Thursday, February 13, 2014


There is a book on the shelf in the hall that has been taunting me for years.  Russia and the Russians by Geoffrey Hosking. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve started it and got sidetracked. Because….. Well just because.

Maybe because, for me like many other Americans, Russia might as well be on the other side of the moon for all we really know about that part of the world. The names are hard to pronounce.  They use a really weird alphabet. Even if you don’t speak German or one of the Romance languages you can pick out a few of the words. Right? They’re Russian Orthodox. They dress funny. There churches look funny with all those onion domes. They: what the hell take your pick.  Anyway maybe I’ll make it past page eighty. This time.

Ironically part of the family tree can be traced back to the Grand Dukes of Kiev in the tenth and eleventh century. And while I was tip toeing through Wickipedia to see if their were any connections between my Grand Dukes and the reasonably famous Alexander Nevsky. Among other accomplishments he sent the Teutonic Knights back to Prussia with their tails dragging in the 13th century. Those that didn’t drown during the Battle on the Ice.  Oh, and no family tie that I can find.

Anyway, following this link and that link some threads started to come together and something went “twing.” We all know about the Crusades to recover the Holy Land. Some of us may have heard of the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars of Southern France. Anybody ever hear of the Northern Crusades? Yeah, I know. Neither had I.

It’s a kind of umbrella label for a series of wars of conquest/extermination carried out against the “pagans” caught between newly Christianized kingdoms in Scandinavia, Germany and the Balkans and the various kingdoms in what became Russia. And occasionally, when they ran out of pagans to forcibly convert, the two branches of barely speaking Christians did their damndest to exterminate each other. See the Great Schism of 1054. And to be honest perhaps the biggest sticking point didn’t have to do with the theology. It was the claim of the Bishops of  Rome (the popes) to be the head of the entire church. A claim the Eastern Patriarchs resisted and still resist. And I forget which crusade it was but the "holy" army of the west took time out to sack Constantinople on their was to do battle with the infidels further to the east. 

Anyway the “twing” came from something Lisa said in a comment a few weeks ago. “How could the Creator of the universe be as small, venal and human as It is painted by many of the world's religions? Our imaginations are so sad and limited. What is wrong with us?” Creating a God in our own image allows us to do exactly what those ancestors did then and too many of us still do now. Kill in the name of god. Small g is very, very deliberate. 

Hell, why should we stop now. It seemed to work so well in the past. And don’t think that some of our fellow citizens wouldn’t like to use that sword on some of us. 

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