Updated: Dec 20, 2020
Youthful warriors, preachers, and crusaders possibly look up at the sun and think that all is new. Urged on by adults with adult agendas, they lead the charge to fix the ills of injustice, believing their notions and ideas are fresh and without precedent. With passion and exuberance, they vow to change the world. The ancient cliché that ‘nothing is new under the sun’ escapes them. That’s the disadvantage of having little interest in history or little actual experience. The idea that the ‘sun’ has seen it all comes from philosopher Solomon and found in Ecclesiastes 1:9, where he wrote, “No thing under the sun is new.”
Even our apparent antipathy towards history today is not new. The sun has seen many violent dismantling's of historical symbols. In Russia, the Marxist burned down thousands of churches with symbolic crosses atop to be replaced by the red sickle. Down came the statues and artifacts because the historical figure represented an idea found inimical today, or it came down because, historically naïve, the mob thinks it should. In some cases today, the blackened bronze statues come crashing down because it was that of a white pigmented man — nothing more and nothing less.
Another disadvantage of a lack of historical curiosity is never learning about some of the craziest things we humans have done. Some of history’s most potent events and movements, including religious and political activities, would be considered ripe for a Ripley’s Believe it or Not exhibit.
Take the Children’s Crusade of 1212 (808 years ago). Thousands of mostly German and French children were ginned into action, likely by some very fervent adults, and told to march on the Holy Land reminiscent of earlier ‘adult’ crusades. Those who did not starve or die from disease made it to the Mediterranean Sea to only realize that no provisions were made for them to sail to the other side. Possibly just as well as the adult planners did not wish a bloody battle but rather a civilized ‘mission’ trip with the children converting the Muslims to Christianity- not by the sword but rather by persuasion. I’m sure it all sounded exciting to the kids.
There is no historical record that suggests any of them made it to the Holy Land. Some did board boats when promised passage but were sold into slavery instead. Others, tired and disillusioned, settled into the small towns of Italy and never returned home. Most of the crusaders died from disease and starvation never to experience the loving embrace of mother again. Believe it or not.
The sun still sees many examples of how children are used to spreading the good ‘Word.’ Child preachers have been around for centuries and still pound the pulpit and throw down fire and brimstone beyond their reach. Often the product of preacher parents, these tikes are encouraged to start their exhortations young. Young kid preachers are popular today in Brazil, where they are found in mostly fundamentalist churches.
Born in 1912 in Durant, Oklahoma, Ms. Uldine Utley started preaching at the tender age of 11. Her handlers thought it best that she wore mostly white dresses and carried a red rose symbolic of femininity and purity. She is remembered having a “melodious voice” and referred to as the “Garbo of the pulpit.” Some dare criticize her parents for pushing her too hard. In 1936 Ms. Utley had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized till her death in 1995.
Today, the good ‘Word’ takes the form of racial theories requiring the unsaved to take a knee. Involuntary penance is demanded in the form of reparations from the sinners. Or climate warming doctrine where computer models spit out the unknowable future, which becomes adopted as fact by the faithful. Then, like the Puritans of the 17th century, they curse and shun those too stiff headed to accept what they consider settled science never blushing from the irony. They also have their warriors and preachers, young and old, to lead the crusades. Nothing is new under the sun.
Today, one of the most notable of the climate warming warriors and preachers is seventeen-year-old Greta Thunberg. She recently gave a passionate ‘ecoanxiety inducing’ sermon to the UN lamenting her belief that the world does not care about ‘ruining’ the lives of young people due to climate change. We simply don’t believe hard enough. With mere years left until the… well, until the end, Ms. Thunberg has ended her schooling and started traveling the world and preaching full time. Her parents are managing her affairs and together, enjoying their new found notoriety and wealth. So successful, Ms. Thunberg has begun a Children’s Crusade.
‘Fridays-For-Future’ is Ms. Thunberg’s crusade at getting young people worldwide to protest climate change by skipping school every Friday. The assumption is that if kids miss school, the adults will fly into action and solve climate change pronto. Unfortunately for the crusade, a pesty virus turned pandemic got in the way. Skipping school, which isn’t being held, doesn’t get a lot of CNN airtime.
Like Ms. Utley from the ’20s, Ms. Thunberg is a carefully crafted project by adults with an agenda. Children naturally wish to please those older and easily fall victim to those who see an advantage in having their message delivered by the young- the innocent. We hope it turns out well for Ms. Thunberg, but history is not always gentle to children preachers.
Perhaps Solomon was pushing back at the natural human tendency to believe that much of what we experience and think is unique, inspired, and now requires our passion. That somehow, we have been given special insight and now must lead the masses to the lush valley even if that means using a child’s innocence. Only by our keen interest in history can we maintain a proper perspective in dealing with what ails us today.
Solomon was right- there is nothing new under the sun.