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     We are nearing the millennial anniversary of the first Crusade, the two-hundred year conflict that pitted expanding kingdoms of Europe against Middle Eastern ones. In Europe, The Crusades were sold to the people as a Holy War where God’s armies would strike against marauding Muhammadans and, in the name of Christ, smite them and win back the Holy Land. There were nine major crusades, the last one ending in 1272 C.E.

    People have a strong tendency to frame conflict as good versus evil and in the West The Crusades are a prime example of this tendency. Europeans who fought in The Crusades were assured that if they died battling Muslim infidels in The Holy Land that their souls would go straight to Heaven. Introspection and objectivity were not strong suits of either the invaders nor the defenders.

     East versus West, Christian versus Muslim, Right versus Wrong was the propaganda used to sell The Crusades. This unholy trinity must be effective because a thousand years later it remains an amazingly efficient and efficacious way to sell hate and gloss over nuance. In the West we are subjected to a constant drone about the threat of Muslim Terrorists and how they are bound and determined to either kill or convert us.

     There is no doubt that the reality of terror being visited on the West is real. The fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the USA lovingly embrace peace and the freedoms that our Constitution affords us does not negate the fact that there are vast armies in the Middle-east and elsewhere that are at war with one another and many of these have a hatred for all things Western. For many, the hatred is manifested in terror attacks and it would take a blind man not to see a need for self-protection against these self-styled jihadists as they rape, kill, maim and subjugate in the name of  Allah.

     The conflict, however, is far from one sided. We in the West have used our might to install and topple “presidents” as we saw necessary to our National Interest. We send armies to fight for truth, freedom, justice and The American Way- meaning what’s good for us, not them. The narrative that we were just minding our own business when these hashed out assassins attacked us out of the blue is as false as the fantasy about The Crusades. We have a power struggle and desire for home rule mixed in with religious fanaticism- and that fanaticism is not wholly on the part of Muslims.

     The conflict is not an equal one. The West has military might that could literally make the Middle-east a field of glass, in fact, many in the West call for this regularly. How many times have we heard someone say, “We should nuke the son’s of bitches”?

     If the military might is not equal neither are the transgressions against liberty. It is not only radical Islamic terrorists who kill in the name of Allah. Pakistan has condemned Taimoor Raza to death. His crime? “Using derogatory remarks … in respect of the Holy Prophet” on social media. This is one example among hundreds where laws in Middle-eastern nations are used to punish people for merely expressing themselves or, as is the case for women, petitioning for equal rights.

     Islam, like any religion, has adherents who will punish or kill people for not obeying its tenants and many devout observers insist that non-believers adhere to these same restrictions or reap righteous consequences. Adherents to Islam are approaching the two-billion mark and the intolerance and violence of the minority who view themselves as worthy judge, jury and executioner for Allah, the Islamic terrorists, is a real and vicious threat.

     And that threat is being used to sow hatred across the USA. When a Muslim commits an atrocity in the USA his religion is one of the first descriptors that we are provided. When Dylann Roof massacred eight innocents in a Charleston church reports did not blame his terrorism on Christianity. When James Hodgkinson shot five people whom he apparently targeted because they were Republican legislators no one mentioned his religion. The reason for this? Because, a thousand years after the First Crusade, we are still being sold the lie that we are in a battle of East versus West, Christian versus Muslim, Right versus Wrong.

     And I do not use the word lie lightly. The battle that we face is one of tolerance versus intolerance; the lie of “good-guys” versus “bad-guys” based upon religion, skin color, or nation of origin. Many Christians have and continue to use religion as a reason to deny equal rights to all. The number of dead and tortured for Christ is appalling and yet we in the West continue to fall into the trap of using labels to divide ourselves into camps of them versus us when the real enemy is poverty, ignorance and intolerance. And if you just said, “Yeah, but they’re worse than we are,” then you can see just how deeply rooted and pandemic the problem is.

May God bless the USA. (And all the rest of the world too.)