Here’s a key date on the calendar that does not involve candy: Tuesday marks the 500th anniversary of the event that sparked the Protestant Reformation which remade Christianity in the West.
On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses to the wooden doors of the local church in Wittenberg, Germany. In his theses, Luther attacked the church’s corruption and the indulgence-for-sale system that had grown popular.
“He nailed his 95 Theses to say ‘you’re reading the Bible completely wrong,’ ” Boston University chaplain Jessica Chicka said. “Christians are forgiven through the grace of God alone, not through any other means.”
Metro Minute asked Chicka to reflect on the greater implications of Luther and the Reformation. Here are three ideas:
■ The Reformation made religion much more accessible to everyday people. Instead of writing his texts in Latin, which most people weren’t able to understand, Luther wrote in the German vernacular. He was also one of the first people to use the printing press to disseminate mass information. “It created more of an equal playing field when it came to people accessing information,” Chicka said.
■ For the first time, people were able to analyze religious texts for themselves instead of listening to priests and bishops in church. Chicka said this led to “a rise in confidence” among many of the peasants whose families had been on the lesser end of feudalism for hundreds of years. Those peasants started to realize that they didn’t have to remain in their lower social standing, which Chicka said sparked the German Peasants’ War from 1524 to 1525.
“Peasants started to take more authority, and it led to what we now have as democratic institutions. The people were trying to govern,” she said.
■ Luther played a role in developing our modern education system, Chicka said. One of his most well-known sermons was written in 1530, “A Sermon on Keeping Children in School.” At the time, education was allotted only for future priests and the children of the political and economic elite. Luther argued that schools should be public and available to everyone.
He even was a staunch proponent of educating women. By the late 16th century, rural schools in Germany were gender balanced, but Venetian students were nearly all male.