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Happy “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” day!
It was on October 31, 1517, 500 years ago, that Christianity changed forever when Catholic monk, Martin Luther, had enough and decided to make it known.
He wasn’t fighting against the Catholic church, he would happily have remained a Catholic. He wasn’t wanting to change Christianity. His primary point of contention was the selling of indulgences to pay for cathedrals, wars, and the like. The idea was simple, if I had sex with my servant girl I could pay the church and the sin was forgiven. If I thought I might be inclined to have sex with her again in the future I could buy another in advance. A sort of get of hell free card if you will.
Luther went on to create the concept of a universal priesthood which paved the way for anyone who felt inclined to start a church to claim authority to do so, and most famously he translated the bible into common language making it available to everyone.
Though I can see how one might have religious differences with what Luther did, I see his actions as promoting liberty and justice. He wanted everyone to be treated the same by the church. No one could buy their way out of hell. There wasn’t one set of laws for the poor and another for the man with the gold coin. He also wanted the poor to have access to the knowledge that was being held by those in power.
But of course people, being people, have taken what he did and corrupted it, even in his day he fought against this. “The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone…How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?” He wasn’t out to create a church, or be a prophet, he simply wanted the church to do what it was supposed to do.
On this day, 500 years later, I think many of us feel the same way about government. We aren’t against it, we see it has value, we just want it to function like it was created, with honor, justice, and equality of rights. Somewhere out there a Luther will create his theses to nail to the door of the Capital Building and if we all believe in the liberty it will espouse, then we too can see the world change.
Find out more about the history of Martin Luther and the 95 Theses, including videos, interesting articles, pictures, historical features and more. Get all the facts on HISTORY.com