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Name Change - April 2017

posted Sep 22, 2017, 7:00 AM by RSO The Fenwick Review
By Hanna Seariac '20

Recently, a dialogue arose concerning the name of our mascot, The Crusader. A letter, signed by forty-eight distinguished faculty members, appeared in the latest The Crusader, urging students to engage in conversation because our newspaper shares the same name as the KKK’s and the feelings of animosity they believe the term “crusader” carries.

Claude Hanley ’18 already addressed how the College is purposefully slating the dialogue on this very matter in his article “Welcome to Secular Sunday School”. I echo what he said and would like to emphasize that changing our mascot solidifies our entry into this heretical “Secular Sunday School.”

In response to citing the KKK as a reason to discuss changing the name, that argument seems eerily close to an existential instantiation- a logical fallacy where one assumes existential import. I do not think that the vast majority of people know that the KKK’s newspaper bears this name and also, I do not think that the mutual name associates us with them. A proper assessment of Crusaders reveals that they (they being the Crusaders) were anything but white supremacists (since racism did not surface until later). The KKK’s message and agenda of hate and supremacy should not deter us from acknowledging that Crusaders are remembered for being staunchly Christian, above all else, even if that is simply a stereotype.

However, the crux of the argument to change the name that we identify with is not the connection to the KKK, but rather the “anti-Muslim tensions…counter to our mission and goals” as the faculty writes. This assumes that there is a direct connection between the Crusades and anti-Muslim tensions. While I can see how one could reach that conclusion, I believe that conclusion is an oversimplification of a complex series of wars.

Dr. Thomas Asbridge, a leading expert on the Crusades, in The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land writes “when Latin crusading armies arrived in the Near East to wage what essentially were frontier wars, they were not actually invading the heartlands of Islam. Instead, they were fighting for control of a land that, in some respects, was also a Muslim frontier.” Dr. Asbridge provides an excellent backdrop for how we should examine the Crusades- as a political war, not primarily a religious war. Understanding the Crusades as a political war allows you to recognize that both sides waged war over territory, not exclusively religious zeal.

Michael Haag, a historian with books published by Yale University Press, American University in Cairo Press, etc. writes in The Catholic Herald “In 1095, Pope Urban II called for a Crusade, but neither Christianity nor the West was the cause of the Crusades…The Crusades were part of a centuries-long struggle between Islam and Christianity throughout the Mediterranean world.”

Synthesizing these two historian’s thoughts, we see that the Crusades were a war fought between two groups of people, one mainly Christian and one mainly Islamic, but the Crusades resulted from political struggles.

Understanding the dynamic of the Crusades is crucial to understanding my argument about keeping the name. If one views the Crusades in a historical context, one sees that the Crusades do not originate from a place of Islamophobia, as some may argue. This distinction between hatred of a religion and a territorial struggle defines how we view the actual Crusaders.

Speaking of actual Crusaders, history and society stereotypes them as a zealous Catholic, pillaging every village and killing everyone in sight. As with most stereotypes of Christians, this is completely inaccurate. Dr. Thomas F. Madden, a Crusader historian, addresses this common misconception in his article The Real History of the Crusades by writing “They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world…But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.”

Immediately, Dr. Madden deftly squashes the stereotype of the pillaging knight, similar to how the College squashes open dialogue about perpetuating our Christian tradition. I write this statement ironically because similar to how I am advocating for preserving our Catholic history, the Crusaders believed that Islam would destroy Christianity as they destroyed Zoroastrianism, according to Dr. Madden.

As Christians, as American citizens, as people, as whatever we identify as, a universal truth that most, if not all, of us can agree upon is that everyone should have freedom of religion. Then, if a group tries to take away that freedom, wouldn’t we fight? The short answer is we’ve already done that. Earlier, I stated that the Crusades were a political struggle, which is true, but this political struggle led to Muslims inhabiting more territory and as Dr. Madden points out, posing a threat to Christianity. Dr. Madden concludes his article with “Without the Crusades, it might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam's rivals, into extinction.”

I write this not to justify the Crusades because anything that results in killing, stealing, etc. is morally wrong, but I think it expands our view of the Crusades. The Crusaders simply are not what they are remembered as, therefore we should not change the name of our mascot because of a misconception of their intent.

Yes, Crusaders committed atrocities, but so did people on the other side. I do not wish to justify their sins, but rather emphasize that they fought for their families, rights, and religions- in other words, what we call “noble causes”.

In my view, when we call ourselves “Crusaders”, we remember those who prioritized preservation of the family and Christianity. Beyond the stereotypes that society pins upon it, the term Crusader always evokes Christianity. To me, to change the name is to ignore that the message of Christianity is love. In Matthew 22, a Pharisee lawyer asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is, and Jesus responds “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these commandments.”

In this time in history where hate is unprecedented, it is crucial and essential that we spread love everywhere. Since we live in a time where Islamophobia is rampant, we need to speak out against the hatred with a message of love, which I believe we can do as Crusaders and as Christians. In my mind, our path forward is self-evident.

We need to delineate what we believe being a Crusader means, educate others on this, and then, check our personal contributions to hatred. Every slightly racist joke or phrase, instance of gossip, insult or jab, even sarcastic comment piles up and smothers the true message of Christianity.

Since Crusader carries negative connotations, we cannot simply do nothing about those connotations. I believe that we should stand by our Christianity, stand by our values of love, and stand by our name as Crusaders. As I wrote before, we need to educate others on the Crusades and what we mean by using the name, underscoring our commitment to Christianity. I view this name change as one attempt of many to rid the College of Christianity, which is why I strongly oppose the name change. Instead of denying our Christianity, let us embrace it, as the Crusaders did, and show our love for God and our neighbors by doing so.