I had the date wrong for one of my history class assignments, and now realize the final paper is due on Friday rather than Monday. So I have three fewer days than anticipated to finish, and four principal questions to address. Work is always busy, but today was exceptionally so, and I was at the office until 8 pm. Needless to say, I am a little concerned about the assignment. Still, the questions are interesting enough to inspire me to explore the subject matter in some detail.
One of the questions asks, How did the western Church in the High Middle Ages encourage people to respond to internal and external threats to its power and vision of salvation? This question alone is the topic of so many books and some movies. So just to loosen up a bit, I thought I’d write a bit on the topic of the external threats to the Church.
It’s interesting that the Roman church considered anything a threat to its power. After all, by the 11th century it was an extraordinarily powerful institution; among all European regions, Spain was the only one where Christians were not in the majority. But in examining the source materials, it is evident that people of the time were easily persuaded in matters of faith. For example, in the pre-Seljuk era Muslims in the region we now refer to as the Middle East tolerated Christians, and yet many Christians chose to convert to Islam. This supports the theory that faith is a function of the culture in which a person lives, and the society in which the person operates. Following this thought to a reasonable outcome, one can conclude that the Roman church was concerned about Islam encroaching on Christian territory. Under Muslim rule, the Christian church would clearly understand that Islam would take root and spread throughout Europe. This is the most rational explanation I have been able to comprehend to explain the urgency with which Innocent III called Christians into battle against the Seljuk Turks.
When Innocent III made this call, he did so with great force and eloquence. In a speech recorded by Fulcher of Chartres, Innocent III recruited men for battle against his enemy, the enemy of the Christian faith, and promised great rewards of both spiritual and material significance in exchange for this commitment to the military cause. The impassioned call to arms also included the thinly-disguised threat against those who were physically able to fight, but chose not to participate; these men, the pope said, would be responsible for the failure of the truth to prevail over the evil that had captured Jerusalem.