A Modern Crusade : History Reminds Us Why Religion and Politics Don't Mix
Pepper, Tara, Newsweek International
In 1000, the Emperor Otto III was pursuing an ambitious foreign policy, aimed at uniting European territories in a peaceful alliance bound together by a common Christian culture. Sound familiar? It never came about. By the 1090s power and diplomatic influence had fallen to an increasingly worldly church, and the notion of a "soldier of Christ" shifted from meaning a monk battling inner demons to a crusader waging bloody war against Muslim infidels. Pope Urban II, troubled by geopolitical difficulties--including the spread of Islam and a divided Christendom--launched the first crusade in 1095, urging Christians to unite in the battle to recover Palestine from the Muslims.
In her new book "The Far-Farers: A Journey From Viking Iceland to Crusader Jerusalem," former British journalist Victoria Clark draws thoughtful and subtle parallels between the beginning of the first millennium and the second. This account, an engaging blend of journalism and history, shows how the 11th century's militant Christianity laid the groundwork for the later separation of church and state in Western Europe. It also shows how the crusaders' anti-Semitism and demonization of Islam still haunt us today.
Clark retraces the steps of a young Viking, Thorvald the Far-Farer, who, having failed to convert Iceland to Christianity, went into exile, setting sail for the Holy Land in 986. Following Thorvald's path--and then that of the 11th-century crusaders--she crosses Germany, Poland, France, Italy, Albania, Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. …