OrthodoxChristianity.Net had a field day with this meme about the Crusades, posted on my Facebook Author page:
I’m just going to say that Dave Armstrong should take a course in history sometime.
Dave Armstrong… that there is a blast from the past. Though I suppose he was somewhere, doing something, in the meantime.
[Quite right: I’ve been doing lots of things! I devote my life to the defense of Catholicism and Christianity in general, so I suppose that is doing “something” ain’t it?]
It was a very minimalist meme that I posted (I didn’t create it: I’ve never made any meme), but I agree with the central point: “Muslims were killing Christians and taking over Christian lands. Christians were justified in defending themselves.”
These guys act as if I supposedly defend every jot and tittle of the Crusades. Never have; never will (and in fact, the Inquisition and Crusades, along with infallibility, were major barriers to me in mulling over whether to become a Catholic). I seek to understand them in their historical context, and to see both the good and the bad, as in all historical events and movements.
Of course, the Orthodox have always been (rightly) very sensitive regarding the sack of Constantinople in 1204. I’ve written about that, noting that there had been several massacres of Latins prior to that sad, indefensible incident (so that it, too, can’t be examined in a vacuum, as if the Latins are evil and the Byzantines always saintly): “Sack of Constantinople (1204) & Unknown Byzantine Atrocities”.
The mentality shown by many on this Orthodox forum (which bills itself as the largest one) is the “reduce any complex historical phenomenon only to its worst aspects.” This is, of course, stupid historiographical method. Mark Shea drew an analogy of the Crusades to World War II.
I’d like to do the same. Many Orthodox seem to see nothing regarding the Crusades except the sacking of Constantinople in 1204. From that they conclude that the entire thing had no justification whatsoever.
Okay, let’s fast-forward to August 1945. The US drops two atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, killing scores of thousands of civilians. Now, I have criticized this as immoral and unable to be justified by Catholic just war criteria, in many papers (nine years ago) that were blasted in some circles with extreme derision and slander coming back at me.
I think this was much worse than what happened to Constantinople. But do I then go on to say that World War II was entirely unjustified and an unjust war from A to Z, because it ended on this immoral, wicked note? No, I don’t say that at all; nor do most people who understand what was at stake.
There were many wicked things done by the Allies, as well as the Nazis. We firebombed Tokyo and Dresden, killing multiple thousands. We treated POWs badly. We refused to give refuge to Jews fleeing from the Nazis. Large human events are almost always mixtures of good and evil. If I’m asked, “did World War II need to be fought?” then I answer in an instant, “yes! Absolutely!”
Likewise, with this meme, I am saying that the Crusades needed to be fought insofar as they were opposing the radical Muslims of that time, bent on taking over Europe and Christendom. That basic idea is just and right. But to say so does not in the least imply any sanctioning of anything that was immoral during any of the Crusades, just as I don’t defend the atomic bombings and other indefensible stuff, while agreeing that we had to fight and defeat the Nazis.
The insults poured in, as one would fully expect (what I call a “feeding frenzy”: the very familiar online phenomenon). No one interacted with my explanation of the meme and my views. This is why I have no time for discussion boards. Every aspect of lousy, worthless “discussion” is present there in spades. There is no discussion over there.
For these guys, memes are entirely worthless altogether. But they won’t discuss the issue rationally. Par for the course. I’m all for memes (understood as bare generalizations) and rational discussion that is stimulated by memes.
When I pointed out that they were not discussing the thing, rather than come to grips and start critiquing rationally, they merely upped the insults and the backslapping rah-rahs of each other’s silliness.
I’m disgusted that no rational, constructive discussion can take place as soon as there is a disagreement, and also that these folks over on this board think they can figure out what is in my head by drawing false conclusions.
A meme, as I see it (if it is a good one) is a means to stimulate discussion. Any short saying or generalization cannot contain exhaustive information. It doesn’t mean they are worthless. Wise sayings have been around as long as Confucius, Solomon, Jesus, Dr. Johnson, Pascal, and others. We have Bartlett’s Quotations. They serve a good purpose.
These guys couldn’t discuss my meme rationally and stupidly tried to read my mind, Then when I carefully explained my thinking, they ignored that and continue to refuse to have a normal discussion; then (inevitably) upped the personal attacks and brought in additional non sequiturs that don’t advance the discussion forward at all.
This is all par for the course for Internet discussion boards, but it’s stupid and wrong and I will continue to observe that and try to model a better way on my blog and this Facebook page. We must try to do much better.
Here are examples of the level of “discussion” over there (in blue):
I usually block all Facebook memes as they are simplistic, inaccurate and resort to appeals to emotion. this one is all three.
[see my analysis above]
For many/most western Roman Catholic apologists, ignoring the Orthodox (and along with us, the Eastern Catholics as well) is neither anything new, nor is it news.[Is that so? I guess that’s why I wrote a book about the Orthodox in 2004, which was later revised and greatly improved by the co-authorship of Byzantine Catholic, Fr. Deacon Daniel Dozier]
What Armstrong fails to get, is that simplistic memes do not educate; they are nothing more than silly propaganda and symptomatic of our society’s current inability to conduct a reasoned, civil discussion on any topic from sports to religion to politics to whatever.
[There was nothing wrong with this meme (rightly understood), but there sure is a helluva lot wrong with what passes for “discussion” on this Orthodox forum. Even if this guy is correct about memes, it doesn’t excuse the ridiculous behavior over there. He’s calling for “reasoned, civil discussion” and yet participates in the asinine, imbecilic goings-on, on this forum.]
Also, having just reread the forum up until this point, does he realize that this thread has primarily been a debate between two people, one of which seems to be trying to agree with him? And that neither of these posters are really trying to read his mind and thoughts but argue on the nature of the crusades themselves?
[I see. It has nothing to do with me; yet in the second and third comment people wrote: “I’m just going to say that Dave Armstrong should take a course in history sometime” and “As well as the modern Roman Catholic assessment of them….”
There is indeed one person who is rational and is defending (at least partially) the Crusades. I was concentrating on the “critiques” of the meme, and saying there were no arguments offered at all. But it was refreshing to see this one person, and I should have acknowledged that earlier.]
No wonder he doesn’t leave a link to this thread, but to his own previous work on the subject. What a self serving cheap shot artist.
[Yet another lie, complete with the obligatory potshot. The fact of the matter is that I posted links to the Orthodox board on both my Author Facebook page and personal Facebook page (this one). I’m all for people reading both sides in context. But they completely ignored my analogical reasoning (comparing the Crusades to WWII for illustration of a point) and didn’t include it in what they cited of my reaction over there. They probably wouldn’t discuss it anyway, even if it was posted, by the looks of things, but without it being posted, there is no chance whatever. Needless to say, I wasn’t informed that my post was being discussed. That would be too courteous and normal. I had to run across it in a Google search. But they lie about me not linking to them . . . this gets more ludicrous by the minute.]
I’m not saying that Islamic doctrine isn’t problematic, but the manner in which Dave Armstrong chooses to portray the problem is juvenile and unhelpful.
[why don’t we actually talk about it, then? Don’t start with the assumption that I am an idiot who is anti-Orthodox and knows nothing about history. That would be a start. You might actually like real, substantive discussion!]
Roman Catholicism? You mean we weren’t talking about Armstrongism? (Hey maybe I’ll get quoted on his blog too.)
[your wish is granted!]
So…I’m going to introduce a facile argument through a meme and then when folks don’t agree with me, call them irrational. Further, I’m going to call for rational argument, but I don’t do discussion boards, so I’m not going to actually engage with those who disagree with me. Okay.
[the irrationality is not merely because they disagree with me, but because there is no rational interaction with my explanation of the meme that they so despise. It’s true I don’t participate in discussion boards. That’s been my policy for eleven years now, for many reasons (several seen in this incident). But I’m discussing it here, and engaging them (insofar as they say anything at all, however irrelevant to the point at hand). Now that they know that, they could easily come here and comment and engage in discussion. We do it all the time, including with Orthodox.]
It’s pretty much the hallmark of Dave Armstrong to say the other side doesn’t want to debate then refuse to answer the question himself beyond posting links to articles he must have written a couple years ago by now.
[Right. The fact of the matter is that I made a lengthy, fresh comment yesterday, which wasn’t merely a link. I linked to one article of mine because it had direct relevance . Sorry if that is not comprehended by these guys.]
Dave, you shouldn’t take yourself, or us, too seriously. . . . Oh, and Dave, if you’re still reading this, you really shouldn’t wear sunglasses and hats indoor. It makes you look like a jerk.
[LOL Different strokes. The photo has been getting rave reviews on my site . . . ]
By the way, in all seriousness, who is Dave Armstrong?
[This will be great fun to see how I am described, given the way I already have been over there. Stay tuned! First answer:]
He is a RC apologist who takes his job very seriously. He has written quite a few books on RC apologetics. My first encounter with his stuff was when a RC roommate of mine in college gave me one of his books and said that it would turn me Catholic. It didn’t.
[Okay, lessee: so I am supposed to regard my job as a big joke? Or is it just the old charge that I am full of myself because I am an apologist and dare to say certain things are wrong and untrue?]
Of course (it almost goes without saying), the forum has the obligatory ethical conduct clause that is not consistently, fairly enforced:
You agree, through your use of this forum, that you will not post any material which is false, defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, . . .
There was all kinds of horse crap posted about me on the forum that fell into the first three categories.
Photo credit: meme created by Margie Prox Sindelar in August 2014.