Rodney Stark’s God’s Batallions is an outstanding book designed to help the educated reader (not only the academic reader) understand the Crusades. You know the routine. You want to talk about Christianity and the village atheist wonders just how you are getting past the horrors of the Crusades and the Inquisition. This book answers the question with regard to the Crusades. Stark brilliantly explains how the Crusades started, what happened in the course of events, and why they finally ended. All in all, the western church comes off pretty sympathetically. Readers who know Stark find it easy to trust him because he always questions excessive claims and makes sure to back his own assertions up with data.
An interesting post from Matthew Anderson on church architecture. Good Chesterton quotation to kife as well.
Amanda Baker reports on a summer she spent living with unbelievers in Washington, DC. Hers was a reverse experience of the kind chronicled in the recent book by non-Christian Kevin Roose, The Unlikely Disciple, which profiles Roose’s strange semester at Liberty University.
I just read Roose’s book and found it provocative on a few points. Nothing too earth-shattering. I think the whole “I studied evangelical Christians thinking they were weird and found out they’re actually pretty normal” genre is a bit played out, personally. Many Christians are indeed pretty normal, sometimes too much so, as Roose’s book shows. The guys he pals around with struggle with lust, pornography use, and nominalism. I was reminded just how difficult it is for young men to fight for purity in this world, whether at Liberty or elsewhere, and just how much we need a robust view of Christ, not merely rules, Christian codes, and chapels, good as these things can be.
Roose’s writing isn’t exceptional, and the book doesn’t unearth anything terribly unusual, but I was glad that he seemed to warm to Christians through his exposure to them, and I hope that he finds the Lord.
Have you heard of Libera? They’re an all-boys choir from England. Not usually my cup of tea, but this is a particularly elegant song.