The Unsung Holiday

Besides being Halloween, October 31st is the anniversary of one of the most important events of human history, one that should be celebrated. That event was the beginning of the end of an oppressive dictatorship.

A university professor spoke out against an abuse coming from within the dictatorship. The latter then tried to persecute and execute the professor just as it had done others who dared to speak out against it. This time, however, a government official stepped into the situation and protected the professor. A nephew of the official took defiance of the dictatorship one step further by leading an alliance of government officials who pledged to support the professor’s cause.

That alliance ended sixteen years later. However, by that time, there was no turning back of the movement to be free of the dictatorship. In time, that movement succeeded, with more and more government officials siding with liberty.

Today, that liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as in the constitutions of other Western nations.

Today, people around the world don’t have to fear that they will be imprisoned because they don’t conform to the beliefs of . . .

. . . the Roman Catholic Church.

When Wittenberg University professor Dr. Martin Luther wrote The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, it wasn’t his intention to start a religious revolution. He simply wanted to correct an abuse being perpetuated within the Roman Catholic Church, and he wasn’t expecting the kind of reaction that he received from the Roman Catholic upper echelons.

When Luther became the subject of a papal bull, he did what any right-thinking person would do upon being given a bunch of bull: He burned it.

“Luther burns the bull of excommunication” by Carl August Schwerdgeburth (1876)

Luther’s defiance of religious tyranny may have been short-lived if it he had not been protected by Frederick III, prince-elector of Saxony. When Frederick died in 1525, his brother John became prince-elector of Saxony, after which John continued providing protection to Luther. When John died in 1532, John’s son John Frederick I took over rule of Saxony. John Frederick took the defiance of religious tyranny one step further by leading the Schmalkaldic League.

It would have been wise for the Roman Catholic upper echelons to have heeded the advice that the Pharisee Gamaliel gave to the Sanhedrin in regards to the Apostles, but they didn’t. The events of history would eventually reveal that the Protestant Reformation had God’s support.

Although the Schmalkaldic League was eventually crushed by the forces of emperor Charles V in the year 1547, by then it was too late to reverse the Protestant Reformation’s gains. Medieval Europe historian Robert Wilde writes, “During the years 1551-2 a new Protestant League was created, which included Maurice of Saxony; this replaced its Schmalkaldic predecessor as a protector of the Lutheran territories, and contributed to the Imperial acceptance of Lutheranism in 1555.”

Today, Reformation Day is celebrated October 31st as an official public holiday in the German states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, as well as in the nations of Slovenia and Chile.

Reformed churches in the USA celebrate the start of the Protestant Reformation on the last Sunday in October, on what is called Reformation Sunday.

The start of the Protestant Reformation should be celebrated by all freedom-loving parties, because it marked the time when political leaders in Western society began a serious effort to protect religious freedom, which is both the freedom to believe and the freedom to not believe.

Note: Some people might object to this writer using the terms dictatorship and tyranny to describe the Medieval version of the Roman Catholic Church, but those terms are accurate considering what that Medieval version did to people who dared to disagree with its rulings.

The modern version of the Roman Catholic Church isn’t anything like the Medieval version, and the former shouldn’t be punished for the sins of the latter. Besides, any dictatorship and tyranny coming from a modern-day church is more likely to come from a Protestant Church, as seen in a recent case in New Hartford, New York. Thankfully, such a case in any church is quite rare.

Weekend Caption Contest™ Winners October 23, 2015
Rosa Parks, Kim Davis and Religious Liberty