(In 1995, Al Salvi, then a second-term state legislator in Illinois, decided to challenge the sitting lieutenant governor for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. I ran that race for Salvi. The first Chicago Tribune poll showed Salvi at 2%, largely dismissing him as a minor nuisance. Never did the polls show him reaching 40% But we steadily grew.
In early 1996, our opponent, speaking on WLS radio in Chicago, dismissed our whole campaign as a fantasy. Going off on a riff, he said that Salvi should figure out he was totally out classed and over-matched, that he was a minor candidate who didn’t have a chance. “This is David versus Goliath,” the opponent said. “He can’t win.”
Speaking on the same station a few days later, Al set the tone for the last weeks of the campaign. Asked about the lieutenant governor’s dismissal of him as not even worthy of comment, Al said, “I heard him say this was as big a mismatch as David versus Goliath. But he forgot one thing. David won.” A lot of the press fell in love with Salvi’s style from that moment. We did, indeed, win. And our earliest supporters nicknamed themselves the “two percenters,” derived from that original Trib poll.
After the primary, Kathy had a baby boy. In remembrance of that event, they named him David. His middle name had meaning, too. Some tireless supporters in the little town of Odell had lost a son, Adam, to cancer. In his honor, David was given the name, Adam.
In those days, young Joe was a toddler. I usually called him Joe-Joe (as you can see from the above picture, it would probably not be prudent to call him that now). I often visited the Salvi household before we launched the campaign. Little Joe was my guy. He was always enthused when I came in and I could always soothe him when he got fussy. We were buds.
Al now is working on a book centering around Count Raymond of Toulouse, truly the First Crusader. Along the way, both Joe and David have become fascinated with the subject and have studied it as well. It pleases me to no end to be able to print this guest column on the early history of the Crusades, written by young David and Joe Salvi. I am told that David is the primary author and Joe made significant contributions. I have not edited this for content, only to fit the format here.)
By David Salvi and Joe Salvi
Western schools today teach that the Crusades were unprovoked acts of violence against Islamic civilization in the Middle East. This is false. The truth is that Islamic violence and military conquest against Eastern Christians, known as the Byzantine Christians, provoked the Crusades as a defensive response. Before the first Crusade began in 1095 A.D., Muslim armies conquered, through violence, 2/3rds of the Christian world and land. Muslims had taken over the Levant, including the Holy Lands where Christ preached, Syria, Anatolia (modern day Turkey), all the Eastern lands converted by Saint Paul, Egypt, the rest of North Africa, and Spain. In 732 A.D., more than two centuries before the first Crusade, Muslim armies invaded as far as Tours, France, just south of Paris. For almost a millennium, history in the West taught these facts faithfully. In recent times, however, revisionists have portrayed the Crusades as unjustified attacks on peaceful Muslim lands.
Modern revisionist historians also have tried to portray the Crusades as failures. The brutality of the Muslim armies and the danger they posed to the Christian world are now downplayed. The Crusades were in fact a series of religiously sanctioned defensive military campaigns by volunteers, which successfully halted Islamic expansion, saving Christendom and arguably the Western way of life as we know it today.
To understand why thousands of knights and their families made such profound sacrifices, one must remember that they were medieval, not modern, people. The culture of nobility in the eleventh century was one of public displays of piety. Lords were known as much for their love of God as for their skill on the battlefield…by defending the Church they defended all that was good and true in their world. In short [they] joined the Crusade…from a simple and sincere love of God.
While the Pope and the great kings of the West saw the big picture (the existential threat posed by Islam), according to the foremost living authority on the Crusades, the average Crusader was expending all that he had and enduring intense hardship in order to store up “treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt.” Crusaders were fighting for their God. The word “crusade,” however, is a modern word. It was not used in medieval times to refer to the defenders of the Western way of life. The word comes from crucesignati, meaning, “those signed by the cross.” Christianity is not a violent religion, even though it is now often perceived as one. On the contrary, Christ taught His followers that, “he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.” He taught His followers to “turn the other cheek” if they are slapped in the face. Christ never wore a weapon and chastised Peter for defending Him when Peter cut the ear off of Christ’s tormentors. The New Testament is filled with the language of peace and teaches that love is God’s greatest law: love thy neighbor as thyself. In fact, Jesus taught that people should love their enemies!
Saint Augustine of Hippo, writing in the fifth century, explained in his work “City of God” that while Christians must “turn the other cheek,” self-defense is as necessary as food and water. This doctrine, called “The Just War” principle, made possible the defensive response to Islamic aggression, which we now call the Crusades. Modern movies and other popular works have displayed a gross misunderstanding of this principle and of the Crusades, which have contributed to a popular antagonism toward Christianity. For example, the movie “The Seventh Seal” (1957) portrays the faithful in a negative light and contains several anachronisms, as does the more recent movie, “The Kingdom of Heaven.”
Muhammad wrote the Koran six centuries after Christ died. Muhammad was a warrior, and the Koran taught “Jihad” as one of the pillars for Muslims. Jihad means Holy War. The Koran discusses in great detail the necessity for war, and even teaches how to conduct war. It sets forth violent punishment to those who do not submit to Islam. Although moderate Muslims sincerely find soft interpretations of the Koran to adjust its teachings to modern sensibilities, the fundamental fact that Muhammad was a warrior and Christ explicitly opposed war (and lived a non-violent life) is undeniable.
After Muhammad died, his followers, especially Umar, the second Muslim ruler after Muhammad’s death, continued to aggressively convert by the sword. Christians were easily defeated, as their way of life made them vulnerable to military conquerors. The Eastern lands, which Umar conquered, were part of what came to be known as the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire was the eastern half of what remained of the ancient Roman Empire. The Byzantines, with their capital in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), had broken away from the Western remnants of the Roman Empire. Constantinople in 1095 A.D. was the greatest city in the world, named after the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. Constantine, Emperor of all of Rome from 306 to 337 AD is best known for being the Emperor to end the persecutions of the Christians in Rome. Christianity flourished after Constantine, but the Holy Roman Catholic Church’s position that the Pope was the head of the Church, and other disagreements, led the Byzantine Christians to break away from their Western comrades in what is known as the “great schism.” This schism, also known as the East-West Schism, occurred in 1054 A.D., and resulted in the Roman Catholic Church dividing with the Eastern Orthodox Church.
By the beginning of the eleventh century, the people living in lands which followed the teachings of the Western Catholic Church were fighting Moorish Muslim armies in the heart of Western Europe. At the same time, the people living in the “Byzantine Empire” were being overrun by Arab and non-Arab (Turkish) Muslim conquerors waging Jihad in places such as Persia, Egypt and Syria. The great Byzantine Empire had even lost most of Anatolia and Muslims threatened the very gates of Constantinople itself. Despite the differences and disputes between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Emperor of the Byzantines, Alexius I Comnenus, sent out a desperate letter to the Pope, Urban II, for help. In response, Urban II convened the Council of Clermont. The Council decided to call upon Christians in the West who were not fighting the Moors in Spain to come to the aid of the Byzantines. The Pope hoped that he could stir the hearts of soldiers by calling on them not only to defend Byzantine Constantinople, but also to liberate Jerusalem, the Holy Land.
Meanwhile, in the East, the Byzantines, who broke from the Roman Catholic Church, found themselves in a very difficult situation. They saw themselves as the true heirs of the glory of the former Roman Empire. They were Christian, but did not recognize the Pope as the head of the Church, and looked down on the “Latin” West as barbarian, although Christian.
In response to the Pope’s call, hundreds of thousands of Latin Christians, mostly from France, Italy and Germany, began a pilgrimage to Constantinople. The first to arrive were led by people like “Peter the Hermit.” These were not professional soldiers but pious and foolish people who dove blindly beyond Constantinople only to be slaughtered. Soon, however, highly trained and disciplined soldiers led by powerful lords such as Raymond IV, Godfrey, and Bohemond arrived in Constantinople and prepared their invasion of Nicaea. Nicaea was the most powerfully fortified city held by the Turks, but the Crusaders miraculously retook it. They then marched through the barren lands of modern day Turkey and defying logic somehow survived to reach Antioch, another heavily fortified city on the Eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Half starved, lacking basic weapons, and with an army twice their size attacking them from behind, the Crusaders successfully reclaimed Antioch for Christ.
Throughout these battles, the Crusaders, with few exceptions, showed great discipline, honor, bravery, and marshal fortitude. They earned the respect of their adversaries. In fact, upon hearing of their successes, the Shi’a Muslim rulers of Egypt sent a letter of congratulations and admiration: the Turks were their enemies too. The Crusaders, however, did not distinguish between the different types of Muslims, and began preparations for the siege of Jerusalem, which was held by the Egyptian Shi’a Muslims who had earlier congratulated the Crusaders.
Jerusalem was the ultimate goal for the Crusaders. This is the city where Christ preached, performed miracles, was crucified, and resurrected to eternal life. It was the ultimate purpose of this military pilgrimage. In fact, all the conquests on the road to Jerusalem were handed back to Alexius, who had broken away from Rome. Under the rules of war at the time, the underdog Crusaders approached Jerusalem and offered generous terms of surrender, which were refused many times. “No quarter” was thus given, which meant that if the city did not surrender, every living thing inside would be put to the sword. Again defying the odds, the Christians retook Jerusalem. Contrary to the revisionist history taught in the last one hundred years, the Crusaders showed uncommon compassion (for that era) to their defeated enemies.
By the standards of the time, adhered to by both Christians and Muslims, the Crusaders would have been justified in putting the entire population of Jerusalem to the sword. Despite later highly exaggerated reports, however, that is not what happened. It is true that many of the inhabitants, both Muslims and Jews, were killed in the initial fray. Yet many were also allowed to purchase their freedom or were simply expelled from the city. Later stories of the streets of Jerusalem coursing with knee-high rivers of blood were never meant to be taken seriously. Medieval people knew such a thing to be an impossibility. Modern people, unfortunately, often do not.
The First Crusade was a glorious victory. It was a defensive response to more than 300 years of Muslim attacks against Christian lands and people. Jerusalem was Christian again for more than one hundred years, during which time more than a million pilgrims were able to freely see the places where Jesus Christ taught, performed miracles, died, and rose from the dead. Shortly after Jerusalem was taken, Raymond IV was asked to be king of the city, but he humbly refused this offer saying that he was not worthy to be king in Christ’s city. When Godfrey was given the crown instead, Raymond left the city to take his soldiers on a pilgrimage to the Jordan River, where Christ was baptized. Upon arrival there, however, Raymond received word that a large Muslim army had been poised south of the Jordan River in preparation for an attack on Jerusalem. Although it was Raymond’s intention to return home, and although Raymond was personally insulted that Godfrey had taken the crown of Jerusalem, he led his weary men on a surprise attack against the Muslims who themselves were preparing a siege on Jerusalem. Raymond’s maneuver was a brilliant military victory, and saved Jerusalem.
In recent times, revisionist historians have created a false and misleading image of these defensive battles fought by Christians against Muslims. These battles, now known as the “Crusades,” however, saved Christendom and possibly even the West. Although not every Crusader fulfilled the holy vows demanded of chivalrous Christian soldiers, the Crusaders proved to be decent and holy people. They also proved to be brilliant and brave warriors. Against all odds, led by people such as Raymond IV, Bohemond of Taranto, and Godfrey of Bouillon, the first Crusaders defeated larger armies entrenched in massive castles, and ultimately reclaimed Jerusalem. Although the normal rules of war during the time would have allowed the Crusaders to kill the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for they refused to surrender, the Crusaders proved to be profoundly merciful.
Modern historians and popular media have tried to change this fact but original sources prove that those who died violently at Jerusalem died in battle. The Crusaders ruled Jerusalem in a generally just and honorable way for about one hundred years. Although the armies of the great Saladin later conquered the Crusaders in the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem, and although subsequent Crusades had a mixed record of success in battle, the fundamental effect of the Crusades, from the Christian perspective, was to stop the bloody encroachment and forced conversion of Christian lands by Muslims. The Crusades, contrary to revisionist history books and the modern understanding, accomplished the goal of defending Christendom.
(Interestingly, in the Third Crusade, a peculiar respect, bordering on affection, grew up between Richard the Lionheart and his Islamic counterpart, the Saladin. The Saladin was notably kind (again, for the period) to his non-military Christian prisoners, taking some care to make sure they had blankets and sufficient food where they were held. It has long struck me that for all the blather, much of the behavior of the contestants during these battles was much more restrained and less savage than modern Jihad. I contemplate the irony that if the Saladin were alive today and treated captives with the kindness he did in the 12th Century, he might well be denounced as an infidel and assassinated by modern Jihadists. – CJ)
 Madden, Thomas, “The New Concise History of the Crusades” (2006), pp.12-13.
 Matthew 26:52
 Mark 12:31
 For example, the movie claims to be set in the fourteenth century during a Crusade, but it portrays flagellants, witch burnings, and the black plague, all of which occurred centuries later; the Crusades actually took place during optimistic times. While artistic license can be given to the writer, Ingmar Bergman, these things create a false image in the public conscience.
 Historian Thomas Madden wrote of the movie, “it is a mixture of 19th century Romanticism and modern Hollywood wishful-thinking.”
 E.g., Koran 2:191-193, 2:244, 2:216, 3:56, 3:151, 4:74, 4:76, 4:89, 4:95, 4:104, 5:33, 8:12, 8:15, 8:39, 8:57, 8:59-60, 8:65, 9:5, 9:14, 9:20, 9:29, 9:30, 9:38-39, 9:41-42, 9:73, 9:88, 9:111, 9:123, 17:16, 18:65-81, 21:24, 25:52, 33:60-62, 47:3-4, 47:35, 48:17, 48:29, 61:4, 61:10-12, 66:9.
 Madden, p. 34