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Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sermon on II Corinthians 12:9 from London, 1933-1935 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 13) edited by Keith Clements
Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christians should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.
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Hoewel de westerse samenleving steeds verder seculariseert, en het belang van het christelijke geloof er nog nooit zo klein was, blijven Bijbelse voornamen onverminderd populair. Althans, sommigen toch. In 2017 werden in België slechts 63 Pauls, tien Abrahams minder dan vijf Jozefs geboren, maar in de top 10 populairste babyjongensnamen van 2018 prijken nog altijd Noah (#2), Adam (#3), Lucas (#6) en Gabriël (#9). (bronnen: statbel.fgov.be, skepticsannotatedbible.com, statenvertaling.net)


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Anonymous asked: I think you have one of the most cultured blogs on tumblr and I respect your views (even where I disagree) because you are highly educated and experienced and not a knee jerk ranter like many here. Yet I was disappointed by your post on Islam and West with a quote by the conservative writer, Mark Steyn. Don’t you think history shows that the hate filled anti-Islamism of the Crusades taught Muslims to rightly fear and hate Western Christians and that has continued down to our present day?

There’s a lot to unpack here so thank you for your thoughtful words. Thank you for being sincerely honest and open and I hope I can reciprocate in the same way. I don’t claim a monopoly on truth and I am always open to be corrected if I know I am wrong in some way. I hope you are too.

Firstly, Mark Steyn - within the specificity of the quote alone - wasn’t attacking Islam so much as showing the slow burn decline of the West, especially Europe. He was admonishing Europeans for the state of their moral and political decay of their civilisation.

As a side note, Mark Steyn is now Canadian but originally born and raised English. As such he deploys wit and sarcasm in a British way that isn’t entirely understood by North Americans. I don’t always agree with Steyn but I like his colourful turn of phrase and stylish prose. he was a drama critic before he turned his hand to political commentating and so he knows how to provoke.

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Secondly, I want to make clear that I am not anti-Islamic. I have a sincere respect and appreciation for Islamic arts and aesthetics. This comes from briefly living in those cultures such as India and Pakistan as a small child and then later backpacking across Iran and Central Asia and South East Asia, and even later serving in the British army in Afghanistan.

As a rule, I also respect people of genuine faith and what it means to them in their every day lives to be better people having learned to speak Urdu, Farsi, and Dari to a fairly conversant level. I have always been the recipient of generous hospitality and unexpected kindness, especially ordinary people I met on the buses or in the night market bazaars or remote villages when I was backpacking.

However speaking frankly, I won’t apologise for being anti-Islam when it comes to the religious Islamic hardcore - unwittingly aided by misguided leftists and PC multi-culturalists - who wish to threaten the fabric of our European heritage or where imported Islamic customs and cultural practices are incompatible with our native European traditions.

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Questions of how and in what ways does Islam impact and even undermine the very fabric of European civilisation are legitimate ones provided we can leave aside the unhelpful histrionics of fear mongering and stop taking comfort in broad brush racist caricatures.

Taking easy pot shots at straw men of our created fears may serve as a release for pent up frustration in the short term but does nothing to take a serious approach to practical policies to solving these problems in the long term. We need to have an urgent, sober and clear sighted discussion about how far can western societies can allow Islamic customs and practices to continue to shape our traditional European identity. 

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Thirdly, your view that Islam was peaceful until Western Christianity started the fight with the onslaught of the crusades is deeply flawed. Your view of the crusades is not unusual though. It pervades textbooks as well as popular literature which is based on out of date historiography. 

The historiography of the crusades tends to focus on varying degrees on the three key medieval impulses that drove the crusades: piety, pugnacity, and greed.

In the popular imagination today the crusaders were nothing more than boorish bigots. In films like Kingdom of Heaven (2005), the best of the Christian knights are portrayed as being torn between remorse for their excesses and lust to continue them.

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Within the hallowed halls of academia the impression one gets comes down either believing the soldiers of the First Crusade appeared basically without warning, storming into the Holy Land with the avowed - literally - task of slaughtering unbelievers. Or the Crusades were an early sort of European imperialism. Some ‘woke’ historians would go as far as to say confrontation with Islam gave birth to a period of religious fanaticism that spawned the terrible Inquisition and the religious wars that ravaged Europe during the Elizabethan era.

The most famous semi-popular historian of the crusades, Sir Steven Runciman, ended his three volumes of magnificent prose - written in the 1950s - with the judgment that the crusades were “nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is the sin against the Holy Ghost.”

Runciman was badly mistaken and his research has been surpassed as a new generation of historians have moved down fresh avenues of archival research. That’s the nature of historiography.

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There will always be a sense of the complexity of each of the historical issues regarding the crusades and why historians often disagree with common popular, often unnuanced interpretations of historical events as popularised by Runciman. It is a topic that crusade historians discuss among themselves quite often, occasionally publishing articles in popular publications.

So I don’t buy in to the argument that literally all the crusaders were virtuous or had pure motives - I don’t think any serious historian does. Nor would I ever categorise all the crusaders on one side as the good guys and Islamic forces on the other as the bad guys. That’s just lazy and silly.

There is a story about Carole Hillenbrand, one of the present leading scholars on the crusades, who was invited by an interviewer in 2018 to venture an opinion on whether the Muslims who had encountered westerners in the Holy Land during the time of the crusades had seen the best of western Christendom in their midst, Hillenbrand agreed that - with notable and distinguished exceptions - they almost certainly had not. In turn what had the Western crusaders learned from their Islamic adversaries? “The most important thing that most of the crusaders who remained in the Holy Land learned … was to use soap”.

History is a two way street of complexity and contradictions. It’s also full of unexpected ironies as we shall see.

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At the moment the piety argument is in the ascendancy and is often ascribed to the late great Cambridge historian Jonathan Riley Smith - arguably the most important crusades historian of modern times. As early as 1977, he argued that the crusade was a special type of holy war that was differentiated from all previous Christian holy wars by its unique institutional and penitential nature, thus it had a special religious appeal to those who participated. It was at first associated with pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the most penitential goal of all, and a place where devout Christians went to die, which may be why so many of the earliest crusaders were old men.

I find this argument more convincing because of the reams of research now been done and adds to our broader picture of the crusaders and their motivations.

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So you might see the assumptions behind your question make you fall into the Runciman view of the Crusades - and that has been out of date for some time.

The historical truth is that Muslims had been attacking Christians for more than 450 years before Pope Urban declared the First Crusade. They needed no incentive to continue doing so. Islam was always in conflict with Western Christianity from the beginning.

But even here there is a more nuanced and complicated answer which I want you to consider.

Up until quite recently, Muslims remembered the crusades as an instance in which they had beaten back an insipid western Christian attack. Islamic popular belief that was prevalent in these societies that they were the winners, not the losers during the time of the crusades. Past Muslims never whined about the crusades because they saw themselves as the victors.

An illuminating vignette is found in one of Lawrence of Arabia’s letters, describing a confrontation during post-World War One negotiations between the Frenchman Stéphen Pichon and Faisal al-Hashemi (later King Faisal I of Iraq). Pichon presented a case for French interest in Syria going back to the crusades, which Faisal dismissed with a cutting remark: “But, pardon me, which of us won the crusades?”

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This was generally representative of the Muslim attitude toward the crusades before about World War One - that is, when Muslims bothered to remember them at all, which was not often. Most of the Arabic-language historical writing on the crusades before the mid-19th century was produced by Arab Christians, not Muslims, and most of that was positive. There was no Arabic word for “crusades” until that period, either, and even then the coiners of the term were, again, Arab Christians. It had not seemed important to Muslims to distinguish the crusades from other conflicts between Christianity and Islam.

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Nor had there been an immediate reaction to the crusades among Muslims. As the British historian, Carole Hillenbrand has noted, “The Muslim response to the coming of the Crusades was initially one of apathy, compromise and preoccupation with internal problems.”

By the 1130s, a Muslim counter-crusade did begin, under the leadership of the ferocious Zengi of Mosul. But it had taken some decades for the Muslim world to become concerned about Jerusalem, which is usually held in higher esteem by Muslims when it is not held by them than when it is.

Action against the crusaders was often subsequently pursued as a means of uniting the Muslim world behind various aspiring conquerors, until 1291, when the Christians were expelled from the Syrian mainland. And - surprisingly to Westerners - it was not Saladin who was revered by Muslims as the great anti-Christian leader - he was a Sunni Muslim of Kurdish ethnicity. That place of honour usually went to the more bloodthirsty, and more successful, Zengi and Baibars, or to the more public-spirited Nur al-Din.

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The first Muslim crusade history did not appear until 1899. By that time, the Muslim world was rediscovering the crusades - but it was rediscovering them with a twist learned from Westerners. In the modern period at the end of the 19th Century, there were two main European schools of thought about the crusades.

One school, epitomised by people like Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, and Sir Walter Scott, and later echoed in the 20th Century Sir Steven Runciman, saw the crusaders as crude, greedy, aggressive barbarians who attacked civilised, peace-loving Muslims to improve their own penury state.

The other school, more romantic and epitomised by lesser-known figures such as the French writer Joseph-François Michaud, saw the crusades as a glorious episode in a long-standing struggle in which Christian chivalry had driven back Muslim hordes. In addition, Western imperialists began to view the crusaders as predecessors, adapting their activities in a secularised way that the original crusaders would not have recognised or found very congenial.

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At the same time, nationalism began to take root in the Muslim world. Arab nationalists borrowed the idea of a long-standing European campaign against them from the former European school of thought - missing the fact that this was a serious mis-characterisation of the crusades - and using this distorted understanding as a way to generate support for their own agendas.

This remained the case until the mid-20th century, when, in Riley-Smith’s words, “a renewed and militant Pan-Islamism” applied the more narrow goals of the Arab nationalists to a worldwide revival of what was then called Islamic fundamentalism and is now sometimes referred to, a bit clumsily, as jihadism.

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This led rather seamlessly to the rise of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, offering a view of the crusades so bizarre as to allow bin Laden to consider all Jews to be crusaders and the crusades to be a permanent and continuous feature of the West’s response to Islam.

Bin Laden’s conception of history was a feverish fantasy. He was no more accurate in his view about the crusades than he was about the supposed perfect Islamic unity which he imagined Islam enjoyed before the enduring influence of Christianity intruded. But the irony is that he, and those millions of Muslims who accept his message, received that message originally from their perceived enemies: the West.

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So it was not the crusades that taught Islam to attack and hate Christians. Far from it. Those activities had preceded the crusades by a very long time, and stretch back to the inception of Islam. Rather, it was the West - based on faulty  scholarship based on misconceived principles sourced from the Age of Enlightenment - which taught Islam to hate the crusades.

The irony is rich is it not?

Thanks for the question.

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Saint Boris-Mikhail, Tsar and Baptizer of Bulgaria, Equal-to-the-Apostles

Commemorated on 2 May

Boris I was the ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire from 852–889. Despite a number of early military setbacks against neighboring peoples such as the Franks, Croats, and Serbs, the reign of Boris was marked with significant events that shaped Bulgarian and European history.

Following the conquests of Khan Krum of Bulgaria at the beginning of the 9th century, Bulgaria became an important regional power in Southeastern Europe. Its future development was connected with the Eastern Roman and Frankish empires. Since both of these states were Christian, pagan Bulgaria remained more or less in isolation.

For a variety of diplomatic reasons, Boris became interested in converting to Christianity. At the beginning of 864, Boris was baptized at Pliska by an embassy of Greek clergymen, together with his family and select members of the Bulgarian nobility. With Emperor Michael III as his godfather, Boris adopted the Christian name Michael. Upon embracing Christianity, Boris also took on the title of Tsar and joined the community of nations that embraced Christ.

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Depiction of Boris’ baptism in the Madrid Skylitzes

A skilful diplomat, Tsar Boris successfully exploited the conflict between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Papacy to secure an autocephalous Bulgarian Church, thus dealing with the nobility’s concerns about foreign interference in Bulgaria’s internal affairs.

When in 885 the disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius were banished from Great Moravia, Boris I gave them refuge and provided assistance to develop the Bulgarian alphabet and literature. Two of these disciples, Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav, were of noble Bulgarian origin and were instrumental in furthering the cultural, linguistic and spiritual works of Cyril and Methodius.

In 893, Clement and Naum created (or rather compiled) a new alphabet, based on the Glagolitic alphabet originally developed by Saints Cyril and Methodius. This new alphabet, which was called Cyrillic, was declared official alphabet of Bulgaria, and in the following centuries was adopted by other Slavic peoples and states. The introduction of Slavic liturgy paralleled Boris’ continued development of churches and monasteries throughout his realm.

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Tsar Boris I meeting the disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius

In 889, Boris abdicated the throne and became a monk. His son and successor Vladimir attempted a pagan reaction, which brought Boris out of retirement in 893. Vladimir was defeated and Boris had him blinded, his wife shaved and sent to a monastery. Boris then convened the Council of Preslav, which placed his third son, Simeon, on the throne of Bulgaria. The Council also replaced the Greek clergy with Bulgarians, and the Greek language was replaced with what is now known as Old Church Slavonic, which in Bulgaria is called and known as Old Bulgarian, as an official language of the Church and the state.

Boris returned to his monastery, emerging once again in c. 895 to help Simeon fight the Magyars, who had invaded Bulgaria in alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire. After the passing of this crisis, Boris resumed monastic life and died in 907. The location of his retreat, where perhaps he was interred, is not certain; it may be near Preslav but also in Pliska or in a monastery near Varna or Ravda.

gouachevalier
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‘[On this day in] the year 280, Roman Emperor Constantine was baptized into the church, beginning Christianity’s transition from a minority movement to an empire’s religion. It was not long before the persecuted became the persecutors, and the cross of Christ was exchanged for the sword of Rome. Clement, an early bishop of Rome, wrote, “When the heathen hear the words of God from our lips, they marvel at them as something beautiful and great. However, when they find out that our deeds are unworthy of the words we speak, they turn from this to blasphemy. They say it is a myth and a delusion.”’


- Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals (27 February)

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Do you know This Title / Name and what it means and the origin of it?  Do you refer to yourself as A Truther of Christendom?  We are now in the last days.  We are seeing so much chaos and violence among people worldwide.  There are missile experiments going on, in many nations.  Some nations desire to kill off the very last generation of God’s chosen people the Jews.  If Any Person Will Lift Up A Hand Or A Sword Against My Chosen Ones, Says The Lord, God Almighty, I will cause an end to his kin.  And for four generations after.  They will all be killed, by swords as their forefathers had raised swords to kill off my chosen people.  Do we take these words seriously, or not?  Christendom, and All of God’s Chosen Ones, have been portrayed in God’s Everlasting Word, The Holy Scriptures as a people who were very stubborn, wanting to live life on their own terms.   They, and we, wanted, and want to choose a life and a path of our own making.  God knows what is best for us, but we work against the work of Godliness.  We choose to walk and talk against God and Holy Scriptures.  His Word will stand forever.  We are not meant to live here on the Earth forever.  Our time here will not be infinite.  We will live a finite and short span of life.  No matter how we choose to live,  God is far Greater than we ever will be.  God is All His Glory Stands Tall To Tower In Greatest Power Over His Created World And Every Piece Of The Creation.  We Need Understanding Concerning The Six Days That God Worked, And About How We Need To Observe The Seventh Day Sabbath Today As Was Observed Using The Hebrew Calendar, And Doing Our Work In The Six Days, And Being As Moses And Following As God Proclaimed.  I Am One Who Has Been Taught Wrong.  I Am A Christian, But In The First Century of Christianity, They Did Not Call Themselves Christians.  That Name Was First Used Among The Church In Antioch, meaning they were Christ’s Followers.  My Need For Writing On This Theme Is To Help You To Become Aware Of The Real Needs Today.

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Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies, AD 1938
Less than 100 years before the American War of Independence, a Mohammedan army was threatening to overrun and destroy Christian civilization, and would have done so if the Catholic King of Poland had not destroyed that army outside Vienna.
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Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, AD 1916
Wherever the Mohammedans have had complete sway, wherever the Christians have been unable to resist them by the sword, Christianity has ultimately disappeared. From the hammer of Charles Martel to the sword of Jan Sobieski, Christianity owed its safety in Europe to the fact that it was able to show that it could and would fight as well as the Mohammedan aggressor.
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Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, AD 1916
Christianity is not the creed of Asia and Africa at this moment solely because the seventh-century Christians of Asia and Africa had trained themselves not to fight, whereas the Moslems were trained to fight. Christianity was saved in Europe solely because the peoples of Europe fought. If the peoples of Europe in the 7th and 8th centuries, and on up to and including the 17th century, had not possessed a military equality with, and gradually a growing superiority over the Mohammedans who invaded Europe, Europe would at this moment be Mohammedan and the Christian religion would be exterminated.
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