Social Impact of Martin Luther III
Program InformationSeries: A Moment in Time
Year Produced: 2010
In 1525 the suffering peasants of Germany revolted. They expected the support of another rebel against authority, theologian Martin Luther. They would be disappointed.
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Lead: In 1525 the suffering peasants of Germany revolted. They expected the support of another rebel against authority, theologian Martin Luther. They would be disappointed.
Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts
Content: At first Luther was sympathetic with the peasants' cause. In his tract "An Admonition to Peace" (1525) he condemned aristocrats with the stinging words, "...you do nothing but flay and rob your subjects in order that you may lead a life of splendor, until the poor common folk can bear it no longer." But when massive riots broke out across Germany, Luther was horrified. He felt his writings on Christian freedom had been misinterpreted. He meant spiritual freedom and warned the peasants that armed rebellion was contrary to God's word. He said, "The fact that rulers are unjust and wicked does not excuse tumult and rebellion."
In reality, Luther needed the support of the rulers of Germany in his battle with the Roman Catholic Church, and he felt the peasants' revolt was an unwarranted distraction from his much more important religious campaign. Convinced the peasants threatened the survival of society, he wrote a tract, "Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants," in which he said, "Let everyone who can smite, slay, and stab [the peasants] secretly and openly. Remember that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful or devilish than a rebel." For all its attachment to the establishment, Roman Catholicism had always at least claimed to be a power separate and aloof from the state, able to speak independently. The new conservative Luther welcomed state support for Protestantism and once it had been achieved he became an ardent devotee of the status quo.
The producer of A Moment In Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.