Pope Urban was quite the speaker. His ability to mobilize people in support for a war that really wouldn't affect in any way their daily life is pretty impressive. Going away from the discussion today, I think its important to recognize the power of words to mobilize people. A good speech can convince people of virtually anything, especially if those people have little personal experience regarding the subject of your speech.
Also of importance is the connection between Urban's speech organizing the Crusades and the words of Usama bin-Laden in declaring the "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders" in 1998. They both break down to a couple essential ideas:
1. The Holy land is under attack.
2. The people who are attacking it are bringing murder, immorality and decadence to the Holy land.
3. If you defend the holy land, you are promised great benefits in heaven.
These themes are virtually identical in both Urban's speech and bin-Laden's declaration. There's a lot there to be said about the manner in which powerful people can use religion to both (a.) convince average people that they should hate someone else, and (b.) there's actually something in it for them personally to act on behalf of the powerful.
On the other side, though, is the experience of the Crusdaders that were highlighted in the second and third readings I assigned. Clearly, their experience (positive relationships developed between Christians and Muslims) contradicted all the horrible things Urban tried to convince them of, and as such, actually promoted economic and cultural relations between Europe and the Middle East.
So the important lesson for modern day is this: regardless of how hard some will try to convince average people that they should hate someone, they can't overcome the positive experience of two people who actually sit down and get to know one another.