I think the better explanation is that both the revivalist evangelists and the academic institutions wanted to identify themselves with the fiery militancy of the armies that battled their way to Jerusalem. I've seen a few Crusader logos with a knight with a lance on a horse, but a preacher silhouette with a big Bible and a pointy finger? Not so much.
But those armies were Roman Catholic mercenaries. They raped and pillaged their way to Jerusalem. To say that they were advancing the Kingdom of Christ would be to misunderstand fundamentally the nature of the Kingdom and, frankly, to blaspheme the name of Jesus Christ.
In other words, it seems to me that complete historical ignorance is the best possible motivation behind associating the Crusaders with institutions that profess to be biblical and Christian (to say nothing of the added irony of fundamental and Baptist).
At least one institution known as "Crusaders" recognized the incompatibility I've described. Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College, had this to say about the Crusades:
It was not until I became aware of how offensive the image of the Crusades is to large segments of the world that I was forced to take another look at these historical events, and what I discovered was anything but ideal. Christians massacring Muslims; Muslims massacring Christians; Western Christians killing Eastern Christians and vice versa. We are hard-pressed to find anything in these disastrous waves of fighting that our Lord might have approved, despite the fact that the conflict was ostensibly carried out in His name. Try, as I did, reading up on the Crusades, searching for anything with which you would be willing to identify; you will find it an eye-opening exercise. It is little wonder that so many view these unfortunate historical episodes so negatively . . . .Under Dr. Litfin's leadership, Wheaton abandoned its Crusaders mascot. Here's the statement that summed up the rationale:
[Some might respond that] that the cross is offensive too; are we going to abandon that? To which, of course, the answer is no. We will stand or fall with the scandal of the cross. But we must not complicate that scandal by introducing our own scandals into the equation, scandals that may block others from seeing Jesus in our midst.
Wheaton College exists, so we claim, "for Christ and His Kingdom." I have become convinced that making this change is a simple matter of faithfulness to Christ.Read the whole statement here.
Friends, former classmates, former co-workers, and people I've never met: I can imagine three possible responses to this argument among those who have relationships within institutions that retain the Crusader mascot.
- You can deny that identifying with the Crusades is incompatible with faithfulness to Christ. If that describes you, commit yourself to give careful study to what really happened in the Crusades.
- You can agree and do nothing. If that's where you're at, consider whether you value peaceful indifference more than pursuing faithfulness to Christ through what might be a difficult and uncomfortable conversation with someone in a position to effect change.
- You can agree and commit yourself to do something about it. This might include contacting a pastor of a church with a Christian school, a college president, a board of trustees member, an alumni relations coordinator, or an athletic director. This doesn't mean you blow your top. Let's be humble, knowing that we were too ignorant and too apathetic for too long. And let's certainly remember that the people in a decision-making capacity right now are most likely not the individuals who were responsible for the unwise choice. Don't demand an immediately positive response. The responsible individual may have to take time to get other key leaders to agree. Or he may want to wait for a time when he does not appear to bow to external pressure. But our objectives must be that Christ's name be honored, not that we get the credit, and not that change take place on our timetable.