No, not the March for Our Lives that riveted the nation’s and much of the world’s attention on March 24th. The Children’s Crusade was a legendary movement of thousands of young people and adults across Europe in 1212 following the disaster of the Fourth Crusade and a few years before the similar failure of Fifth Crusade. Their intent was the peaceful conversion of Muslims and the liberation of the Holy Land.
It seems that teenage visionaries from France and Germany initiated separate pilgrimages that converged on Genoa and Marseilles in hopes of setting out for Palestine, some apparently predicting that the sea would part to permit their passage. Neither company reached their goal. Thousands perished while crossing the Alps or attempting to return home. Others were betrayed, kidnapped, and according to some sources sold into slavery.
Late last week, led by American teenagers inspired by a vision of a more peaceful, safer world, hundreds of thousands of young people and adult associates converged on Washington, D.C. and other cities in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Their intent was to bring sanity and justice to a situation long out of control, the worship of the false and dangerous idol of unlimited gun ownership despite the slaughter of innocents it has engendered. Initiated and led by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting, it was a thrilling and remarkably joyous pilgrimage, a peaceful celebration of youthful outrage, hope and idealism.
There was, of course, opposition. Based on a misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the Second Amendment to the U.S., Constitution, opponents of reasonable gun control such as banning civilian ownership of military-grade assault weapons even many police forces do not possess and the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines, and implementing more strict enforcement of background checks have succeeded in largely blocking significant legislation. Well funded by weapons industries and the National Rifle Association, they may do so again. In today’s political arena, money talks louder than anything else. Despite promises to back such reforms, the president has already been brought to heel by the NRA and there is little support for such legislation in either chamber of Congress.
So will the March for Our Lives change things? The first Children’s Crusade came to grief because of misdirection, false hope, and ultimate betrayal by their elders. We can only pray and work to prevent history from repeating itself. According to Matthew’s Gospel, it was on what we now call Palm Sunday, when Jesus was scolded for allowing children to shout “Hosanna” on his behalf, that he cited scripture to silence their critics, tweaking Psalm 8:2:
“Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?”
We hear more than infants and nursing babies here. We hear the articulate protest of the next generation. It would do well for presidents, senators, and representatives to pay close attention.