November 1, 2016
I write this on the day known to most Americans as Halloween but to some American Protestants as Reformation Day. A year from today will mark the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Between now and then we’ll see a ramp up of conferences, meetings, and seminars concerning the anniversary, beginning with the pope’s visit to Sweden.
Many people—mostly Protestants, of course, but also not a few Catholics—are talking of “celebrating” the Protestant Reformation. I am not one of them, because there is nothing to celebrate, though there is much to commemorate. Working from the Latin, to commemorate (“with memory”) means to keep something in memory or not to lose memory of it.
We commemorate 9/11 because we want to keep in mind the wickedness of the terrorism and the heroism of so many victims, police, and firefighters—but we don’t celebrate what happened on that day. We gladly would give up the heroism if we could have been spared the terror.
[size=4]A well written and thoughtful response. His conclusion best states my own thinking on this.[/size]
[size=4][size=3]It won’t do to say that, at some point, the Reformation ceased to be needed. It never was needed, and, like bad movements throughout history, it brought more grief than good. It was, and to a certain extent remains, a powerful historical force, one that we should keep in memory by commemorating it—but not by celebrating it. The difference is crucial.[/size][/size]