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Donohue, Podhoretz Get Medieval

A nice bit of rhetoric from Catholic League head William Donohue, writing in the New York Post and quoted in WND. Donohue is complaining about Kingdom of Heaven:

It is a matter of historical record that Muslim violence – in the form of a jihad – was responsible for Christians striking back, hence the Crusades. Yet in the film, it is the Christians who are the bad guys. This is on the order of doing a movie on the Warsaw Ghetto and blaming the Jews for all the violence.

Yes, the Crusades were just like the Warsaw uprising. Especially this bit (via Religious Tolerance.org):

On the way to the Middle East, they..gave the Jews two choices in their slogan: “Christ-killers, embrace the Cross or die!” 12,000 Jews in the Rhine Valley alone were killed as the first Crusade passed through. Some Jewish writers refer to these events as the “first holocaust.” Once the army reached Jerusalem and broke through the city walls, they slaughtered all the inhabitants that they could find (men, women, children, newborns). After locating about 6,000 Jews holed up in the synagogue, they set the building on fire; the Jews were burned alive. The Crusaders found that about 30,000 Muslims had fled to the al Aqsa Mosque. The Muslim were also slaughtered without mercy.

How could the Crusaders possibly be called “the bad guys”? Hey, Donohue – maybe Ridley Scott is secretly one of those “secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular” whom you think control Hollywood.

Meanwhile, John Podhoretz offers a different critique in the Weekly Standard:

Director Ridley Scott and screenwriter William Monahan would have you believe that there was once a utopian moment when the city of Jerusalem was a multicultural and multiethnic paradise, run by wise men deeply suspicious of religious fanaticism…Kingdom of Heaven attributes to its heroic Christian and Muslim characters a cosmopolitan skepticism about faith, and a healthy tolerance for other cultures, that would have been literally unthinkable in the 12th century–an era in which there was absolutely no frame of intellectual, historical, hermeneutical, or philosophical reference for cultural relativism or agnosticism.

I fear Podhoretz has never heard of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, whose story would make a great sequel for the Scott film (which I haven’t seen yet). It’s 1225, almost forty years since Saladin’s victory at Jerusalem. Frederick has just married Yolande, Latin heiress of Jerusalem, and the pope wants him to head up the Sixth Crusade. However, things don’t go quite as planned. First of all, Frederick declines to go, pleading illness. The Pope excommunicates him. Then Frederick finally heads off – before having the excommunication reversed, and so making the pope look rather ridiculous.

Frederick was raised on Sicily, and was a fluent Arabic speaker. This made his Crusade rather different from the previous efforts. Bertrand Russell gives an amusing account in his History of Western Philosophy (pages 444-445):

Arrived in Palestine, Frederick made friends with the Mohammedans, explained to them that the Christians attached importance to Jerusalem although it was of little strategic value, and succeeded in inducing the peaceably to restore the city to him. This made the Pope [Gregory IX] still more furious – one should fight the infidel, not negotiate with him.

Frederick was also a bit of a sceptic – at one point he considered starting a new religion to rid himself of the Pope’s influence (he was also rumoured to have written an anti-religious work called The Three Impostors, although this story is apocryphal). But perhaps Podhoretz is thinking more about how he would like the the USA to be, rather than the medieval world as it actually was.

Weekly Standard tipped from Christianity Today Weblog)