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Madden on President Obama

Pretty hard to believe that Thomas F Madden would publish something like this: “Getting Medieval: Let’s Leave the Middle Ages out of Discussions of Modern Islam.”

Madden is either obtuse, or is being knowingly disingenuous.

It seems pretty clear that:

1) the president was just trying to explain to Americans, most of whom have never met a Muslim and know about them only from what they get from the media, that you can’t judge 1 billion Muslims by the actions, however vile, of a few thousand;

2) that the vast majority of contemporary Christians would admit that the Inquisition and crusades were not true to Jesus’s teachings and were in fact just as much a twisting and distortion of what they think of Christianity as political Islamism is;

3) that many people, for example Jews, would criticize Madden’s portrayal of the crusades and Inquisition (eg, “The work of the Crusader, who put his life at risk and underwent enormous expense, was to save Christian people and restore Christian lands.”) as incomplete at best;

4) his understanding of Christian history (eg, “At some point Christianity as a faith and as a culture had to defend itself or else be subsumed by Islam.”) is wrongheaded – how then did Christianity survive for decades and decades before it gained political power in Roman days?;

and 5) most people who see an article like this, in a magazine like the National Review, won’t even read past the first few sentences and take away, not a somewhat nuanced defense of medieval sensibilities, but rather the simple idea that the President is an idiot, thus confirming their predisposition.

We all fight to defend the past from today’s simplistic assumptions that medieval people were barbaric and ignorant, but that’s not really he’s doing here. It’s Madden who is manipulating the past, not Obama.

About emspanishhistorynotes

Scott Taylor is an associate professor in the history department at the University of Kentucky.

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