Return of the 'crusading spirit'?

By Phil Wood
March 20, 2011

This morning I turned on my radio to a sick sense of deja vu, with the news of war in Libya. Eight years to the day that George Bush announced attacks on Iraq, a stony faced President Obama did the same as he spoke to reporters in Brasilia.

Perhaps predictably Colonel Gaddafi has described the action as "a second Crusader war." In this, at least, he may be rhetorically right. Radical opinion across the Muslim world is already conjuring the ghost of crusading armies and colonial aggression. The Kavaz Center, linked to Pro-Chechen insurgency in Cauacaus, announced, "US and allies launch Crusade against Libya".

But the rhetoric flows both ways. Popularised in the crusades and adapted by Puritan preachers, the myth of redemptive violence is alive and well in American self-understanding, the bellicose nationalism of British foreign secretaries and the anti-Muslim tirades of the far right.

It was President Ronald Reagan who addressed a British Parliament on the 8 June 1982, calling for"'a crusade for freedom that will engage the faith and fortitude of the next generation".

As we are living in the 'next generation' I can only conclude that in Libya Reagan's prophecy of a perpetual renewal of the crusading spirit has been chillingly fulfilled.

See also: Living an Anabaptist vision, and Walter Wink, Facing the myth of redemptive violence.


(c) Phil Wood has a varied background uniting community development, social entrepreneurship, housing and Christian mission. Phil is a Mennonite but has a Methodist background. His blog is at:

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