GUEST POST- by John Kupitz
I love you. You may be Western Civilization’s first published critic of just about everything. From institutions to people to entire fields of study, you had more opinions about the world than Donald Trump has tweets about it. You criticized your law school, the University of Erfert, not for having the silliest name in Christendom, but for being a center of debauchery. Apparently University’s haven’t changed much in five hundred years.
You hated being a lawyer. You were wearied by philosophy. You even struggled as a monk. And yet, the “wasted education” that your father secured for you would eventually earn you a place at the University of Wittenberg as a theology professor. That would be an exciting classroom experience. I wish those lectures were available on itunes.
Many people are so taken by your personality and place in church history, that we have overlooked the critical role of your not-so-secret weapon: the printing press. You had the latest technology. For the first time in human history, somebody with a new idea could actually share it with nearly every literate person in Europe. With the printing press, even the gates of the Vatican could not prevail against your ideas. As Leonardo Dicaprio once said, “Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.” Of course, he was borrowing language from an old French author:
“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo.
I wonder what you would have done with newer tech, perhaps as a blogger. Or better yet, a vlogger. What would the great reformer Martin Luther do with his own Youtube Channel? What if the internet and social media had been a thing back in the early 16th century? I’ve decided to speculate with a mock Wikipedia entry:
“Martin Luther came out of nowhere with 95 Youtube videos on his channel, Buzzcreed, on October 31st, 1517. Each video is a funny, irreverent, cutting social commentary against that oldest of world powers, the Roman Catholic Church. Sure, admits Luther, the Church has a lot of wonderful things to offer (especially the sacred truth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ). But the pope sits in his ivory tower, surrounded by yes men who follow his every whim. In spite of being the richest man in all of Europe, the pope still insists on taxing the poor in order to build his empi—err…cathedrals. Luther’s wit and informal style have endeared him to the masses. His ideas have gone viral. Among his most popular uploads are What does the Pope Say?, The Indulgence Shake, and How the Diet of Worms Should Have Ended.”
That would be amazing.
Speculation aside, there are some things that you contributed to Western Civilization which really don’t get enough credit. After you, nations could choose their religion. That was new. We learned that we don’t have to bow to authorities in our government, our communities, or even our own homes, if they go against Christ. For better or for worse, we can write our own theses and post them on Facebook whenever we’d like. It doesn’t matter how silly, or stupid, or wrong they may be. The internet is our door of Wittenberg. We’re not fighting the abuses of a hypocritical centuries-old regime. Our fight is much smaller and less significant. We just want all of our friends on Facebook to know when they’re wrong about something. I’m so glad we can all do that publicly, even if some people post nothing but inspirational vomit-inducing memes with puppies frolicking in a grassy field. At least they aren’t burned at the stake for it. I’m glad we’ve moved past that. Being unfriended is so much better than being burned at the stake.
I praise God that you didn’t shy away from the controversy and post a funny cat picture on that famous door. No, you posted ninety-five brutally honest, “in-your-face”, hope-your-sitting-down-‘cuz-you’re-‘bout-to-get-served-indictments against a corrupt institution. You did it with honor and with class (and a healthy dose of sarcasm). But you also did it with hope. That’s what made your words so legendary.
You hoped for a better church. You longed for a more loving, more compassionate, more Christ-like institution. You saw the truth in God’s word and you desperately sought to bring those truths into the lives of your students, parishioners, and friends. You toiled long hours under the threat of death. You passionately stood up for truth in a time when most like-minded men chose not to rock the boat. You gave them hope. And they started to rock.
Rather than split the church, you hoped for a reformed church. You believed the Roman Catholic Church insofar as it preached the gospel and sought only to correct its immoral overreach that plagued believers across Europe.
A church was birthed from that reforming spirit. Before the end of the century, entire nations had abandoned the notion that the Roman Catholic Church was a Christian institution at all. Three “solas” were coined to counteract the abuses of the medieval church. A new way to be Christian had emerged.
A nation was birthed from that reforming spirit. By the middle of the 18th century, a group people sought to gain independence from a country that simply didn’t represent them. A constitution was drafted and a declaration ratified. A republic with three branches of government was created to counteract the abuses of previous kingdoms and empires. A new way to be a nation had emerged.
A global phenomenon was birthed from that spirit. Before five hundred years had passed, every individual with access to the internet had a voice they could use to list their grievances with every authority under the sun. People no longer required a printing press to rally the masses. There was radio, television, film, and finally, the internet. A new way to post our theses has emerged.Oddly enough, so many reformations and revolutions have relied upon the 'bergs'- Gutenberg, Wittenberg, Zuckerberg- weird.Click To Tweet
Martin Luther, your spirit is a double-edged sword. To those who follow Christ, we are indebted to God’s work in and through you. Even those who do not follow Christ owe many of their freedoms to your rejection of an infallible human authority. Honestly, I like living in a world where atheists are free to reject Christ more than a world where they are forced to pretend. In many ways, you paved the way for authenticity. Let us be real, even if we’re wrong.
For that, I thank you.
Your friend, John Kupitz