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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 23, 2017

Protestant Reformation turns 500 years old

By Julie Fiske | Nov 09, 2017

To the editor:

Last Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, was a very important day of remembrance in the life of the world, but one which probably passed most of us by.

That was the date on which, 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Most people assume his act had only to do with matters pertaining to the church. But, it is important for people to realize that it was not merely a pivotal event within the church; it was a pivotal event for the entire world.

In fact, if you recall when our calendars were flipping from the year 1999 to year 2000, there were “Top 100” lists everywhere, and one such list was “Top 100 most important people of the past 1,000 years”. And, on almost every list Martin Luther, that monk turned reformer, made the Top 10, and on many lists, he was among the Top 3 — of most important people of the past 1,000 — that’s one thousand years!

And, the lists were not of “the most important people in the church;” they were lists of the most important people in regard to the world in general.

You see, Martin Luther introduced a new concept to the world that will sound bizarre to us because, thanks to Luther, this concept is so much a part of our everyday lives that we wouldn’t even realize there was a time when this concept was not known. The concept is that people can think for themselves.

In this day and age, thinking for oneself is heralded as a basic human right. But, that was not always the case.

Up until the time of Martin Luther, not only were people not encouraged to think for themselves, they were actually discouraged from thinking for themselves. The people who were educated, and therefore wielded the power and authority, preferred to give the people their knowledge than encourage them to seek out knowledge for themselves.

If we are honest with ourselves, we may find a sliver of sympathy if we think back to those who were in authority who did not want people to think for themselves. Because, encouraging people to think for themselves brings with it some challenges, and some risks.

First of all, it takes much less time to simply tell someone what to do than it does to explain the “why” of our direction. Teaching someone how to think for themselves is a lot of work. But not only that, if we equip people to understand the logic of our direction, then they may engage their own brain, and their own logic and reason, in order to come up with their own conclusions that they have reached on their own.

And this is the inherent risk in that process — that, heaven forbid the conclusions they draw are different from our own! But the beauty is that when we are able to think for ourselves, then we can find our own answers to our own questions. And that is what I call freedom.

 

- Julie Fiske, Fairfield

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