Martin Luther: Wrecking Ball of Unintentional Reformation

Martin Luther was without a doubt a reformist but he focused his brilliant criticism primarily on the Catholic Church and less on the social reforms that would eventually engulf Germany and then Europe. Martin Luther was a man who grew tired of the overwhelming authority and power that the papacy in Rome held over far flung corners of the world such as Germany. Martin Luther believed that only the individual can secure his salvation and his faith and that it was not up to a man created institution like the papacy to decide for him. Martin Luther believed that this institution afforded the opportunities for great corruption. Martin Luther created some of the most famous prose in history during his attack on the Catholic Church.

Martin Luther began his avalanche of reform by publishing his 95 theses and hammering them onto the door of a church inviting his fellow men into open discord about the condition of the Church. Martin Luther’s words quickly found themselves in Rome. In Rome his words were greeted with outrage and the Church immediately moved to silence the troublesome monk from Germany. The criticism and backlash that resulted from Martin Luther’s work only served to fuel the fire of reform that was growing inside of him and encouraged him to publish more works. His works gained immense popularity, particularly among the common man. Luther viciously and mercilessly attacked the corruption that was rampant in Rome and clamored for religious reform that would allow the individual to have a greater say and influence over his own faith versus those of a Rome appointed bishop, priest, or monk.

Martin Luther reached out to the Princes of Germany by declaring that “the money of Germany is defying nature and flying over the Alps to Rome.” Martin Luther here is literally accusing the Princes of Germany of being puppets of the corruption in Rome and paints a vivid picture of the taxes collected by the Church in Germany being used to fuel the unstoppable corruption of the papacy. Martin Luther eventually has a meeting with the Princes of Germany and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles to discuss the matter of his works. After this meeting, where Martin Luther deliveries one of the most famous statements of defiance in history, he is ushered off to isolation for safe keeping. During Luther’s isolation a torrent of social reform and rebellion sweeps across Germany where the peasantry has risen up and seized control of the Church’s assets, to include schools, and began to utilize them for themselves. Here we see an example of one of the first public school systems. The mobs destroyed church’s believing that Martin Luther would want the symbols of corruption and greed that were so elaborately displayed within to be destroyed. This was not the case and Martin Luther was shocked and appalled at the level of violence that his words had incited during his isolation. He condemned the rebellion telling them to turn to their own souls and stop their violence. It was too late for the rebellion to be reeled in and it eventually spread to engulf Europe. Martin Luther became one of the rebellion’s harshest critics, clamoring for a violent stamp out of the rebellion shocking even the nobles who stood to gain from such action.

Martin Luther was certainly a reluctant revolutionary. While he clamored for reform he never envisioned it would reach such heights and the power that he invoked truly frightened him. His reformation was meant to be done peacefully through social discord and the discussion of ideas. When his ideas incited violence across the land he turned a vengeful hand on his followers and condemned them to death at the hands of the very people he was originally criticizing. While Martin Luther began his life by condemning corruption at the church and state level he had to eventually turn to these same people for protection by means of supporting their action, an ironic end to the creator of a movement that would change the course of history and echo throughout time.

Word Count: 680

Chris LeClair

ger/102/2012/winter/chris_leclair_-_martin_luther.txt · Last modified: 2012/03/14 04:26 by crleclair
 
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