Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 11, 2009
A Glorious Disaster captures Crusades story
Ted Byfield brings forth seventh volume in The Christian series
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Veteran journalist Ted Byfield has spent the last nine years working on the multivolume history series, The Christians – Their First Two Thousand Years.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Tens of thousands answered the pope’s call for war and, after a grim fight through the Muslim lands, they took Jerusalem only to besmirch their victory.
Insane with their victory, the crusaders ran through the streets and into houses and mosques killing people regardless of sex and age, converting what could have been a magnificent Christian victory into a historic disgrace.
By 1204, more than a century after their hopeful inauguration, the Crusades had become a catalogue of disaster.
The Turks were gaining strength in Anatolia. The Mongols were menacing both Islam and Christianity from the Asian plains. Islam reigned undisturbed and largely unchallenged in the Levant while the Christians clung to the coast.
There would be three more crusades in the 13th century, none of which would significantly change the status of 1204.
This grim account of the Crusades can be found in the recently released A Glorious Disaster, volume seven of the series The Christians, edited by veteran journalist and publisher Ted Byfield.
The main focus of this volume, which covers from AD 1100 to 1300, is violence and war. Three chapters centre on the Crusades and a fourth on the Mongol invasion, which, as Byfield puts it, “in terms of violence and mindless destruction, were far worse than all the Crusades put together.”
Nevertheless, most of the wars described in A Glorious Disaster were instigated by Christian leaders, fought as Christian endeavours and consequently dominated the Christian story in the 12th and 13th centuries.
“We called (this volume) A Glorious Disaster in the sense that some glorious things happened (during the Crusades) and it was a disaster in the sense that the Crusades didn’t work,” Byfield said in an interview.
“We were driven back (by the Muslims). So we lost. We can’t pretend the Crusades were a victory; they weren’t.”
Volume VII also dedicates three chapters to a second conflict, which would become more pivotal to Christendom than the clash with Islam. It concerned the ultimate power to make the law. Should that power reside with the emperor or the religious authority?
A Glorious Disaster also has chapters on St. Thomas Aquinas, the man who helped Christians unite reason with faith, and St. Francis of Assisi, who after a life of wealth, women and war, went a little crazy, obeyed Jesus literally, lived as a beggar, healed the sick and drew thousands to the cause of compassion.
A Glorious Disaster includes 288 glossy pages of quality paintings, photographs, artwork, maps and stories about war, valour, iniquity, reason and faith — all written in popular, conversational language.
ATTACK AND FAILURE
The Crusades show two “indisputable” facts, according to Byfield. “First, they were not an attack; they were a counterattack (against Muslim aggression).”
Second, the Crusades failed. “As both a military endeavour and a religious one they failed miserably and left Eastern Europe wide open to the next Muslim attack, which came over the next following three centuries,” Byfield explains in the book’s foreword.
“From this whole experience, the Christians could conclude that, while they must resist Islamic aggression by force, they could not hope to overcome Islam itself in that way. If Christ is to conquer; it must be by love, not by violence.”
LABOUR OF FAITH
Byfield, the conservative Christian founder of the Report newsmagazines, has devoted the last nine years to producing the multi-volume history series, The Christians — Their First Two Thousand Years.
By late 2004, Byfield had published six of the projected 12 volumes and then the project ran out of money, which explains why A Glorious Disaster is coming out more than four years later.
Christian History Project Limited Partnership, the company that produced the first six volumes closed its offices in late 2004, laid off Byfield and the editorial staff and stopped producing the series.
Determined as he is, in 2005 Byfield created SEARCH — the Society to Explore And Record Christian History — which undertook to publish volumes seven to 12. He fundraised to pay for volume seven, which was sent to each of the more than 10,000 people who bought volumes one to six.
$2-MILLION PRICE TAG
It cost about $425,000 to publish each volume. That’s just over $2 million.
“We don’t know how much of that can come in through the sale of the books. When we do find that out, we’ll be able to know how much we need to raise by donations.”
In the meantime, SEARCH, a non-profit organization, is planning a major fundraising campaign for the fall to pay for volume eight, which is slated for release in October.
Byfield, an Orthodox Christian, says it is important to complete the series so people may become more knowledgeable about the origins of Western civilization and culture.
“We thought and think that unless Christians know the story, they will not be in a good position to bring others to the faith.”
Single volume is $49 plus shipping, handling and GST. For more information call 1-888-234-4478 or visit the project’s website: www.christianhistoryproject.com.