.

This appears mostly harmless at first glance. Occassionally my Akita spazzes if someone spends too long in front of the house. As my roommate pointed out, however, that if prayer really causes change, this might explain why it's almost impossible to find good drugs, good sex, or just generally a good time within the city limits of Colorado Springs.

I'm afraid now, very afraid. I just bought a house on the outskirts of town where most of the suburban sprawl is taking place, and I wonder how much longer it will be before their war map expands to include my neighborhood, and how I can expect to fight back. Legally, what recourse do you have if every so often someone walks down your sidewalk and spends a few minutes in front of your home with his eyes closed? I guess what I really need is someone dressed up like a Choco Taco to run out and wield a Turkey Curse against the perpetrator of the karmic invasion.

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