Christian Response to The Cross and the Crescent
In our present day world, we see example after example of wars and turmoil as the result of religious disputes and differences. Generally, in the Middle East and other parts of the world, radical Islam holds the mindset that America is a great evil force, full of what they would call infidels, and the only option for the salvation of the world is the destruction of America itself. This philosophy laid the groundwork for the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as countless others over the years. Richard Fletcher, in his book “The Cross and the Crescent”, tells the story of the early encounters between Christians and Muslims. In this paper, Fletcher’s book will be used as the template to evaluate Christian encounters with Islam, Muslims and Islamic empires. These encounters have elicited varied responses over the ages, and by using Fletcher’s work, the researcher will draw valuable conclusions and present a well blended piece of research.
Christian Response to Muslim Encounters
In a unique twist on the popular discussion of the ways that Muslims respond to Christians, this paper will begin with a discussion of the Christian response to Muslim encounters, using “The Cross and the Crescent” as the source of research material.
Interestingly, early history details countless instances of Christian civilizations being conquered by Muslim empires, despite the popular misconception that it was usually the other way around. This is simply not the case, even within the scope of the Crusades. When the Muslims conquered the Christians in these cases, the Christians, while admittedly not like to be delighted with the prospect of being conquered by a foreign invader with a religion and culture that was so very different from theirs, did not make any indication that they were was any sort of a major movement afoot to eject the Muslims from the occupied Christian territories. According to Fletcher, there could be several compelling reasons for this. The first is a matter of culture; although the Muslims clearly overtook Christians in these situations, by and large, the culture of the Christians was allowed to peacefully coexist with the Muslim culture and faith. One of the reasons that this divergent culture and religion was not quashed by the invaders was a matter of economics and civil order. Since the Christians were efficient at the operation of the cities in which they lived and managed to build wealth and power within these cities, there really was no benefit for the Muslims to break down the economic, political and social infrastructure that made it possible for these cities to rise to the level of affluence that made the cities so attractive to the Muslims, leading to their ultimate conquering. In fact, Fletcher cites within the book that many of the Christians who became subjects of the Islamic invaders fared as well or better than they would have had they not been overtaken. Examples exist of these Christians rising to the top of politics, business, and even religion that was allowed to continue even under the rule of a totally different culture. This promoted harmony and progress between the Muslims and Christians. In all fairness, however, it would not be accurate to say that there was always total harmony between Christians and Muslims. For all of the courtesy, Christians viewed Muslims as godless pagans. Muslims saw Christians as dangerous, confused people who did not understand the full scope of the nature of the human experience and the complexities of Islam, which they saw as the only true religion. Beyond these occasional skirmishes, however, the Christian-Islamic collaboration, no matter how awkwardly it came about, did a great deal to promote science and education during this time. The two faiths shared their individual knowledge of science, mathematics, literature and the arts. Moreover, in many cases, Christians and Muslims married and had children, creating cultural diversity in an ancient time.
Presentation and Reinforcement of the Argument
Having presented Fletcher’s depiction of the collaboration between Christians and Muslims, the researcher will now put forth an argument, and reinforce it within the framework of “The Cross and the Crescent”.
The argument to be made here is that although the Christians often prospered under Muslim domination, and seemed to comply with the terms of the domination, under this thin veneer of compliance and to some extent acceptance there existed a deep resentment of the Muslims as well as a distrust of them, which planted the seeds for the current global political climate.
The Crusades were launched by early Christians in an effort to spread Christianity to the so-called pagan religions, Islam being among them. During the Crusades, Christians undoubtedly slaughtered thousands of Muslims in an effort to “convert” them to the “peaceful” tenets of Christianity. Keeping this in mind, Muslims wisely refrained from retaliating with similar action when Christians were conquered; rather, the Muslims forced the Christians into a form of light slavery where they were free to pursue the economic missions of their communities, but it surely was understood that if the Christians rebelled in any way that they would be crushed under the powerful feet of the Muslims who greatly outnumbered them. This created a source of resentment among the Christians who generally distrusted the Muslims in the first place. A sort of uneasy alliance, therefore, existed among these two groups for centuries, with neither side willing to take the action that would break this union, no matter how oddly it was originally formed. Therefore, this sort of cultural pressure cooker planted the seeds for future mistreatment of Muslims by Christians, which in turn has led to Muslim hostility toward Western civilization.
There is evidence within Fletcher’s work to suggest this, albeit indirectly. Throughout the passages of the book, it is implied that the Christians and Muslims have been in a sort of stalemate for centuries, going back to the ages of the Crusades. Only after hundreds of years did the two factions begin to openly oppose each other, and the tables eventually turn to the present situation of the Islamic nations being in total opposition of and hatred for America. There could be several logical explanations for this reversal of sentiment, the most plausible of which is a reversal of fortune. When Christians left Europe for the New World, they embarked on a wondrous journey which led to a highly prosperous and exciting, although often deadly, life in the Americas. On the other hand, the Muslims who had enjoyed dominance of the Christians for so long faced struggles to maintain their lands against the advances of Jews, remaining Christians, and others. From this point, a resentment of Christians began to grow and came to a climax in the later years when America came to the aid and support of the Jewish people who sought to control major portions of the Middle East in the hopes of establishing their own homeland, ultimately resulting in the formation of the nation of Israel, which America supported with money, military back up and political muscle. Perhaps even in a strange twist, Islamic nations feel that the Christians owe them a debt for the support they offered for so many years, albeit to their advantage as well.
While the Islamic hatred for America will never go away, perhaps the previously presented underpinnings of the disputes will serve to open the eyes of the battling factions and foster some sort of a relief for the terrorism and bloodshed that has marred our modern world.
Fletcher, Richard. The Cross and the Crescent. New York: Penguin, 2004.