I was out for my second track session with Crusaders today with Sharlene, and after the race we got into an interesting conversation with Lindie about some controversy that had been labelled at the name "Crusaders" and even the crest.
While we talked, we discovered that all three of us are convinced atheists (and apparently quite a few Crusaders are), yet none of us took offense to either the name nor the Crusader cross priding the crest of the club.
I should mention at this stage that my own trademark Danish shirt features a Crusader cross.
The Danish flag is called Dannebrog and is the oldest national flag in the world, it's design later copied by the other Scandinavian nations: Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, and the Faroe Islands and Greenland, as well as countless nations invaded by Vikings such as England.
The flags symbolise Christianity first and foremost and have other, secondary, meanings attached to the colour coding, but Dannebrog is a true Crusader flag, dating back to the 14th century, and possibly used in the crusades against the heathens of the Baltic countries.
Do I mind this as an atheist? No, of course not, because meaning attached to symbols are never static. Today the flag is, first and foremost, the symbol of Denmark, it's original meaning is lost to most, and therefore only relevant from a historical perspective.
The same applies to Crusaders. Sharlene and I were amused to hear that some believe Muslims and other non-Christian religious groups would take offense to a club of the name: Crusaders, and using a Crusader cross as it's crest.
This is, frankly, ridiculous, and based on a narrow interpretation of the term. Crusader generally means one of two things:
1. A reformer, a disputant who advocates reform (fervently mostly)
2. A warrior who engages in Holy War (meaning it essentially just a Western term for "Holy Warrior" similar to the term Mujahideen in Arabic)
Or my favourite one for sports: "Exert oneself continuously, vigorously, or obtrusively to gain an end or engage in a crusade for a certain cause or person."
Most of all, though, it simply means: "Person engaged in a Crusade".
Crusade is a conflicted term as well meaning anything from "valiant struggle for a supreme cause" to "barbarism and aggression".
There's no Christian Crusades around today, so anyone attaching the term "Crusader" to themselves are more likely drawn to the strength of the name, conjuring up the non-religious definitions above.
It must be remembered that no word has any other meaning than the one we attach to it. When multiple meanings are attached to a word, and you are offended by one of them, it is because you choose to be offended. You choose the meaning you want to deduct. If you observe a group of armoured knights charging you, their cries of "die infidel" filling the air, you can probably build a good rational case for calling them Crusaders and associating the term with "holy warrior" (before they cut you down).
If you see a bunch of lean people in tracksuits running around a stadium in circles, I will argue that no rational person could sincerely attach the same meaning to these people, even when they choose to label themselves "Crusaders".
Now if Crusaders Athletics engaged in a religious "warfare" (verbal or physical) against people of non-Christian convictions (an absurdity given the atheist members, of course), the offended person above could have a case: At least measurable actions in the real world support his conclusions.
(Red: Should they be offended by all meanings, the person is probably a whiner!)
Most casual observers will probably have noticed that Crusaders members seem to be engaged in a rather more self-flagellatory type of activity, and that even if that should change, our gaunt ranks will not be knocking down the gates of Byzantium anytime soon.
Personally, I think it's a great name, strong, evocative, and fully in tune with the general tribalism that sports competition stimulates in us humans, or as the young say: kewl!