No. It's not me. Calling me a radical Christian is like calling Donny Osmond an outlaw rocker. I'm referring to the feisty, often foul-mouthed, fiercely intellectual, tell-the-truth-and-damn-the consequences hero of the Christian faith pictured above: Dr. Martin Luther.
When Luther nailed his 95 Theses--an invitation to debate the accepted doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church--to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on Halloween 1517, the theological fertilizer hit the fan with a splat (metaphorically speaking, of course!). Our world has never been the same since. AND, when you consider that he lived in an age when defiance of the Church could mean burning at the stake, well, you've just got to admire the guys' jewels (Again, I speak metaphorically).
Of course, I'm a Lutheran and so I'm pretty biased, but I think that an examination of Luther and his life and time would be pretty poignant about now. In the midst of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement, a look back at a successful revolution might be in order.
In Luther's day, supposedly pious churchmen openly colluded in the oppression of the masses. Fear of damnation was used to keep people in line--which also meant keeping many in poverty. Luther challenged the power system for its lack of charity as well as for its open greed and corruption. It was Martin Luther who introduced the concept of separation of Church and State. He also championed the cause of public education. His conviction was simple: if people knew the truth, their lives would change.
"...and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
I often wonder what Luther would think if he were living in America today. I'm sure he would see that, 500 years after his own time, we are still very much slaves to sin--mostly the sins of greed and sloth. The biggest lie we too often believe is the lie that says, "There's nothing you can do about it."
Yet Luther did do something. He named the abuse and challenged the Church to correct itself. His defiance set off a spark that changed Western history. Sometimes I wish that we modern-day American Protestants had a little more PROTEST in us. I pray that we can see--from the life of a 16th Century German monk or the actions of a Tunisian street vendor--that one human life can make a difference to the world. We could use a little Luther about now.
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Now I trust all of my fellow Lutherans out there are ready to sing a rousing chorus of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" for Reformation Sunday (October 30). This little ditty being, of course, the unofficial international anthem of Lutheranism. I do lament, however, that there aren't too many other songs we identify with the Reformation, and those in our hymnals seem to be a bit on the dull side, musically speaking. I have, therefore, taken it upon myself to compose a little up-beat rhyme which I humbly submit for your approval:
THE 95 THESES JINGLE
(sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells")
John Tetzel came to town,
And said, "Listen to me:
All your souls are bound
If you buy what I sell,
To Heaven you will go;
You can save your soul from Hell
If you cough up the dough! Oh...
C'mon, don't be a dope!
They can save your precious soul,
They're each signed by the Pope!
Buy quick before you die.
You'll help to build St. Peter's Church
And your poor soul won't fry!"
When Luther first got wind
Of old fat Tetzel's spiel,
He said, "This man has sinned;
His doctrine is not real!
If folks could read God's Word,
They'd know this is a heist.
These 'Blessed Coupons' are absurd,
Our hope's in Jesus Christ." Oh...
One to ninety-five.
Luther nailed them to the door
To keep true faith alive.
Nailed to the old church door:
Put your trust in Jesus' blood
And don't rip off the poor!
Yes. I know. I have WAY too much time on my hands. Thanks for stopping in, my friend.