In a 2014 report by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on the naming conventions of babies, researchers concluded that “our name has the potential to color our interactions with society.” For nearly 60 years, Eastern Nazarene College’s mascot gave off a shade that became too dark to carry into the next generation of ENC.
Thirty years after its inception, ENC adopted the mascot of Crusader for ENC’s traveling male quartet over the summer of 1949, according to James Cameron’s book, The Spirit Makes a Difference: The History of Eastern Nazarene College. Innocent in nature, the band of singing ENC students had no idea they had just created what would be the symbol of ENC for the next 60 years. It was then made official by in 1956 by former ENC president Edward Mann once the school could compete in intercollegiate athletics.
In 2009, after public outcry from the student population and the growing sentiment by the NCAA that derogatory mascots will no longer host Division championships, ENC relented and changed their mascot from the Crusaders to the Lions. Among Christian Colleges, ENC followed Southern Nazarene University as they changed from the Redskins to the Crimson Storm in 1999. Eight years after we dropped the Crusader mascot, Northern Nazarene University followed suit opting for the Nighthawks mascot instead.
In his book The Things That Count: Twelve Challenges to Dynamic Living, Edward Mann goes on record stating that “one of the qualities most important to the spirit of a Christian college is a high regard for your heritage.” Like it or not, we inherited the benefits of 11th-century military expeditions. We inherited the land that came as a result of the bloodshed. We even inherited the pain that has come with it. Later in his book, Mann alludes to the idea that people nowadays are hesitant to appreciate the past.
“We ought to be grateful for our national heritage,” said Mann following his 22-year presidency at ENC. “Unfortunately, in recent years, the iconoclasts have been so busy toppling our founding fathers from their pedestals that we have lost most of our heroes.”
As much as we would like to blot out certain parts of our history, they still exist, they still happened, and people still died. Killing in the name of Jesus can’t be justified under any circumstance, but let’s remember what Jesus represents. Jesus shows the redemptive power of Christianity.
I see the Crusader mascot as a reminder of the past that has brought us to the present as Christians. The Crusader is a reminder of a cruel history that took place for Christianity to survive. Wicked and obscene things happened for Christianity to prevail, look at the cross. We can be convicted by the benefits of the cross, without carrying the cruelty and sacrifice that Jesus took upon us to get there. There’s a level of guilt that we need to accept as Christians for those Crusades because those crusaders could have been us. In the same way, that we should have guilt for our sins sending Jesus to the cross. The Crusader mascot was a reminder of the guilt Christians feel when we think about the early century Crusaders that raped, pillaged and terrorized people in the name of Jesus. But we shouldn’t run from the guilt.
For sixty years, we embraced the Crusades as a part of our past. Imagine if the people of Israel just decided to forget the fact that Jesus died for the terrible things they did. Instead, they repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
People can look at the Crusader mascot and associate it with the wretched history, or they can be encouraged to see how far we have come as Christians. When people would look at the Crusader mascot and look at the lives of students at Eastern Nazarene College, I hope that they saw a massive difference between the student and the symbol.
The Crusades were dark, but are they that much different than what we see today. Sometimes it looks as though we traded in disheveling someone’s home for Jesus to disowning our family for Jesus.
Mann considered it to be ‘humbling experience’ to acknowledge our past, and for sixty years, we did that. Now, as we move forward, what will be symbolic of the history that brought us here? What will remind us of how far we came 100 years from now?