Curious fact: 500 years ago a man challenged the corrupt religious system in Europe. The countries that embraced that thinking are prosperous today. The ones that didn’t are corrupt and in bailout.
The 16th Century German thinker was Martin Luther and he was desperate to stay part of that great European project known as the Roman Catholic Church, but equally desperate not to support those who were ripping off German believers to pay to build St Peter’s in Rome.
The unfairness of the abuses fed popular resentment until German patience finally snapped. Luther broke away from his beloved Catholic Church, “protesting” in that great rebellion we know as the creation of Protestant-ism, the Reformation.” (25|03|2012 “Germans can’t escape their Lutheran past” by Gavin Esler, BBC Newsnight)
The Protestant Reformation began October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther protested publicly against the sale of indulgences, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenberg’s church door. What people experienced so far was the abusive position of an intermediary. Roman catholic church needed to fund their headquarters facilities, and to do so deceptively exploited people who were easily manipulated and controlled being their faithful layman. The institution not only benefited from a position of control over political power but also prevented people from accessing the foundations of Christianity because the Bible was written in Latin and the people was illiterate.
Martin Luther defended the sacrifice of Christ as redeemer of all men and thus, each one becoming a son, a king and a priest. This new condition eliminated the need for intermediaries to access to God because the only way to God was Jesus Christ. Luther took time to translate the Bible into his language so everyone could had access to it.
With this paradigm shift a sense of individual autonomy arose. People wanted to learn how to read so they could have access to the bible. The increase of literacy led to greater overall instruction as well as Bible knowledge. As the movement spread throughout the country, generations were becoming more educated and Christian principles became rooted in the culture itself. When people learned that all are equal before God, it lead to democracy. When people learned that work is a duty of all, technology has advanced. With the disappearance of repression new ideas could be shared and culture shifted. People learned that they where responsible to use their gifts and talents. The sense of sacrifice led to understand that culturally without any effort it’s hard to get far.
Several other countries had their reformers. France had Jean Calvin, born Jehan Cauvin, who was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Catholic Church around 1530. After religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestants in France, Calvin fled to Basel, Switzerland, where he published the first edition of his seminal work The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. England had John Wesley (1703 – 1791), who became the foundation of the modern evangelical movement. He recently was listed at 50 on the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Britons. Holland was greatly influenced by the Prime-minister Abraham Kuyper ( 1837-1920) and both Norway and Denmark were impacted by Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771 – 1824) who is considered an influential personality in the industrialization of those countries.
France persecuted protestants, Spain, Portugal and Italy remained faithful of the Roman religious system. 500 years later their people struggle with new intermediaries that exploit them, not to build some headquarters with state of the art architecture, but for their own benefit. Curiously, the tactic is the same: controlling the masses using misleading truths. Their cultures passed along the opportunity to embrace core values such as righteousness or responsibility.