How could the Crusades have actually taken place? How could all the violence, pillaging, rape, oppression, & conquest have been committed over hundreds of years, including Christians killing Christians (4th Crusade), all in the name of Christ? What relevance or lessons can we learn for today?
Other wars have been a series of unfortunate events led by one warmongering fool after another, but the crusades are especially renowned as one of the darkest moments in Christian history due to the abuse of and particularly by the Church. Overt plundering, sexual violence, and genocidal bloodbaths against the innocent was the rotten fruit from the cross-pollination of Church and State centuries earlier.
Beneath the “holy call” to save Jerusalem lay the true motivators to those in power: entitled control of the Eastern Church, profitable colonies for emerging nations, and limitless booty for everyone else. To slake this lust, the Bride of Christ prostituted herself to the State and engaged in the fiendish practice of eisegesis; interpreting scriptures not by drawing out the original meaning of the text (exegesis), but by injecting in their own desired meaning to justify unwarranted power and blatant sin to an uninformed population.
The holy facade became fully evident when the crusaders ditched even the “conversion by sword” tactics of Boniface for open slaughter of Muslims and Christians. The 4th crusade betrayed the true quest for political power by desecrating the very Christian city the first crusade sought to save as a reward for reinstating a deposed emperor at Constantinople. If we listen to Christ's words in Luke 6:44, that a tree is recognized by its fruit, then it begs the question whether the crusaders were truly Christian, or merely greedy racists carrying crosses.
The Church must remember her scars from the crusades as warnings of the evil possible by merging Church and State and teach both bible and proper hermeneutics to arrest unbiblical power grabs. The Church should view relations with the State like an office romance, where neither can get their work done; however, when Jesus returns to finish the work, then they can be happily married. Until then, the two should remain content being engaged with one another.