500 Years of Reformation

It’s been 500 years since Martin Luther inspired the Protestant Reformation by nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg (you can read them online here). The world endured centuries of violence and persecution, but for the past several years it seems as though there have been more calls for unity and reconciliation. (My prediction: both of those are unlikely. Highly unlikely.)

I read about the reformation in grad school, and as someone who was raised in a mixed-religious household I was intensely aware of the ramifications of the theological split. Holidays are REALLY awkward when one parent is Protestant and the other is not (you kids wanna hear about the origins of the Coptic Church, aka the original and best church?). Most of us these days really can’t relate and it all sounds like so much squabbling over details that don’t matter as much as the core gospels. And in an era of Mega-churches and Feel-Good-Nondenominationalism, who even remembers why the churches were arguing anyway? For me, as a kid, it came down to churches that had snacks during the service, and churches that didn’t. As I got older, Luther’s arguments became more important to me on a personal level – why should I only pray to God for wealth? Why should I look for grace in the mundane world? Why should I put my faith in imperfect people who claim that they alone can grant me entrance to heaven?

But does this really mean anything for us now? WaPo has an intriguing article – more of a brief set of interviews, really – on the reformation and what it means for us today. Most of the responses have a similar undercurrent – return to a love of neighbor, to forgiveness, to opening up our hearts rather than closing off. The statement by Cardinal Blase Cupich seemed particularly salient: “Authentic Christianity never closes in on itself. It always leaves its comfort zone to listen to others, especially those shunted to the margins of society.” And yet all we have to do is look at the latest headlines (or Twitter, or the comment section of literally any news article on the internet) to see that people would rather burrow in to their comfort zones in a kind of self-marginalization and closing off from new and different ideas that would pose challenges to ingrained beliefs. People don’t want to be challenged – it’s natural to resist challenges to the status quo and to resist change, because what’s known is comfortable, reassuring, and consistent. But change is inevitable, with or without wholesale reformation.

500 years later, we haven’t come up with any sort of unity, the Catholic Church hasn’t fallen to give way to a glorious age of Protestant theology, the Orthodox Churches still haven’t united with the other Churches, and Christianity as a whole seems even more divided than ever. But we do still feel the very real impact of the Reformation in the form of having access to our own Bibles, taking charge of our own spirituality, and, for better or worse, being able to choose where and how we worship (even if we choose to worship in the same arena that used to host Iron Maiden and basketball games).

Luther’s arguments against the Medieval Catholic Church were probably (definitely) valid – buying your way into Heaven with papal favors defeats the purpose of having God send His Divine Son down from Heaven to act as a final sacrifice for our sins. Certainly murdering heretics wasn’t the ideal response from either camp, but religious sects are still murdering each other, and they will likely continue to do so for as long as religion continues to exist. Likewise, political sects argue about the same kind of trivial details, arguing which details matter more or less and whether one detail is significant or not, and who gets to be in or out of the sect based on their belief pattern. Political thought, then, seems more like religious thought when you look at it. Perhaps we should start demanding more by nailing political theses to the doors of Congress or the State Legislature. Seems like we could use some political reformation these days.

Saturday Thoughts – Resiliency

We live in a society that places too much value on self-reliance, resilience, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. That’s completely unrealistic and ignores the fact that humans are a social animal, that reliance on others is part of what creates and reinforces society. Humans live in groups and divide labor to achieve efficiencies – hunters,  bakers, fishers, cooks, blacksmiths, woodsmen, etc.

There’s too much insistence on playing it cool and brushing off our own frustration and anxiety. We’re humans living in a stressful world, and when you add trying to recover from storm damage on top of the usual stresses of life, it can make things overwhelming. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. Let yourself rely on other people.

I have no obligation to tolerate Nazis


I’ve posted this and other things like this on Facebook before, but it bears repeating. I’m going to mention this again (and again, and again, and again – as many times as necessary), as an avid WWII history buff, and as someone whose grandparents were heavily involved in the war effort at home. If you wave a fucking Nazi flag, throw a salute to Heil anyone, or try to claim anything about a superior race, we’re going to have words – strong words. I don’t have time for bullshit, and I certainly don’t have time to argue about why your widdle feelings got hurt and that’s why you started calling yourself a Nazi.

GET OUT. Stop trying to relive the Civil War or WWII, and pretend that the Nazis were just misunderstood, and that we can all wave second-place flags and pretend that words don’t have meaning, and we should all hug and sing Kumbayah like Daily Stormer doesn’t advocate violence and Richard Spencer’s “peaceful genocide” isn’t actually so bad. I don’t have to tolerate that shit and I won’t tolerate it. As soon as you advocate those things, tolerance is done – you have violated basic human decency, not to mention the social contract that we all abide by in not killing each other and burning each other’s homes down. I don’t have to tolerate that shit, just like you wouldn’t tolerate it if I walked over to your house and kicked your dog.

I’m reaching the end of my tolerance for bullshit, and while people are welcome to argue the finer points of National Socialism, they’re not welcome to come tell me why I need to tolerate some assholes with their Wal-Mart tiki torches crying that white people don’t get enough attention and that their tiny little snowflake egos need more stroking.

As Yonatan Junger states in his article on Tolerance, tolerance is a peace treaty but not a suicide pact.

Tolerance is not a moral absolute; it is a peace treaty. Tolerance is a social norm because it allows different people to live side-by-side without being at each other’s throats. It means that we accept that people may be different from us, in their customs, in their behavior, in their dress, in their sex lives, and that if this doesn’t directly affect our lives, it is none of our business. But the model of a peace treaty differs from the model of a moral precept in one simple way: the protection of a peace treaty only extends to those willing to abide by its terms. It is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.”

If one side decides not to live up to their end of the bargain, the other parties are not obligated to stand aside regardless of consequence and let those people trample on the treaty, and everyone else. When Nazis show up with torches and local militias bring guns to protests, they’re loudly proclaiming that they couldn’t care less about whatever social contract we think we’ve signed with everyone else. They only care about their feelings and their rights and their place in society, and they’re willing to trample (or shoot) anyone who believes differently. There’s no need to tolerate that, and it’s stupid to think anyone should. White Supremacists aren’t tolerating my right, as a mixed-ethnic woman, to live near them and work a high-paying job. In their eyes, my immigrant father stole his job from a more deserving white person, so everything I do and own was stolen from them. (See any number of articles about how immigrants steal jobs from white Americans. I’m sure the Daily Stormer is full of them, as is 4chan, reddit, and even twitter.)

I am under no obligation to tolerate such bullshit, and I won’t. I’ve listened to these people and frankly, all I hear is the sound of my grandparents spinning in their graves because we literally fought a war over this 70 years ago and they (and I) thought it was settled, that this was just isolated fringe making noise. Well, apparently it isn’t, but I have no inclination whatsoever to sit back and play, “But both sides…” or, “We should really take the high road.” Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policies were wrong then, and they’re still wrong now.

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Photo Credits:

1. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/tom_perriello_on_the_charlottesville_protests.html

2. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/white-nationalist-rally-virginia-triggers-state-emergency-article-1.3405906

3. http://abcnews.go.com/US/violent-clashes-car-ramming-charlottesville/story?id=49187074

4. http://www.newyorker.com/news/as-told-to/a-witness-to-terrorism-in-charlottesville

5. http://mashable.com/2017/08/12/racist-march-charlottesville-scenes/#c57yUhCkxkqK

6. Inglourious Basterds (2009)