History records Martin Luther as a savior of Christianity. Concerned with the well-being of the Catholic Church and its policy of granting forgiveness through indulgence rather than penance, Luther posted his 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg – and ushered in an era of Protestant reformation.
Yet like much of history, Luther's actions were neither cinematic nor groundbreaking. The choice of location for distributing his message was not one of contempt; rather, the door of a 16th-century church was often used as a community bulletin board. And the message itself encapsulated feelings many of his peers already had about the corruption of Christ's teachings.
Why then the veneration? Because Luther took an intelligent look at an issue of deep significance to him, questioned it logically, and, when ignored by those damaged by his accusations, voiced his concerns in public using grassroots methods and local support.
Make no mistake, Martin Luther was a promoter, one of the most successful in history. Instead of pimping timeshares or the hillbilly antics of a pro wrestler, however, Luther pushed reform on one of the most powerful organizations the world has ever seen – and lived to talk about it. He was no superhero, just a man like any other who stood by the strength of his convictions.
Some might think we're beyond the savagery of the Middle Ages, that we've progressed in the 490 years since Luther declared the Church in violation of its duties. I won't argue against advancement while I live in a comfortable home, free from worry about food or cold. But many of the basic woes of civilization still exist, not far from the surface.
Illiteracy. Famine. Ignorance. And these pale in comparison to the constant tug of war between latter-day serfs and nobility. This is a time of increasing religious and civic strife, where the average American is unable to locate the nations their government invades on a map and politicians advocate racism and bigotry as part of their campaign platform.
Is Afghanistan different than the holy wars of antiquity? Is the search for banned weapons in Iraq any more fanciful than the quest for Prester John? History repeats itself. And that gives me hope, because that means one person with passion, dedication, and a sound mind can effect real change in society.
It is time for reformation throughout the United States, a political and moral revival akin to what our forefathers saw when they declared independence from the British Empire. Instead of wasting money fighting the wars of George W. and King John, we can rebuild our own lands and industry, and give our people a solid education. Instead of ruling by fear and intimidation, our government can serve its people. And it can start with you.
That's my final message: be a Martin Luther. I'm not asking you to split a major religion in half or curry favors with neighboring fiefdoms, but look at things with a critical eye and judge stories and people on your own observations and not the propaganda. Most important, live unafraid to speak the truth. We were given minds to think and a Constitution to protect these essential rights.
If you find yourself a religious man at odds with the clergy, you are not alone. Organized religion tends to corrupt the messages of peace and tolerance at their foundation, and even Martin Luther had his grievances with the pro-war sermons aimed at his contemporaries. Church and public leaders routinely use the pulpit in negative ways, excommunicating based on sexuality, race, even political affiliation. Want change? Let others know it. As we've seen, this strategy has worked in the past.
Likewise, there's no reason to continue the subversion of our government. Honest men and women want to salvage our liberties and restore honor to this broken republic – all it takes is the courage to look beyond pre-packaged candidates who speak in sound bites and rarely have our interests at heart. Men like Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) are in the running because they represent what America can be – strong, self-reliant, and open to trade and work with any foreign nation that wants to deal with us.
I've said these things for four years because I believe in them. I believe in a strong America governed by fairness and acceptance, a belief I hope we all share. If so, let's continue to use whatever means are at our disposal to better this world. The 21st century equivalent of a church door – the Internet – is a fine way to express our displeasure.
One voice can reverberate through society and wake people from their slumber. One fact can cause a man to question his life. One question can change everything. All it takes is conviction.
October 31, 1517 marks the day Martin Luther approached the church with both his theses and the demand they stop peddling salvation through tchotchkes. They ignored him (you don't build St. Peter's Basilica with dreams, you know). And the Church paid the price.
Some might say they still are.
Until Martin Luther, people felt it perfectly acceptable to pay to worship graven images for a shorter sentence in Purgatory. We look on those people and laugh at their naiveté. What will our descendants think, however, when they read up on history and see we believed Muslims wanted to destroy the United States because of our "freedom," or that televangelists will die unless we give them millions to build their media empires?
They'll have to bite their tongues.
As long as those in power think they have the upper hand, either through intimidation or apathy, they win. Take a page from Martin Luther's book and rewrite society. Don't be cinematic. Don't be groundbreaking. Just push people in the right direction.
It doesn't take much to start a reformation.
Canon Fodder is a bi-weekly analysis of politics and society.