Crusades, Empires and the Kingdom of God

Last Sunday, a boy handed in this simple question, "Were the Crusades right?"

This is a multi-leveled question that was one of the most probing of all the more than 200 questions that were turned in.  It's a bigger question than just about the moral correctness of the couple-of-centuries long struggle for Christian Europeans to recapture Israel and Jerusalem.  It leads us to a consideration of the relationship between the nations and God's Kingdom.

In the Middle Ages, Church and State were one in Europe.  Kings and Emperors (like Charlemagne) received their right to govern the nations of Europe from the pope.  Wars still went on, but often with the sanction of the Church.  The western world began to be called "Christendom".  It's the idea that the western world (especially Europe) is an embodiment of Christian ideals and it's the sort of thinking that led to Christians thinking it was their duty to establish and advance European (Christian) rule through military efforts throughout the world.

The Crusades got going because there was agreement between Rome (the pope) and numerous European leaders that the Holy Lands (especially the sites Christian pilgrims wanted access to) should not be controlled by the Muslims, but by Christians.

For us, a bottom line could be simply that the Crusades were wrong because war happened in the name of Christ, and Christ told us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, etc.  2 million people were killed in the Crusades.  That's not Christian or moral, but this question goes deeper than that.

Perhaps this is where you can join in with a thought of your own.  Can a nation be "Christian"?  If so, in what sense?  If not, why not?  What are your thoughts?

Thanks so much to the boy who wrote this question!