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Here he stands. He could not do otherwise. God help him.
July 7, 2008 9:54 PM   Subscribe

"...aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew... What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming.... First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians.... Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.... Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.... Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb." -- From On the Jews and Their Lies, authored by the man voted by his countrymen the second greatest German of all time, the theologian whose break with Rome began the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther.

Other selected quotes from Martin Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies include:
  • "No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants."
  • "...but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!", and
  • Over and above that we let them get rich on our sweat and blood, while we remain poor and they such the marrow from our bones.
"At times, [Martin] Luther seems as if he is all but calling for a holocaust: 'We are at fault in not slaying them.'"

"At his trial in Nuremberg after the Second World War, Julius Streicher, the notorious Nazi propagandist, editor of the scurrilous antisemitic weekly, Der Stürmer, argued that if he should be standing there arraigned on such charges, so should Martin Luther."

In fact, there are perhaps "two periods [of Luther's life that] have to be distinguished. During the earlier, which lasted until 1537 or shortly before, he is full of compassion for [the Jews'] misery and enthusiastic for their conversion to Christianity; in the later, toward the end of his life, he denounces them in unmeasured terms...."

But some Christians [pdf] argue that Martin Luther's anti-Semitism wasn't like Nazi anti-Semitism. Instead, the Nazis' "appeal to Luther was a post-facto justification of their anti-Semitism and not the impetus of it."

After all, Luther also wrote "Our fools, the popes, bishops, sophists, and monks — the crude asses’ heads — have hitherto so treated the Jews that anyone who wished to be a good Christian would almost have had to become a Jew. If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian. Therefore, I would request and advise that one deal gently with them [the Jews] and instruct them from Scripture;"

Other Christian commentators, attempting to put Luther into a "Medieval context", also find Luther an anti-Semite but not "a prototypical modern antisemite".

It should be noted that, beginning with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in 1983, the various branches of the modern Lutheran Church have renounced and rejected Martin Luther's anti-Semitism.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's 1994 Declaration has yielded to a more passive voiced current apologia that seems to see anti-Semitism as a disease that takes its sufferers unaware: "Often in the past our interactions with Jews have been marred by misunderstanding, prejudice, and sometimes overt hostility, from which even the great reformer Martin Luther himself was not immune. But further into the ELCA's current document, Luther is condemned more strongly and linked to the Holocaust, though with the qualification that
ultimately the Nazis surpassed anything that Luther had recommended with their systematic program to physically annihilate the Jews. Luther had instructed pastors to advise their parishioners that although they should beware of Jews and avoid contact with them, “they should not curse them nor harm their persons.”
The German Lutheran Church (perhaps inevitably, given that in Germany Luther's prescription for the Jews were carried out, or as ELCA says, more than carried out), takes a somewhat stronger stance: "It is imperative for the Lutheran Church, which knows itself to be indebted to the work and tradition of Martin Luther, to take seriously also his anti-Jewish utterances, to acknowledge their theological function, and to reflect on their consequences.... Both sayings of Martin Luther and specific expressions of Lutheran theology have had anti-Jewish consequences."
posted by orthogonality (87 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
This will jewell.
posted by yort at 9:56 PM on July 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


Luther was pissed at the Jews for not converting when he revealed the Truth. Now he's dead but the disingenuous Luther + Nietzsche = Hitler equation endures.

I'm not sure why "Medieval context" is in scare quotes, and I'm not sure what to make of this post.
posted by prosthezis at 10:15 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a big fan of (reading about) European anti-Semitism, and I really enjoyed the book Constantine's Sword by James Carroll. It is more about Catholic anti-Semitism, but I think makes a good general case that the European Christian anti-Semitic tradition paved the way for the Holocaust.
posted by grobstein at 10:15 PM on July 7, 2008


prosthezis writes "I'm not sure why 'Medieval context' is in scare quotes,"

It's not; it's a direct quote from the article the phrase links to.
posted by orthogonality at 10:18 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting post. Salus extra Christum non est is Luther's contribution to the world, that if you're not with Christ, you're against Him, and helped motivate a number of pogroms. That said, "if you're not with us, you're against us" is not a novel concept in human history, and I have to disagree that this isn't just another example of post-facto rationalization for bigotry. If you want to find a reason to kill someone or take away their freedoms of speech, of assembly, etc. you'll come up with whatever convenient rhetorical bullshit that is on hand. For Luther, it was his own delusional spirituality, which happened to take hold with his countrymen. Funny how history repeats itself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:20 PM on July 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


It's not; it's a direct quote from the article the phrase links to.

Fair enough. I guess I'm just too used to seeing that phrase. It's not at all, unusual. Mea culpa.
posted by prosthezis at 10:24 PM on July 7, 2008


Extraneous comma. I had extras, I guess.
posted by prosthezis at 10:25 PM on July 7, 2008


Show me on the dolly where the Lutheran touched you.
posted by dhammond at 10:28 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


dhammond writes "Show me on the dolly where the Lutheran touched you."

Ah, give me a break. ;)

I worked very hard to make this as balanced as possible: two links to source material, a link to Luther as Protestant Reformer, a link to "two Luthers, pro- and anti-Semite" on a Jewish history website, two links to "Luther -> Nazi', two links to "Luther != Nazi", three links to Lutheran response. No links to Luther on the Peasants' Revolt, where he literally describes in detail how the peasants should be tortured, which if I'd been trying for a hit piece would be the perfect link.

Actually, I thought this had been discussed here before. When I answered the askMefi that the atheist should quote Luther's "Here I stand" statement at Wurms to his too-persistent Luther pastor, I got to looking at some general Luther links. When i discovered that On the Jews and Their Lies hadn't come up here before, I put together this very balanced, if I do say so myself, FPP.
posted by orthogonality at 10:41 PM on July 7, 2008


orthogonality, is this the missing link for the two periods quote?
posted by prosthezis at 10:42 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


People are always saying that "Islam needs a reformation" but I don't think this is what they had in mind. Not that those making such comments are usually very knowledgeable about either Islamic or Christian history in any case.
posted by cell divide at 10:44 PM on July 7, 2008


prosthezis writes "orthogonality, is this the missing link for the two periods quote?"

Why yes, it is! Crap, thanks for catching that.
posted by orthogonality at 10:46 PM on July 7, 2008


Wanna have fun with an Evangelical Lutheran? Ask him who really inspired the holocaust: Darwin or Luther.

On the one hand, you have a guy who's talking about species of finch changing and adapting to their environment over time, and on the other hand, you've got this German firebrand talking about killing Rabbis and burning down synagogues.

Its funny because they'll probably answer "Darwin".
posted by Avenger at 10:47 PM on July 7, 2008 [10 favorites]


Truly the best of the web history books.

which is to say this is certainly very interesting, and now I can use "do you know what Henry Ford, Walt Disney and Martin Luther had in common?" as a conversational gambit if I'm in a fightin' mood, but makes for an odd FPP.
posted by davejay at 10:49 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


As an aside, comic book outsider Dave Sim recently released (along with the ongoing fashion-themed serial I made a recent post about) a graphic novel, Judenhass, an examination of the Holocaust, a large part of which examines the ubiquity of antisemitic sentiment through quotes from notable historical figures including Luther. Whether or not one can draw a direct causal relationship between any of this pervasive sentiment and the holocaust, I think any sincere Christian has to acknowledge and contemplate the central role the church and its agents has played in originating, perpetuating and empowering antisemitism, and every Lutheran should know about this grim aspect of Luther's bias and writings. Well-rounded post.

Salus extra Christum non est is Luther's contribution to the world

I think this underrates Luther's impact, both in terms of theology and pragmatic impact on the power structures of political Christianity, by a pretty extraordinary degree.
posted by nanojath at 10:52 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Avenger writes "Wanna have fun with an Evangelical Lutheran? "

Funny but not universally true: I worked with a very serious very smart ELCA congregant, and I doubt he'd have said this.
posted by orthogonality at 10:54 PM on July 7, 2008


nanojath writes "I think this underrates Luther's impact, both in terms of theology and pragmatic impact on the power structures of political Christianity, by a pretty extraordinary degree."

In theological terms, Luther wanted us to remember that the crux (pun intended) of Christianity is Christ crucified.
posted by orthogonality at 10:56 PM on July 7, 2008


Wanna have fun with an Evangelical Lutheran? Ask him who really inspired the holocaust: Darwin or Luther.

It is fun to imagine asking some contrived "type" of person a loaded, dishonest question, and the laugh at the stupid answer you imagine they will give. Stupid imaginary Evangelical Lutherans! (The answer, incidentally, is neither. Saying Luther "inspired the Holocaust" goes far beyond any justifiable historical treatment of the rise to power of the Nazis).

(I'm also not sure what you mean by "Evangelical Lutheran." As a general term evangelical means nothing more than Gospel-based, and very many denominations use it to refer to themselves, including the largest sub-group of the Lutheran church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which veers pretty strongly towards the liberal spectrum of ideology, especially as far as mainstream Protestantism goes. But it is getting more and more used to denote a perceived type of Christian, sometimes interchangeably with the equally ill-defined (in common usage) Fundamentalism, generally conflated with political conservatism. The reality of Evangelicalism is quite a bit more complicated).
posted by nanojath at 11:06 PM on July 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


I should get into politically loaded discussions involving religions I have massive personal and family history with every night! Oh wait, I should not do that any night. I'm going to bed.
posted by nanojath at 11:11 PM on July 7, 2008


This is extremely fascinating reading, orthogonality. Thanks!
(My family rocks the ELCA schtick)
posted by potch at 11:12 PM on July 7, 2008


I'm a bit curious what brought this up. It's not like it's news, Luther's writings are widely published (though I'll admit, Lutherans probably aren't fond of his statements on the Jews, nor do they find his scatological language appealing). Nor is his outlook particularly unusual, scapegoating goes back to the founding of Christianity, it certainly didn't start with Luther. As for the medieval context, it seems quite relevant, consider, for example, what Queen Isabella did.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:29 PM on July 7, 2008


Salus extra Christum non est aside, Luther's contribution to theology was pretty remarkable. The way he turned scholastic theology (particularly that of Ockham and Biel) in on itself and married it to his own brand of Pauline Augustianism to derive his soteriology was pretty special. Then, of course, there was Marburg and the other great argument about what the meaning of "is" is.

Evangelical Lutheran sounds redundant to me, but I'm ignorant of the historical processes by which the ECLA came by its name. Luther preferred the evangelical label rather than Lutheran and Protestant wouldn't make any sense until after the Diet of Speyer in 1529.
posted by prosthezis at 11:32 PM on July 7, 2008


I'm a bit curious what brought this up.

I suspect it might have been the part where I dragged Martin Luther into a thread about Hitler having his head torn off.
posted by tkolar at 12:02 AM on July 8, 2008


Then it should have been posted to that thread, not to this one.
posted by Class Goat at 12:15 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some trivia:

FDR knew about the concentration camps in the early 40's, but didn't say or do anything overt about them, because he didn't want to upset the anti-Semitic element in the Congress.

Sometime, way back when, the Catholic Church made usury a mortal sin. This gave Jewish merchants a big competitive advantage; they became more successful. So, there was some truth about Jews being powerful capitalists, but it was Christians who made that possible.
posted by MetaMan at 12:27 AM on July 8, 2008


Dunno, I'm already taking enough of a drubbing for using a weak analogy in there.

I knew I should have gone with Jesus in the temple. Sure there was the religious baggage, but at least then everyone knows you're talking allegorically and doesn't try to stretch the analogy until it breaks.
posted by tkolar at 12:29 AM on July 8, 2008


Human beings are both irrational and poorly educated. We will always look at the failures of others and either snicker or feign shock.

Good people do bad things, and vice versa.

Seriously, think about this. The Inquisition. If you *truly believe*, as "true Christian", that unbelievers will spend an eternity in Hell - a real eternity, take Graham's number to the exponent of Graham's number again and and again and again - really, forever in Hell - and longer - then what would you do? Surely a few hours or even days on the rack until you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your true Savior is nothing? You are doing them a favor. It's the insincere phonies who accept anything less.

Luther was a true believer. And as such he believed some weird and goofy shit. As do all true believers.
posted by Xoebe at 12:41 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


scapegoating goes back to the founding of Christianity, it certainly didn't start with Luther.

It didn't start with Luther, but there's a pretty common argument in histories of Christianity that Jew-hating didn't really pick up steam until the Crusades.
posted by rodgerd at 1:03 AM on July 8, 2008


This reminds me of the crawly feeling I get reading Merchant of Venice, and various apologies for it. It's easy to forget how ubiquitous and open this stuff was, at all levels of society, until fairly recent times.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 1:05 AM on July 8, 2008


This is also why it's important to perform Merchant of Venice, in my opinion, the same way you'd perform any other Shakespeare comedy. I think it highlights how casually people of the time accepted hatred of Jews. Approaching it as a tragedy, as many directors do, actually undercuts its impact in 2008, in my opinion.

Anyhow, excellent links - and thank you for that Dave Sim link. Makes me love the crazy guy all over again.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:19 AM on July 8, 2008


It's easy to forget how ubiquitous and open this stuff was, at all levels of society, until fairly recent times.

Yes, it is. Or, since people don't talk about it, to just not know it. In one course I took in university there was another student who made frequent comments in every class, ALL of which had to do with his being Jewish. This did get old, but I did learn some interesting things I'd never known before. Like that Canadian universities weren't entirely open to Jewish students (there were rigid quotas, regulations against Jewish high school students getting scholarships, and general hostility, etc.) until the mid 1960s, and that in the 1950s delivery trucks belonging to a Jewish newspaper in Toronto frequently wound up in Lake Ontario. Or that the Canadian government turned away boatloads of Jewish refugees in the 1930's and 1940's.
posted by orange swan at 2:20 AM on July 8, 2008


So what was Martin Luther's opinion on who did 9/11?
posted by mr. strange at 2:36 AM on July 8, 2008


Highly relevant post, especially when America still celebrates a holiday called "Make Martin Luther King Day".

Why you people want to disband your glorious republic and make a racist german guy your King has always been a mystery to me - but I guess that those who are ignorant of history are domed to repeat its mistakes.

DOMED.

With a giant fucking DOME.

Or something.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:43 AM on July 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


Can I be the first to say it: Get your own blog. Issues of Lutheran hermeneutics and theology are really not best served by an amateur forum. I e-mailed Bishop Hanson from the ELCA about this, so if he responds or his PR guy responds, I'll get him to comment in the thread. But, in all seriousness, get your own blog.
posted by parmanparman at 4:01 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Good post.

parmanparman, this is just as appropriately discussed here as most other things that make the front page. You have special knowledge in this area, and you seem to have an abiding feeling that these conversations require more care than is exercised on Metafilter, but many experts probably feel that way about their respective subjects. That doesn't make it true.
posted by OmieWise at 4:09 AM on July 8, 2008 [19 favorites]


regulations against Jewish high school students getting scholarships

That's interesting - I thought that stuff went out in the 19th Century. Similar root cause to alleged quotas against Asian-American students in University admissions maybe? 'These Jews, they study and work too hard at school - it's not fair on the other kids, we have to limit their numbers.'
posted by alasdair at 4:10 AM on July 8, 2008


Can I be the first to say it: Get your own blog. Issues of Lutheran hermeneutics and theology are really not best served by an amateur forum. I e-mailed Bishop Hanson from the ELCA about this, so if he responds or his PR guy responds, I'll get him to comment in the thread. But, in all seriousness, get your own blog.

Are you seriously trying to say that the only people who are allowed to discuss the history of anti-Semitism as inspired/fomented by Luther are the functionaries of the ELCA? Dude. Get a grip.

In my experience (as a Jew) most people who are raised Christian are minimally aware of the history of anti-Semitism in either the Catholic or protestant churches. This is a useful and interesting post insofar as it raises some of those issues in the specific context of Luther's writings and the Lutheran church.

Personally, I think it's unnecessary to try to pinpoint a single cause of any genocide, be it the holocaust or any more recent genocides. But it's also silly to try to deny that Luther's attitudes and writings wouldn't have affected the (possibly) nascent anti-Semitism of the people to whom he ministered.
posted by miss tea at 4:25 AM on July 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Alasdair, there were also Jewish quotas at the Ivy League schools in the early 20th century.
posted by miss tea at 4:28 AM on July 8, 2008


Interesting, I never knew about this. (Unsurprisingly, it was my Protestant school system that failed to tell me about it, when extolling the virtues of Luther and his Band of Singing Theses.)

Issues of Lutheran hermeneutics and theology are really not best served by an amateur forum.

It's been a while since I was learning about this stuff, and I never really cared all that much about it even at the time, but I'm pretty sure you are now dead. Of irony. Wasn't the Reformation all about taking religion out of the hands of the elite few and putting it into the hands of the people? But now the Reformation can only be discussed by the elite few?
posted by DU at 4:57 AM on July 8, 2008 [10 favorites]


...an amateur forum.

Yeah, really, people. I mean, can't we get some professional Lutherans in here? Buncha frikkin amateurs... Y'all all oughtta just hush up and go back to talking about your favorite band.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:08 AM on July 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Luther was just a guy of his time, even Thomas Jefferson was a guy of his time and his opinions about Black people proves that, but that doesn't make less of a great person. You can't go far away from the zeitgeist of the moment, the best you can do is go to the edges.
posted by zouhair at 5:18 AM on July 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Okay, just so you people know the scorecard:

Three Lutheran orgs in the U.S.--

ELCA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is normal, non-controversial, mainstream, not weird. Lots of fairly "liberal" congregations in it. Organization is the product of a long series of church mergers in the mid-20th Century. Also has incorporated "refugees" from the two following organizations when they became too fire-and-brimstonish. Huge organization, great majority of U.S. Lutherans are here.

Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is lots more conservative, for example, no ordination of women. I've heard tales of "accept Jesus or you're going to hell" youth summer camps, etc., from former members, with the adjective "cultlike" being used. Weird only in that they're hard-ass. Call that "mainstream weird" if you want. Not difficult to find, but much smaller than ELCA. Ease in finding former members says volumes to me.

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod are total nutjobs. Screeds about things like the Pope supposedly being the Antichrist get them in PR trouble sometimes. Don't even let women vote in congregations. Good place for creationists, etc. Much, much, much smaller than the other two.

This is important to know in Minnesota, so you don't wander into the "wrong place" by accident. Carry on, now.

posted by gimonca at 5:43 AM on July 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


Skimming for highlights? Don't miss: the most asinine comment in this thread.
posted by spock at 5:48 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I didn't know any of this, so thanks for the post. And thanks gimonca for Lutheran Congregations 101 as well.
posted by Skorgu at 5:59 AM on July 8, 2008


Really? A guy from the 1500s expressed a sense of xenophobia? Against the Jews? THATS FUCKING CRAZY.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:37 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Can I be the first to say it: Get your own blog. Issues of Lutheran hermeneutics and theology are really not best served by an amateur forum. I e-mailed Bishop Hanson from the ELCA about this, so if he responds or his PR guy responds, I'll get him to comment in the thread. But, in all seriousness, get your own blog.
posted by parmanparman at 7:01 AM on July 8 [+] [!]


Can I be the first to say it: Get your own blog. Issues of ******* and ********* are really not best served by an amateur forum. I e-mailed ******** from the ****** about this, so if he responds or his PR guy responds, I'll get him to comment in the thread. But, in all seriousness, get your own blog.

posted by notreally at 6:51 AM on July 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming.... First ... Second ... Third ... Fourth ...

Dude sure loved his numbered lists, didn't he?
posted by pardonyou? at 7:05 AM on July 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


As a former Lutheran let me say this: good FPP and parmanparman should ease the fuck up.

Thanks, that's all, I'm good.
posted by grubi at 7:10 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


The bristling by those who feel this shouldn't have been posted is fascinating to me.


Interesting stuff, orthogonality. I can honestly say I had no idea Luther held these views, which now seems vaguely irresponsible of me.
posted by batmonkey at 7:22 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I grew up as a member of an ELCA church (First Lutheran, Cedar Rapids, Iowa). It was the most liberal, tolerant atmosphere I could have imagined from a Christian church in the middle of the Midwest. I have a good memory of, during confirmation, being lead on field trips to other faiths and denominations in town (the visit to the Mosque was pretty cool). Sunday school, at least during my later years, had pastors teaching us Biblical history (things like the actual nature of the Red Sea at the time).

But still, this information about Martin Luther was never mentioned. It's not very surprising, considering his context, but it's not something that was ever brought up when we learned about Martin Luther, either in church or school.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:36 AM on July 8, 2008


Can I be the first to say it: Get your own blog.

You can be the first and the last. This is an interesting post with no editorializing. Metafilter is for the best of the web. A collection to links on an interesting topic falls under that category more so than another retarded link to an article that can be found on the front page of The NYTimes or Gawker.
posted by spicynuts at 7:48 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


batmonkey, I didn't mean to imply it shouldn't be discussed. Clearly it's worthwhile to those who find it new. It was just that given how topics typically come up on MF, I would have expected it to be triggered by some new piece of scholarship, some church event, or a date, say, November 10th.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:49 AM on July 8, 2008


Bonus tidbit:

Luther likely didn't really post his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of Wittenberg's church. Instead, he probably mailed it out in a letter.

But whether nailed, or mailed, it was certainly posted.
posted by boubelium at 7:52 AM on July 8, 2008


I was brought up Catholic and, when I began to realize that it wasn't for me, one of the things that most bothered me (apart from the homophobia and misogyny) was the church's history of antisemitism. I've been a happy atheist for years, but I never knew that Luther (whose name was never mentioned when I was a kid except in history class in the non-religious school that I attended) held massively antisemitic views. I guess it just goes to show how prevalent and insidious antisemitism has been for the last, oh, thousand years.
posted by ob at 7:52 AM on July 8, 2008


I my previous comment, I mentioned what triggered this.
posted by orthogonality at 7:54 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was raised in the American Lutheran Church, which later merged into the ELCA. I clearly remember in my confirmation class, our pastor going the total opposite of Luther. Jews are special because our faith comes from them - we share the Old Testament, the same God, plus of course Christ being a Jew. We were told Jews will go to heaven because they are children of God, we all go to heaven (and here comes a central tenant of Luther) because we are "saved by the grace of God." Now that was in the late 60s, from a rural conservative pastor who definitely was not pushing a radical agenda in defiance of the church. I suspect that's what most ALC Lutheran kids heard in confirmation class as well.
posted by Ber at 7:58 AM on July 8, 2008


As a former Lutheran let me say this: good FPP and parmanparman should ease the fuck up.

Ditto from another former Lutheran. (I kind of hero-worshipped old Martin for a while as a kid—who can resist a quote like "Here I stand, I can do no other"?—and it was quite a shock to me to find out about his nastier side, both the anti-Semitism and the "Kill the peasants!")
posted by languagehat at 7:58 AM on July 8, 2008


Say what you will about the tenets of Martin Luther, at least it was an ethos.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:35 AM on July 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


The edges in TJ's time included many, many outspoken abolitionists.

I don't know the right thing(s) to think or feel about Luther (or TJ) but I have noticed that most proponents of the "man of his time" theory seem to make a lot of willful errors and basically suggest just not talking about it.

In popular culture... exposing my ignorance here, but I had no idea until a few days ago that MLK Jr was originally Michael King Jr and his father changed both of their names after visiting Germany.
posted by Wood at 9:07 AM on July 8, 2008


Salus extra Christum non est is Luther's contribution to the world

Wrong. His contribution to the world is "sola fide" (faith alone) and his doctrine of justification by grace through faith. This thought alone helped push the Reformation into reality, caused the split with Rome, the 30 years war, and the religious schism and split that has influenced world history ever since he posted his 95 theses to that door of that little German church.

Wanna have fun with an Evangelical Lutheran? Ask him who really inspired the holocaust: Darwin or Luther.

Because, you know, there weren't any Lutheran martyrs killed by the Nazis or anything.

I'm also not sure what you mean by "Evangelical Lutheran.

Luther actually used the term Evangelicals to describe the adherents to his followers. It was only gradually used co-opted by the baptist fundamentalists in the US after the convention in Niagara in the 1890s.

Luther was a product of his times. His writing, and theology (which was not systematic like Thomas Aquinas or the later developers of protestant orthodoxy) reflected his basic ideas on the theology of glory, theology of the cross, sola fide, individual vocations and calls and his view of government. He felt, like a lot of theologians at the time, that government was one aspect of the divine order establish on earth. It is why, during the peasant revolts that were ruthlessly crushed during the early years of the Reformation, Luther wrote against them. He also wrote against the "Enthusiasts", the anabaptists, and the various other reformers who were all, to some degree, rounded up and slaughtered. His theology and politics were heavily influenced by the Constantinian ideas of the 4th and 5th century where dissenting religious orders were viewed as enemies of the state, enemies against order and enemies against the leaders who were put in place by God to provide some order in a world dominated by Sin. A similar reasoning was originally smacked against Christians by the Romans during the large persecutions in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries.

Lutheranism, in it's current form, does not brace all that Luther said and did. In fact, Lutheranism really came into being after 1580 and the compiling of the Book of Concord when 2/3rd of the Reformed churches embraced the newly developing Lutheran Orthodoxy and agreed to its components. The other 1/3 left to becoming calvinists, anabaptists, or returned to Catholicism. Lutheranism, by its very name, has to deal with all aspects of the man Martin Luther (his good and bad) but that does not mean that Lutheranism is limited to him or includes all that he said or did.
posted by Stynxno at 9:10 AM on July 8, 2008 [7 favorites]


His contribution to the world is "sola fide" (faith alone) and his doctrine of justification by grace through faith. This thought alone helped push the Reformation into reality,

I think also his doctrine of consubstantiation instead of transubstantiation (is the eucharist the body/blood of christ only or is it both bread and wine and the body/blood simultaneously?) was significant.
posted by spicynuts at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2008


Nice post. Luther was a childhood hero, and still is, when I can ignore his shadow side.
posted by RussHy at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2008


Well, at least he never complained about Israels human rights record.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on July 8, 2008


Another Lutheran: Raoul Wallenberg - the Righteous Among the Nations.
posted by Kiwi at 9:46 AM on July 8, 2008


I meant one of the R.A.N.
posted by Kiwi at 9:49 AM on July 8, 2008


Wrong

If you want to narrowly interpret what I wrote as to mean that was his sole contribution, go hate on that strawman, troll. Before Luther, though, Christianity didn't seem to have the very clearly-worded "with-Christ-or-against-Christ" tenet of intolerance that is embedded in Lutheranism and its historical derivatives — particularly Baptist and other fundamentalist faiths.

Even the Crusades were, at first, as a matter of papal authority, colonial and political campaigns waged specifically against people of Muslim faith, not officially targeting non-Christians (though Jews and others were persecuted along the way). For example, it seems that there's a big theological leap that underlies Innocent III's "We decree that no Christian shall use violence to compel the Jews to accept baptism" to Luther's "[S]et fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them." That may just be me.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:27 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


voted by his countrymen the second greatest German of all time

No, the greatest German of all time is not the one you think. He was Austrian.

BTW, do you know the two biggest archivemenst in Austrian history?

They made Hitler a German and Bethoven an Austrian.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:23 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, the greatest German of all time is not the one you think. He was Austrian.

Goethe was Austrian?
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I e-mailed Bishop Hanson from the ELCA about this, so if he responds or his PR guy responds, I'll get him to comment in the thread.

How Christian of you.
posted by 912 Greens at 11:33 AM on July 8, 2008


Okay, just so you people know the scorecard:

Three Lutheran orgs in the U.S...


Unless you're just champing the bit for way too much insider info on American Lutherans you might want to just skip this...

I was raised in the Missouri Synod, in which my father is a (now retired but still active) minister, I'm now a member of the ELCA. gimonca's summary isn't wholly off base but it is a bit simplistic and over-generalized.

The Missouri Synod (LCMS) is a complex though basically monolithic (not composed of many church bodies joined together to form a single Synod as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is) group that has undergone some pretty profound shifts over the last few decades - the most particular and specific being a large exodus of members, teachers and pastors following protests of the suspension of Concordia Seminary president John Tietjen for essentially advocating historical-critical methods in studying the Bible as well as elevating the importance of the Gospel over other parts of the bible (in a nutshell, going against strict literalism in biblical interpretation).

I think most of those involved in the protests hoped that reconciliation and the opening of a dialog about these topics would result, but there was no reconciliation and the protesters eventually formed their own seminary institution originally called Seminex (for Concordia Seminary in Exile). Many churches ended up leaving the Missouri Synod over this conflict and eventually formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), which eventually was a small but important participant in the union of the majority of mainstream American Lutherans into the ELCA.

My feeling is that this incident drastically changed the character of the the Missouri Synod: it was basically a liberal-ectomy of churches, pastors and, critically, educators and the most conservative element has become increasingly dominant ever since. However, there is still significant diversity between congregations. My dad was a pastor at two rural churches most of his career (a common arrangement in rural congregations who could not afford to employ a minister by themselves) and one of churches was significantly more conservative in character than the other. There is also a real difference in the outlook of ministers pre- and post- Seminex, namely that ministers with liberal outlooks have essentially vanished. I doubt there is much possibility of any return to a more pluralistic outlook in the LCMS as more and more (especially young) congregants with more liberal outlooks are simply voting with their feet, mainly moving to the ELCA.

Meanwhile, the ELCA, being composed of such a large and diverse group of churches, has significant variation in theological outlooks as well. You can wander into extremely theologically conservative churches within the ELCA. And the ELCA is struggling now with internal division over theological issues, including significantly how inclusive the church is of gay members (the conflict and the synod's somewhat wishy-washy treatment of it is exemplified by the recent ordination of openly gay pastor Jen Nagel. The ELCA has been struggling over a new official stance on issues of Human Sexuality. A draft proposal is out, it's due to be considered under the Synod's governance processes in 2009, and regardless of how it pans out it's likely to cause division (example of reaction to the proposed statement from the pro-gay perspective). I sort of doubt the Synod is going to be ready to go to the next level of endorsing the ordination of gay clergy unless they elect to be celibate and non-partnered, and of marrying gay couples (and I'm personally struggling with whether I will move on to another denomination if this is in fact the case or stick it out and keep up the fight for reform from within).

It's complicated, in short.

Though I don't know much about them the Wisconsin Synod (and the only Lutheran churches conservative enough for them to be in fellowship with, the confusingly-named Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC)) do seem pretty wacky. And yes, the identification of the Papacy as the Antichrist is official doctrine in them parts...

I know some are finding it excessively non-topical and marginal for the front page but I'm glad orthogonality made this post because the most deplorable elements of Luther's frequently bombastic rhetoric (which is a lot more entertaining, as the last link above indicates, when he's, for example, slagging off the pope) is too little wrestled with in the Lutheran church (as evidenced by the number of people weighing in to say they'd never heard of this). Luther was a complicated individual, and a product of his times, and there does seem to have been genuine shifts in his character towards the negative late in his life (which some attribute in part to his failing health) - but I don't think his antisemitic writings in particular should ever be simply glossed over or justified. They are a black mark on his history and the history of the Lutheran Church. I learned about them myself first from my father and in greater depth in a Lutheran students organization I was active in in college, but it is a topic still much ignored among Lutherans.

Sorry about the book... you know, actually, let it be a cautionary note to any of you who might decide to casually get into Lutheranism in some post. THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU.
posted by nanojath at 12:07 PM on July 8, 2008 [8 favorites]


"Hey guys, since that whole Catholic Church thing went so well, I jotted down some other ideas. Let me know what you think...."
posted by electroboy at 12:12 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Before Luther, though, Christianity didn't seem to have the very clearly-worded "with-Christ-or-against-Christ" tenet of intolerance that is embedded in Lutheranism and its historical derivatives — particularly Baptist and other fundamentalist faiths.

It would be nice to troll you but I'm not. I'm just disagreeing with what you're saying and what you're saying is wrong.

The "with-Christ-or-against-Christ" is not a tenanet of Lutheranism nor of Luther's own theology. He was a conservative reformation - he believed in the Church, he even agreed with purgatory at first, and he also taught that placing your trust in the believer (and in yourself) is misguided. It is why he supported infant baptism and was against the anabaptists. He did not propogate the ideas that you believe he did - rather, he focused on Paulian and Augustinian theology and was fighting against the Scholastic theologians of his day and also the abuses propogated by the Church of Rome in its political desires. The fundamentalist idea that your are pushing does not come from Luther; it comes from the Baptists who trace their existence to England. The fundamentalism that you are now discribing (and the one that plagues the United States) is a recent invention and is a reaction against modern theology, multiculturalism, technology, knowledge, wisdom and with a mix of xenophobia thrown in. Luther's theology is very much a reaction against the scholastics, the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, and against Calvinism, the Anabaptists, the enthusiasts (who were much more similar to the fundamentalism that you are talking about than Luther was), etc.

For example, it seems that there's a big theological leap that underlies Innocent III's "We decree that no Christian shall use violence to compel the Jews to accept baptism" to Luther's "[S]et fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them." That may just be me.

That is just you. Innocent the 3rd was the most powerful Pope the world has, and ever will, see. His political, military, and economic power are unrivaled by all previous and future popes. He did post those decrees about the Jews not because he showed any favor to them but rather because he knew that attacks on the Jews directed money, and resources, away from his pet projects and hurt his ability to receive the credit necessary to fund his political ambitions (the Jews were the bankers of Europe). And Innocent also wrote this bull in response to the problems from earlier crusades where troops and men attacked Jewish communities on their way to Byzantium and, exhausted, their stores spent, and their war spoils, they would turn away from the road to the middle east assuming that their crusader vows had been fulfilled. Innocent, in his preaching for the 4th and 5th Crusade, could not tolerate this behavior. He did not write to promote theology - he wrote to promote power and politics. Luther wrote to promote theology; he left (and supported) politics to kings, princes and dukes.

And, in case you've forgotten, Innocent III had no problem attacking those who he declared heretics since, well, he launched the Albigensian Crusade in 1209.

Luther had a huge temper, was a firebrand, and had no problem insulting, calling others names, and enjoyed calling for hell fire to reign down on those who spurned him and disagreed with him. After the Jews of certain German towns said "Thanks but no thanks" to his preaching for their conversion, he felt slighted and wrote extremely nasty, negative and wrong things. And he shouldn't have done it but it is legacy that Lutheranism has had to come to terms with ever since the 1540s.
posted by Stynxno at 12:14 PM on July 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


he felt slighted and wrote extremely nasty, negative and wrong things

you know who else felt slighted by provincial Jews?
posted by matteo at 12:44 PM on July 8, 2008


not to mention, to try and whitewash genocidal writings as some reaction to being slighted doesn't do anyone -- believers or not -- any good. "nasty, negative and wrong" happens when someone insults your girlfriend or keys your new car. Luther's genocidal rants deserve something more forceful than that.

this doesn't mean that if one is a Lutheran one should switch to, I don't know, Buddhism, because of Luther's repulsive views. but they're there, just as Matthew's blood libel is there, just as the Gospel of John is there. Christianity, all of it, carries almost two thousand years of appalling hatred for the Jewish people like an albatross around its neck, and it's silly to pretend it's not there.
posted by matteo at 12:49 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


he felt slighted and wrote extremely nasty, negative and wrong things.

OMG, he's the Reverend Wright of the Reformation!
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


The "with-Christ-or-against-Christ" is not a tenanet of Lutheranism nor of Luther's own theology.

It must be universally admitted that the Turks, with all the restrictions and austerity of life imposed upon them by the Koran, a life more rigorous even than that of Christians--it must be admitted they belong to the devil. In other words, we adjudge them condemned with all their righteousness, but at the same time say they do right in punishing thieves, robbers, murderers, drunkards and other offenders; more, that Christians living within their jurisdiction are under obligation to pay tribute, and to serve them with person and property. Precisely the same thing is true respecting our princes who persecute the Gospel and are open enemies to Christ: we must be obedient to them, paying the tribute and rendering the service imposed; yet they, and all obedient followers willingly consenting to the persecution of the Gospel, must be looked upon as condemned before God.

18. Similarly does Paul speak concerning the righteousness of all the Jews and pious saints who are not Christians [emph. added]. His utterance is bold and of certain sound. He censures them and, weeping, deprecatingly refers to certain who direct the people to the righteousness of the law with the sole result of making "enemies to the cross of Christ."
...
24. Now, this is the situation and there is no alternative: Either suffer hell or regard your human righteousness as loss and filth and endeavor not to be found relying on it at your last hour, in the presence of God and judgment, but rather stand in the righteousness of Christ. [emph. added]


Seems like an either/or offer to me. His interpretations of Psalms run along similar lines.

Innocent, in his preaching for the 4th and 5th Crusade, could not tolerate this behavior. He did not write to promote theology - he wrote to promote power and politics. Luther wrote to promote theology; he left (and supported) politics to kings, princes and dukes.

From my readings, I find little significant difference between theology and politics in the Middle Ages; you obviously disagree. Regardless, Luther's published views on those who aren't "down with Christ," nor how those views have filtered down through the years, can't be easily whitewashed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:31 PM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


it is a bit simplistic and over-generalized

Indeed, I was trying to boil things down to easy-to-swallow lumps.

Speaking of which, now somebody should figure out how lutefisk suppers fit into all this.
posted by gimonca at 1:50 PM on July 8, 2008


Make Negroes politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this. I will say that I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor have ever been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people. And I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior. And I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

Lincoln was a bigot. So wasn't Martin Luther? It's easy for me to see. I'm just a simpleton though. I apologize ahead of time for anyone who thinks this is not relevant to the post here.
posted by Flex1970 at 2:53 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Flex1970, I'm afraid you'll have a very very hard time finding anyone that far back who liked black people, take a look at Ghandi. We just use superior moral rules today which are more utilitarian, universal, secular, etc. Hence the whole problem with religion.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:20 PM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


But some Christians [pdf] argue that Martin Luther's anti-Semitism wasn't like Nazi anti-Semitism. Instead, the Nazis' "appeal to Luther was a post-facto justification of their anti-Semitism and not the impetus of it."
Errrr... so?
posted by Flunkie at 4:22 PM on July 8, 2008


A quick explanation to parmanparman (and anyone else): initially, I wasn't going to add anything about modern Lutheran apologies Martin Luther's views on Jews, for two reasons:

1) it has little to do with Luther's views, and how those views may or may not have influenced later anti-Semitism.
2) while a necessary corrective for those congregations, it's not particularly interesting reading as a link.

I ended up adding it only to forestall any impression that Luther's views are the views of the modern Lutheran Church, and to forestall any complaint that I hadn't mentioned these churches' rejection of Luther's anti-Semitism.

But it's not the point I story I wanted to tell, and I'm making no suggestion that any modern Lutheran Church is anti-Semetic. Again, it was a last-minute addition meant to tie up a loose end, and avoid leaving any unfair impression about the modern Lutheran sects.
posted by orthogonality at 5:09 PM on July 8, 2008


Blazecock Pileon writes: Seems like an either/or offer to me. His interpretations of Psalms run along similar lines.


It is an either/or offer. He's talking about Justification. In thesis 23 of the same text you quote he says:
23. With the believers in Christ, them who have their righteousness in him, there should follow in this life on earth the fruits of upright living, in obedience to God. These fruits constitute the good works acceptable to God, which, being works of faith and wrought in Christ, will be rewarded in the life to come. But Paul has in mind the individuals who, rejecting faith in Christ, regard their self-directed lives, their humanly-wrought works, which conform to the Law, as righteousness availing in the sight of God. His reference is to them who so trust, though wholly ignorant of Christ, for whose sake, without any merit on our part, righteousness is imputed to us by God. The only condition is we must believe in Christ; for he became man, died for our sins and rose from the dead, for the very purpose of liberating us from our sins and granting us his resurrection and life. Toward the heavenly life we should tend, in our life here walking in harmony with it; as Paul says in conclusion: "Our citizenship is in heaven [not earthly and not confined to this temporal life only]; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ."

If we have no knowledge, no consciousness, of this fact, it matters not how beautiful and praiseworthy our human, earthly righteousness may be, it is merely a hindrance and an injury. For flesh and blood cannot help relying on its own righteousness and arrogantly boasting in this strain: "We are better, more honorable, more godly, than others. We Jews are the people of God and keep his Law." Even Christians are not wholly free from the pernicious influence of human holiness. They ever seek to bring their own works and merits before God. I know for myself what pains are inflicted by this godless wisdom, this figment of righteousness, and what effort must be made before the serpent's head is bruised [emphasis mine].
This is Luther reading Philippians 3 as an endorsement of his soteriolgy.1 The Jews in this passage are anagogically no different from Luther's contemporaries, particularly of the Ockhamist school, who he considered to be neo-Pelagians (those who Luther considered rightly or wrongly to hold the view that Justification could be earned by earthly merits or good works). Is this an either/or scenerio? Absolutely, but it is Luther's argument that a person may receive salvation by faith alone. When Luther says that the "Turks belong to the devil" though they may be full of earthly righteousness this is what he means. This was no more a condemnation of the Turks than it was a condemnation of Gabriel Biel.2 When Luther turned on the Jews it was because they didn't receive his Truth and convert. In his mind, which was deluded by righteousness, this could be seen only as failure by the Jews to accept God's righteousness. As he explains in On the Jews and their Lies, he particularly reviles the Jews because they have received the word of God, but have failed to heed it. Luther hated the Jews because they weren't Lutherans.

From my readings, I find little significant difference between theology and politics in the Middle Ages; you obviously disagree.

Here is the difference with respect to Luther: the Reformations could not have succeeded if not for a receptive political environment. Had the Emperor and the Papacy not resurrected the great medieval rivalry between regnum and sacerdotium, had Charles V not had to buy his election with Fugger money, and had there not been a nascent and anti-curial German nationalism dating at least to the Reformatio Sigismundi (1439). However, politics in no way informed Luther's theology. Initially, Luther was sheltered by political reality, and later aspects of his movement coincided with the aspirations of certain princes, but when his movement was used (he would certainly say subverted) for overtly political ends as with the German Peasants' War and the zealotry of the other radicals (anabaptists, etc.) he lashed out as in Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants. Luther was, without a doubt, a political conservative. Luther's Reformation was magisterial

Regardless, Luther's published views on those who aren't "down with Christ," nor how those views have filtered down through the years, can't be easily whitewashed.

Nor should they be whitewashed. Should we set about to live our lives by all of the views he espouses? Certainly not. Should we seek to understand them? Yes, I think so. I want to make it clear that I am not apologizing for Luther, but neither will I condemn him. Do I find much of what he has to say about the Jews, the peasantry, et. al. revolting? Yes, unequivocally. Luther was wrong about many things; not least of all the Jews. That is my view as a twenty-first century man, but I cannot condemn Luther for failing to have the morality of a twenty-first century man.

matteo writes: not to mention, to try and whitewash genocidal writings as some reaction to being slighted doesn't do anyone -- believers or not -- any good. "nasty, negative and wrong" happens when someone insults your girlfriend or keys your new car. Luther's genocidal rants deserve something more forceful than that.

I don't disagree that these views should be condemned (morally, and in the present) but what would you have us do if to say they are wrong is not enough? Is perspicuity to be faulted? Should we add an intensifier? Add several intensifiers? Would that make them more wrong than they already are? Should we ritually burn them? Write genocidal rants of our own? Don't take that the wrong way. I'm just being silly. I understand that we recognize a spectrum of wrongness, but I curious about what you're looking for here. Should we scrap Luther all together? Is coming to terms with Luther not a valid historical exercise? By how far must we condemn something before we are safe from condemnation ourselves?

In any event, I do believe Styxno wrote "extremely nasty, negative and wrong things."

Condemn Luther all you want. Condemn him for vociferously positing that his theology is the truth and hence is the only way to salvation. Condemn him for being so medieval. Condemn him for being a vile anti-Semite. Call him evil. Consign him to a forgotten past if it makes you feel better, but you're doing so in vain. From an ahistorical moral perspective you are fully right to do so, but doing so won't help us understand Luther, Christianity, European anti-Semitic, the Renaissance, the Reformations, or myriad other things.

1 Luther's soteriological position holds that even though man is thoroughly sinful and without God subject to his own "iniquitous and bad" will he may be brought into a state of oneness through the intermediacy of forensic grace (extra nos), which is brought about by faith and faith alone (sola fide).

2 If you would like to know more about how Luther's theology compares to the scholastics who came before him I recommend reading his Disputatio contra scholasticam theologiam followed by Heiko Oberman's The Harvest of Medieval Theology followed by the Disputatio again.

posted by prosthezis at 11:57 PM on July 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Some of my text disappeared with "Luther's Reformation was magisterial...." What I was trying to say was that Luther's Reformation was magisterial (i.e. top-down), but because the various princes and cities involved had their own reasons for turning evangelical. This is one aspect of his Reformation and it was beyond Luther's control. The other aspect, which was completely under his control, was his theology. Luther's theology was firmly established by September 1517 yet he held hope of reconciling with Rome at least until 1519 and did not symbolically break his ties to Rome until 1524 when he finally removed his habit. He continued in the habit of an Augustinian friar for three years and ten months after he was excommunicated. Does that sound like a man trying to effect a political revolution?
posted by prosthezis at 12:56 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Prosthezis: In his mind, which was deluded by righteousness

Martin Luther: Even Christians are not wholly free from the pernicious influence of human holiness. They ever seek to bring their own works and merits before God. I know for myself what pains are inflicted by this godless wisdom, this figment of righteousness

Oh the ironing!!
posted by spicynuts at 6:00 AM on July 9, 2008


Interesting post. Salus extra Christum non est is Luther's contribution to the world, that if you're not with Christ, you're against Him, and helped motivate a number of pogroms. That said, "if you're not with us, you're against us" is not a novel concept in human history

Not even for Christianity, but at least the original sounds as if you can go scatter without being harried.

Matthew 12:30
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

Luke11:23
He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

posted by ersatz at 6:33 AM on July 9, 2008


t's a moot point to talk about Luther without talking about the modern theology of the Luther-derived Protestant churches such as Congregational, Reform Church, Lutheran, and Calvinist (up to debate - but basically).

You must recall that Luther like many preachers of his time and since, embraced Jews but grew impatient by their lack of conversion. It must be taken then it's place and time in history. For to call Luther an anti-Semite would serve only to forget that officially almost all of the power structure of Europe was wholehearted anti-Jew.

You need to also put persecution in its place. It was not only the Jews who were pogromed by the Lutherans with the force of the Swiss and Germans behind his Word. The Anabaptists who practiced what Luther, Calvin and other Reformist Purists called a heresy: the rebaptising of adults, the elimination of childhood baptism, and the refusal to serve in parley to a lord for military purposes. Whole populations of Anabaptists were murdered, forced to convert, and driven from their pastures in land clearances. Many went to Transylvania and many more were invited by the Czars to Kazakhstan, where they brought their gift of practical agriculture with them. We know the Anabaptists as Mennonites - after the martyr Menno Simmons, Quakers, Amish, Brethren, and Hutterites.

Luther was anti everything to a great degree because he worried about his legacy and the fate of the church he started, which was still in many ways almost wholly Catholic at his death. The Lutheran Church remained episcopal and was lent vast holdings from the German princes who converted in order to cease the taxes and penalties of the Roman Catholics.

Furthermore, Luther did not nail his petition to the door because of a political issue. His beef was metaphysical: that one should not have to pay extra for a seat in heaven. Here was a man who faced his own mortality by invoking biblical purity and had the energy to carry out his demand that no person be disallowed paradise for their lack of pocket money.
posted by parmanparman at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is my favoritest Metafilter post ever.
posted by nanojath at 2:09 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


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