A recent news story reports about a controversial member of the Lutheran Church, specifically the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a “conservative” Lutheran denomination with 2 million members in the Fifty States and 6,000 congregations across the land. It seems that an “alt-right fascist” who has unacceptable views about Adolf Hitler is disrupting worship assemblies of Lutheran churches in Tennessee.
Now, whatever the beliefs of this man and the beliefs of the Missouri Synod, these congregations have the right to assemble – and NOT assemble – with people. They can choose whom to worship with, study with, and whom to chose to lead them. According to God-given fundamental rights, even if what they are doing is contrary to the Bible (which they claim to follow) or their own creed.
As we understand it, the man was not committing any act of violence, or threatening any human action at all. But he riled up the good Lutheran folks. His teachings seem pretty nasty, at least by current standards. He advocates a lot of things that the people he was trying to teach are disgusted by.
So they called the cops. The story says he was was removed from church grounds for causing what his pastor called “harm and division to the body of Christ.” By the cops.
Now, as far as Lutherans go, this is nothing new. The founder of their denominational movement (there are a lot of Lutheran denominations today, hence the movement term), Martin Luther of what is today Germany (it was the Holy Roman Empire then), is credited with starting the Protestant Reformation. Yes, he rejected the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church and its government allies/subordinates. But in its place he advocated a different sort of tyranny and alliance between Church and State. And he was free in his advocacy of using the police and military power of governments to enforce his brand of orthodoxy – the root of what is today called Lutheranism.
Not just against Catholics who didn’t join in his rebellion and reject the pope. Against Protestants who didn’t buy his brand of theology, his beliefs and practices. And against Jews. Against what were called “Altgläubigen” (Old Believers) and Anabaptists.
[These groups had been around a long time before Luther stopped being a Catholic priest, or even before he was born.) The Altgläubigen had never accepted the traditions and doctrines of the Catholics, and didn’t accept Lutheran doctrines and practices any more than they had Catholics. They just believed in following the Bible, and certainly did not advocate or practice forced conversion or any other sort of aggression – unlike their Catholic and Protestant neighbors and rulers.]
In those counties and duchies and such that followed Martin Luther, all these groups were persecuted. No, not just persuading the people by preaching and name-calling and and chasing them out of town. They were beaten, robbed, imprisoned, and killed. Including such gentle “persuasion” as burning at the stake. And all these measures were endorsed by, Martin Luther. In writing. Including the need to burn synagogues and heretic’s meetinghouses.
Who did all this? The military and police forces of the rulers of these various jurisdictions, who believed that Luther was “from God.” Just as those who were still Roman Catholic did for their local Catholic bishops and archbishops.
Just as these cops in Tennessee took action against this Lutheran agitator in 2022 – more than 500 years after Luther rejected Catholicism and established his own brand. (Which, I admit, he objected to being maned for him.)
Now, simply arresting a guy and escorting him awa is definitely NOT the same as beating and frog-marching a guy up to a stake and piling the wood around him to kill him in a very nasty, agonizing manner. But still a violation of constitutional rights – rights given by God and supposedly protected by the US (and Tennessee’s) constitution. Certainly not a “police power” of local or county or State cops or sheriffs in these Fifty States.
Religion is just another excuse for government control – and too many who claim to be following Christ and worshipping God are instead in league with governments and others rebelling against Him.
In case you want to read about Luther, here are some sources online:
NC Register article on Martin Luther
Pathos.com article on Luther favoring the death penalty for Anabaptists (a christian group sometimes considered part of the Reformation but existing long before 1517.)
Note: although the two sources are Catholic, their veracity is proven by many published histories (not online) not written by Catholics.
Luther sanctioned capital punishment for doctrinal heresy most notably in his Commentary on the 82nd Psalm (vol. 13, pp. 39-72 in the 55-volume set, Luther’s Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan et al), written in 1530, where he advocated the following:
From referenced Pathos.com article
A question arises in connection with these three verses [Psalm 82]. Since the gods, or rulers, beside their other virtues, are to advance God’s Word and its preachers, are they also to put down opposing doctrines or heresies, since no one can be forced to believe? The answer to this question is as follows: First, some heretics are seditious and teach openly that no rulers are to be tolerated; that no Christian may occupy a position of rulership; that no one ought to have property of his own but should run away from wife and child and leave house and home; or that all property shall be held in common. These teachers are immediately, and without doubt, to be punished by the rulers, as men who are resisting temporal law and government (Rom. 13:1, 2). They are not heretics only but rebels, who are attacking the rulers and their government, just as a thief attacks another’s goods, a murderer another’s body, an adulterer another’s wife; and this is not to be tolerated.
We should also point out that Luther advocated the killing of anarchists and would no doubt have included many minarchist libertarians in that group, based on his above writings.
For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure Luther died believing himself to still be a priest of the true Church of Rome. He considered his theses to be a plea to bring Roman Catholicism back to the faith of the Apostles. Not that it makes a huge difference to the thrust of your post.
Luther’s opposition to Anabaptists (and later to Jews, largely because he supported the Jews before the princes, then the Jews abandoned him) was because they rejected the authority of the Pope and the arrangements the Pope had made to ally the church with the governments of the day.
Yes, I agree Luther’s theology was critically flawed. In trying to maintain what he thought to be the true faith, he ended up in an allegiance not only with the Church of Rome, but also with Satan himself because of their endorsement and use of earthly kings.
Excellent points, Steve. I have no doubt that Luther, like so many others (and perhaps even us) did not see his flaws clearly, and do not deny his importance in the long story of regaining liberty. Or his sincerity. His followers today need to recognize all of these things.