Sunday, November 6, 2016

500 Jahre

Lutherans began celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this past week. I wonder if this will motivate me to write weekly in honor of this anniversary.

My Playmobil monk accompanied me to Church on Reformation Sunday. He also traveled with me to Council and will continue to do so this year. 
I feel compelled to acknowledge the awkwardness of the great blemish on Luther's legacy: the antisemitism to which he ascribed. Honestly, I don't know too much of what he wrote in the regard. I know he's responsible for saying some odious things. But I know little more than that.

Perhaps it's a fear of hypocrisy that makes me mention this right away. For instance, I feel very awkward quoting Henry Ford because I know of some of the vicious things he said in the 1920s demonstrating his own odious intolerance for Jews. Antisemitic dog whistles are among the many offenses I hold against Donald Trump.

When we wrestle with a monumental figure in history, we're often challenged to weigh the merits of their contributions against the baggage of their prejudices and intolerance. Did the figure make a contribution to culture that can be separated from the darker parts of their nature? Was the intolerance that person exhibited central to their nature, or was it peripheral? I struggle with these questions when I look at a lot of the greats of history (Churchill's cultural and imperial condescension, Lincoln's occasional racist blindspots, FDR's timidness on racial justice). Luther is another one of those that will pose a struggle for me.

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