Jonah Goldberg: Comparing Today’s Terrorists to Inquisition is Apples to Oranges

From the Columbus Dispatch. Goldberg is spot-on in his analysis. This is what happens when we parrot soundbites and don’t do the hard work of studying history. And if you doubt that, check out the comments that follow the column in the Dispatch. They speak for themselves.

But the Inquisition and the Crusades aren’t the indictments Obama thinks they are. For starters, the Crusades — despite their terrible organized cruelties — were a defensive war.

“The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living English-language historian of Islam.

As for the Inquisition, it needs to be clarified that there was no single “Inquisition,” but many. And most were not particularly nefarious. For centuries, whenever the Catholic Church launched an inquiry or investigation, it mounted an “inquisition,” which means pretty much the same thing.

Historian Thomas Madden, director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University, writes that the “Inquisition was not born out of desire to crush diversity or oppress people; it was rather an attempt to stop unjust executions.”

In medieval Europe, heresy was a crime against the state. Local nobles, often greedy, illiterate and eager to placate the mob, agreed to execute people accused of witchcraft or other forms of heresy. By the 1100s, such accusations were causing grave injustices (in much the same way that apparatchiks in Communist countries would level charges of disloyalty to have rivals “disappeared”) .

“The Catholic Church’s response to this problem was the Inquisition,” Madden explains, “first instituted by Pope Lucius III in 1184.”

I cannot defend everything done under the various Inquisitions, especially in Spain. But there’s a very important point that needs to be made here that transcends scoring easy, albeit deserved, points against Obama’s approach to Islamic extremism. Christianity, even in its most-terrible days, was indisputably a force for the improvement of man.

Read it all.