In recent years it has become en vogue for Christians to apologize for the sins of ancient cross-bearers. I run into a lot of younger Christians who enthusiastically pick up this mantle. I think there are at least 3 reasons we should stop.
1) Vicarious apology isn’t a Scriptural thing.
I admit I may be missing something others have discovered. But I can’t think of anything in the Bible that would lead one to believe that apologizing for the sins of others carries even an ounce of efficacy. Does the Bible tell us to do this? There is plenty about owning our own sin and repenting of it. There is a lot about walking in humility. Is there anything about apologizing for sin that may or may not have been committed 900 years ago by someone who may or may not have actually been a Christian?
2) Those you are apologizing to don’t actually deserve an apology.
Hypothetically, let’s say you are a direct descendent of Conrad of Montferrat, the twelfth-century knight who played a key role in saving the city of Tyre during the Second Crusade. Now, let’s imagine you meet someone who just happens to be a direct descendent of Saladin, the Muslim Sultan who faced Conrad in battle. Do you owe your new friend an apology? Why? Have you read about that battle? How about the 400 years of battles before Conrad and Saladin faced off, where the entire Middle East, North Africa, and significant parts of Southern Europe were overrun by radical Muslims who displaced historically Christian leaders and persecuted embedded Christian citizens for centuries? Wait, does your new friend owe you an apology? He may argue that there are numerous stories of Knights and others associated with the Crusades who persecuted and slaughtered Muslims and others during those 200 years of battle. Do either you or your new Saladin-descended friend deserve an apology? Why?
Now, since no one reading this can actually meet those hypothetical variables, why is apologizing for the Crusades a thing? Because someone on a college campus somewhere said that someone 900 years ago, “who was a Christian,” did really horrible things? Is this for real? I one time heard that someone who I think went to the same high school that you graduated from did something to someone that had the same color hair as me. Can you please apologize for that? I’m going to assume that everyone from your high school is horrible, persecutes people with brown hair, and hates kittens unless you apologize. And if you do apologize, I’ll probably completely change my opinion and become your new best friend.
3) You should get acquainted with the facts before booking an apology tour.
This is what inspired me to write this blog in the first place. I’ve studied the Crusades from a church history and world history standpoint in the past, but I recently read a book devoted to the subject. The book is God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark. Stark, a professor of sociology and religion at Baylor University is the author of a number of best selling books. I’d highly recommend this book if you are at all interested in reading a well-researched account of this extremely interesting period in world history. Things aren’t always what they seem. Things aren’t always what we’ve heard. The truth of something, particularly something that opinion-holders are centuries removed from, is more complicated than we often realize. History is a complex study. So is religion. If this hurts your feelings, hear me when I say, I’m sorry.