Friday, June 01, 2012

The Children's Crusade, Then and Now

When I saw the video below of a child being applauded in a church (namely, the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church in Greensburg, Indiana) for singing "“Ain’t no homos gonna make it to Heaven”--

I was reminded of the Children's Crusade of 1212. Wikipedia introduces it as follows:
The Children's Crusade is the name given to a disastrous Crusade by Christian children to expel Muslims from the Holy Land said to have taken place in 1212.

The traditional narrative is probably conflated from some factual and mythical notions of the period including visions by a French or German boy, an intention to peacefully convert Muslims in the Holy Land to Christianity, bands of children marching to Italy, and children being sold into slavery.
The 1213 Chronica Regiae Coloniensis relates events this way:
In this year occurred an outstanding thing and one much to be marveled at, for it is unheard of throughout the ages. About the time of Easter and Pentecost,4 without anyone having preached or called for it and prompted by I know not what spirit, many thousands of boys, ranging in age from six years to full maturity, left the plows or carts which they were driving, the flocks which they were pasturing, and anything else which they were doing. This they did despite the wishes of their parents, relatives, and friends who sought to make them draw back. Suddenly one ran after another to take the cross. Thus, by groups of twenty, or fifty, or a hundred, they put up banners and began to journey to Jerusalem. They were asked by many people on whose advice or at whose urging they had set out upon this path. They were asked especially since only a few years ago many kings, a great many dukes, and innumerable people in powerful companies had gone there and had returned with the business unfinished. The present groups, moreover, were still of tender years and were neither strong enough nor powerful enough to do anything. Everyone, therefore, accounted them foolish and imprudent for trying to do this. They briefly replied that they were equal to the Divine will in this matter and that, whatever God might wish to do with them, they would accept it willingly and with humble spirit. They thus made some little progress on their journey. Some were turned back at Metz, others at Piacenza, and others even at Rome. Still others got to Marseilles, but whether they crossed to the Holy Land or what their end was is uncertain. One thing is sure: that of the many thousands who rose up, only very few returned.
Today, it seems the foundational events are apocryphal and the crusading group was made up of poor people in Germany and France, some of whom tried to reach Jerusalem. It's not clear how many, if any, bona fide children launched or participated in the crusade.

Now, there is not much connection between the video and the crusadeoutside of the shared idea, "children," which, as we know, probably doesn't really attach to the Children's Crusade.

In both cases, however, Christian belief establishes a context for seeing the "homos" or the Muslims as "other." The other can be the object of jokes, even jokes that delight in the idea of a group of people eternally receiving punishment and being denied love. The other can be the object of military and political action, as in influencing others through force to change their opinions and way of life.

And although the Children's Crusade of 1212 may not have involved children centrally, we have no doubt that religious communities of all sizes love to put children on the front lines. Get the children believin' and prayin' and preachin' while they still accept doctrine on authority. While they still believe in magic. While they still care about gaining approval. This remains true today as it did in 1212.

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