The Knights Templar, also known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, were an order of Christian knights that was formed in approximately 1119 A.D., following the First Crusade. The stated responsibility of the Knights Templar was to protect Christian pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem. The Knights Templar were given the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as their headquarters, and there are many legends of the Templars excavating the many tunnels beneath the Temple Mount in search of biblical treasures and artifacts. Primarily due to a financial dispute with King Philip IV of France, the Knights Templar were ordered to be disbanded by Pope Clement V. Many of the Knights Templar were arrested, tortured until they confessed to unimaginable crimes, and then burned at the stake as heretics. Some of the Knights Templar escaped the persecution and went into hiding. There are various traditions as to what happened to the surviving Knights Templar, with the most likely legend being that they eventually formed what is now known as the Freemasons. The recent books, Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code include the Knights Templar in their conspiracy theories. The unfounded and baseless legend says that the Knights Templar found evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and they blackmailed the Roman Catholic Church, leading to the legendary wealth of the Knights Templar. Eventually, though, the Roman Catholic Church was able to orchestrate the heresy charges against the Knights Templar, leading to their disbanding and deaths. Similar to the other conspiracy theories in Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code, these theories are completely lacking in historical merit.
The crusades have provided some of the most frequent arguments against the Christian faith. Some Islamic terrorists even claim that their terrorist attacks are revenge for what Christians did in the crusades. So, what were the crusades and why are they viewed as such a big problem for the Christian faith?
First of all, the crusades should not be referred to as the “Christian crusades.” Most of the people involved in the crusades were not truly Christians, even though they claimed to be. The name of Christ was abused, misused, and blasphemed by the actions of many of the crusaders. Second, the crusades took place from approximately A.D. 1095 to 1230. Should the unbiblical actions of supposed Christians hundreds of years ago still be held against Christians today?
Third, not that this is an adequate excuse, but Christianity is not the only religion with a violent past. In actuality, the crusades were responses to Muslim invasions on what was once land occupied primarily by Christians. From approximately A.D. 200 to 900, the land of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey was inhabited primarily by Christians. Once Islam became powerful, Muslims invaded these lands and brutally oppressed, enslaved, deported, and even murdered the Christians living in those lands. In response, the Roman Catholic Church and “Christian” kings/emperors from Europe ordered the crusades to reclaim the land the Muslims had taken. The actions that many so-called Christians took in the crusades were still deplorable. There is no biblical justification for conquering lands, murdering civilians, and destroying cities in the name of Jesus Christ. At the same time, Islam is not a religion that can speak from a position of innocence in these matters.
To summarize briefly, the crusades were attempts in the 11th through 13th centuries A.D. to reclaim land in the Middle East that had been conquered by Muslims. The crusades were brutal and evil. Many people were forced to “convert” to Christianity. If they refused, they were put to death. The idea of conquering a land through war and violence in the name of Christ is completely unbiblical. Many of the actions that took place in the crusades were completely antithetical to everything the Christian faith stands for.
How can we respond when, as a result of the crusades, the Christian faith is attacked by atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and those of other religions? We can respond in the following ways: 1) Do you want to be held accountable for the actions of people who lived 900+ years ago? 2) Do you want to be held accountable for the actions of everyone who claims to represent your faith? Trying to blame all of Christianity for the crusades is analogous to blaming all Muslims for Islamic terrorism.