Martin Luther Meets MTV

Today, in case you missed it, is Reformation Day. Yes, yes, I know, it’s also Halloween, and while this obviously figures larger in the popular consciousness than Reformation Day – I see no Reformation-themed decorations in the lawns of our neighborhood! – I’d argue that Reformation Day is still more influential. So, a few quick facts and then a fun video to enhance your celebration. :)

Did you know…

…That Luther posted his theses in part because of a concern that the vast majority of Christians buying indulgences were being exploited by the wealthy. Theses 88: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?” (Does this make Luther an early advocate of “Occupy Rome?”)

…That Luther never intended to start a Reformation, or even thought he was being particularly confrontational. Rather, he did what all scholars do when they confront a problem – he published a paper. Luther posted his theses in a public place – the doors of the Castle Church — in order to invite interested parties to a disputation (a structured debate over philosophical or theological arguments). Which is why, to be perfectly frank, the 95 Theses make fairly boring reading.

…That the 95 Theses initially didn’t make much of a stir. Like most academic papers – sorry, colleagues! – they were largely ignored. In fact, it wasn’t until Luther published a sermon on those same theses soon after that things went viral (in a 16th-century kind of way, of course.) Which demonstrates two things: 1) Luther knew the power of a new technology – the printing press – and exploited it gladly for the sake of the gospel. 2) He also knew that sermons tend to be more powerful than academic papers!

In the spirit of Luther’s willingness to employ new media to spread a message, I’m posting below a You-tube video that sets the story of Martin Luther to the music of The Bangles’ “Manic Monday.” If you like it, you can check out other videos produced by “historyteachers” who do “history for music lovers.”

Notes: 1) If you are receiving this post by email, you may need to click here to watch the video.
2) Thanks to Rene Mehlberg for sending me the link to this video!