Friday, January 20, 2012

Best Bad Speech Ever?

It's a campaign year, so there are plenty of people out there trying to give great speeches. Of course, you can give a great speech that gets people excited and, yet, has terrible content! In this regard, perhaps the best 'bad' speech ever was given by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in the year 1095. This speech started The Crusades. I'll give you the highlights (via 4 ear-witnesses):

Account 1 Summary:
"The Turks and Arabs have attacked... If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account, I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends... Christ commands it... All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins."

These statements are rendered even worse when you consider that earlier, in the same speech, he had urged the church leaders to be examples of righteousness by declaring, "If anyone hates peace, how can he make others peaceable?" And even though he was trying to arouse a war at the request of the secular leaders, he had the nerve to tell the church leaders under him to, "keep the church and the clergy in all its grades entirely free from the secular power." Besides these things, the summary (above) is alarming in and of itself. The insistence that his words are actually God's words, the seeming hatred of the Turkish race, the promise of forgiveness of sins for anyone willing to serve as a soldier... all these elements make this one awesomely bad speech.

Account 2 Summary:
"An accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God... has invaded the lands. You, upon whom above other nations God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great courage, bodily activity, and strength to humble the hairy scalp of those who resist you. Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to manly achievements... Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate, but recall the valor of your progenitors... the land that you inhabit... is too narrow for your large population... wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves. That land which as the Scripture says 'floweth with milk and honey'... Undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the kingdom of heaven. [at this point the audience cried out: 'It is the will of God! It is the will of God!' to which Urban replied...] Let this be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God... wear the sign of the cross of the Lord... fulfill the precept of the Lord, as He commands in the Gospel, 'He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.'"

Again we see the seeming hatred of Turks (what happened to 'love your enemies'?). We see the abundance of guns as an obvious sign of God's blessing. We see an appeal to ancestors, but which ancestors are in mind? It is not their spiritual forefathers (the early church, which was a peace church), but their natural ancestors who are in mind. We see an outright appeal to greed. Again the promise of forgiveness and eternal reward. We see the implementation of religious props to provoke passion and unity. And to top it all off, we see a total mis-interpretation of Jesus' words (turning the passage on its head!). Instead of the cross being a symbol of sacrifice for the good of one's enemies, it is used as a symbol of sacrifice toward the death of one's enemies.

Account 3 Summary:
"Christian blood, redeemed by the blood of Christ, has been shed... base and bastard Turks hold sway... blindness of mind rules over them... you rage against your brothers and cut each other in pieces. This is not the (true) soldiery of Christ... the Holy Church has reserved a soldiery for herself to help her people... if, forsooth, you wish to be mindful of your souls, either lay down the girdle of such knighthood,or advance boldly, as knights of Christ... Under Jesus Christ, our Leader, may you struggle for your Jerusalem, in Christian battleline, most invincible line... but if it befall you to die this side of it [Jerusalem], be sure that to have died on the way is of equal value, if Christ shall find you in His army... you should shudder at raising a violent hand against Christians; it is less wicked to brandish your sword against Saracens. It is only warfare that is righteous, for it is charity to risk your life for your brothers... the possessions of the enemy, too, will be yours, since you will make spoil of their treasures and return victorious to your own; or empurpled with your own blood, you will have gained everlasting glory... Short is the way, little the labor, which, nevertheless, will repay you with the crown that fadeth not away... brothers and fellow bishops; you, fellow priests and sharers with us in Christ, make this same announcement through the churches committed to you, and with your whole soul vigorously preach the journey to Jerusalem... you who are to go shall have us praying for you; we shall have you fighting for God's people. It is our duty to pray, yours to fight."

Obvious racism here. An interesting admission that they already aren't practicing Christianity (maybe they should have judged themselves a bit more aggressively before commenting about the Turks?). Ironically, he refers to the blindness of the Turks when, in reality, he was blind to the teachings of Christ. Promised blessings, appeal to greed, appeal to ease of victory... and a pretty convenient announcement at the end about how Urban himself will be staying home, of course.

Account 4 Summary:
"You should strive with your utmost efforts to cleanse the Holy City... If in olden times the Maccabees attained to the highest praise of piety because they fought for the ceremonies and the Temple, it is also justly granted you, Christian soldiers, to defend their liberty of your country by armed endeavor... you have thus far waged unjust wars... we now hold out to you wars which contain the glorious reward of martyrdom... [According to Prophecy] Antichrist is to do battle... He will attack Christians. And if Antichrist finds there [in Jerusalem] no Christians, no one will be there to oppose him... With the end of the world already near... it is first necessary, according to their prophecy, that the Christian sway be renewed in those regions... before you engage in His battles, believe without question that Christ will be your standard-bearer and inseparable forerunner."

Notice how the strongest appeals for this sort of thing usually come from Old Covenant times. Interestingly, in this version, we see an appeal from eschatology. If prophecy says the Antichrist is going to fight against Christians in Jerusalem, then we better make sure the Christians are in power there so the end of the world can come!

Best. Bad. Speech. Ever.

1 comment:

Terry said...

This is pretty interesting that we have a speech this old, but one of the more modern best worst speeches is when Kieth Richards of the Rolling Stones accepted ZZ Top into the rock and roll hall of fame. It's on youtube.