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“Putting the Protest Back in Protestant”

“Putting the Protest Back in Protestant”

Diana Butler Bass writes that its time for the Protestant churches to remember their heritage. Especially so as many will be celebrating Reformation Day on Nov. 1 (in commemoration of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the door of Wittenburg Castle Church).

But as she notes, the majority of American Protestants have forgotten the meaning of their name.

“The heart of Protestantism is the courage to challenge injustice and to give voice to those who have no voice.  Protestantism opened access for all people to experience God’s grace and God’s bounty, not only spiritually but actually.  The early Protestants believed that they were not only creating a new church, but they were creating a new world, one that would resemble more fully God’s desire for humanity.  The original Protestant impulse was to resist powers of worldly dominion and domination in favor of the power of God’s spirit to transform human hearts and society.  Protestants were not content with the status quo.  They felt a deep discomfort within.  They knew things were not right.  And they set out to change the world.

In the United States, Protestantism has often been torn between the impulse to protest (the abolition movement, women’s rights movements, the Civil Rights movement) and the complacency of content by virtue of being the majority religion.  After all, if you are the largest religious group in society—if you shape the culture—what do you protest?  Yourself?  Protestant success in the United States has always been a bit at odds with the primary impulse of the faith to resist convention in favor of challenging injustice.

Now, however, as part of a religious plurality and no longer the majority faith, Protestants can rediscover the courageous part of their identity too long hidden under a veneer of cultural success.”

More here.

Does your church do anything to mark the Reformation? If not, maybe we should.


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Umm. I don’t mean to be picky or anything, but Reformation Day is October 31.

There are all sorts of problems with Bass’s essay. I couldn’t help but think of Luther’s support for the suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1525, the repression of religious dissidents when Protestants were in control of government (from Germany to Colonial New England).

Still, we’ll be singing “Ein feste Burg” tomorrow and having a Lutheran preach.

Jonathan Greiser

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