Oct 3, 2018 in History

The Protestant Reformation lasted for over three centuries, an event which was sparked by one man’s match: Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.  The document was a list of problems Luther saw in the Church’s work ethics, along with inconsistencies in the faith doctrine.  Even though many others found the Church’s methods for salvation unethical, they did not dare speak up in fear of being accused as a heretic.  However, Martin Luther took the stand and preached about communicating directly with God and having blind faith instead of paying greedy Church ministers to buy salvation.  His efforts triggered the Reformation, which involved redefining the Church’s role in society and reforming unjust laws labeled under faith. 

Even though Martin Luther and his followers could have faced immediate death because of their heretical claims against the Roman Catholic Church, they stood by their accusation that the Pope and Church were abusing their authority, and that the Scripture was a direct communication line with God and the final authority.  Instead, the heretics were excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and outlawed from the community in 1521.  Now known as the Lutherans, the group started its own movement known as Protestants.  The Protestants’ core beliefs varied greatly from the Roman Catholics and they continued to challenge notions which seemed unjust to them.  For example, Martin Luther did not believe in the rule that ordered religious leaders to abstain from marriage or procreation and therefore, he married an ex-nun who gave birth to his six children. 

Furthermore, the differences did not end here.  The Lutherans argued that the Bible’s knowledge should not be limited to clergy, as they are susceptible to corruption and may change God’s message.  In order for God’s message to be preserved and honored, the common man must be able to learn from the Bible himself, without a biased middle man.  Therefore, Martin Luther translated the Bible in spoken German, which could be understood by everyone.  Moreover, Lutherans incorporated Hymns and chorus in the Church which was used to express God’s message.  The main difference among the two groups was that the Catholic Church sold indulgences to its members who were purchased forgiveness contracts and the money was intended to help the community’s poor; however, because of corruption, the money was spent on church and clergy expenses. 

Despite the valor and just ideology presented by the Protestants, the new movement gave birth to a series of conflicts and community dilemmas.  First, the ruling classes were threatened as the Protestant peasants and middle classmen started questioning their right to rule.  Secondly, sub-groups emerged as a result of aspects of the new movement that were not suited to personal needs or did not agree with Martin Luther.  Luther had provided the basic ideology for challenging religious authority, which the peasants thought they could use with all oppressive regimes.  However, Luther had status and resources, whereas the lower classes did not, and because of this, Luther gave up support and gained opponents when the peasants asked him to join them for rebellion against political and economic reform.  Because of this betrayal, more than 100,000 peasants lost their lives in two years. 

The conflicts spread across Europe and in France, King Charles IX waged attacks against Protestants, persecuting and killing more than 6,000 throughout the country.  Another conflict involved the Jews, but this time the Jews were the victims instead of the Protestants.  The Protestants targeted Jews after becoming a new religion, with leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin brainwashing their new followers against them.  Specifically, Calvin ordered that the Jews “be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity from anyone” (11).  Despite the negative aspects of the Reformation, these conflicts influenced the Renaissance because the Renaissance was all about re-birth of ideas and lifestyles, challenging the old with the new, which the Reformation started.  People learned how to think outside the box and challenge long-held traditions through these conflicts, which further fueled the Renaissance. 

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