Another Tack: The Crusades Aren’t Our Problem

Godfrey of Bouillon (center) as depicted in a 13th Century illustration at the British Museum

Godfrey of Bouillon (center) as depicted in a 13th Century illustration at the British Museum

Last week, at Washington’s annual National Prayer Breakfast, US President Barak Obama admonished us all lest “we get on our high horse and think that this [religious fanaticism] is unique to some other place – remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ … So, it is not unique to one group or one religion.”

This presidential platitude looks innocuous enough except that it’s deceptively simplistic. For one thing it casually glosses over the fact that the crimes it alludes to aren’t contemporaneous.

I am the last who’d seek to whitewash the Christian record. I hazard a guess that my family line was affected way more by Christian brutality than were any of Barack Obama’s ancestors. (Even if we accept his thesis that slavery in the American South and its Jim Crow laws were imposed in the name of Christ, none of Obama’s forebears suffered therefrom).

But one quick glance at my uniquely long genealogical chart will show many names accompanied by the notation “killed for Kiddush Hashem” – the sanctification of the Holy Name – Jewish euphemism for martyrdom.   Continue reading