Religious Worship as Political Action
Chapter 7. Religious Worship as Politics
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RELIGIOUS WORSHIP AS POLITICS
In 1517, German Catholic priest and theology professor Martin Luther drove the Protestant Reformation into existence by nailing 95 theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Saxony. Although he intended to spark discussion and reform (instead of breaking away from the Catholic Church), Luther’s short declarations criticizing abuses and some teachings of the Church instead led to religious fragmentation and political civil wars across Europe. Luther offered his declarations as religious and was excommunicated for heresy, but many of his arguments included political implications. He challenged Pope Leo X’s wealth and authority (particularly on teachings related to the sacrament of confession). With the Pope also serving as a political figure leading wars and making political deals, Luther’s critique brought political undertones. As a result of Luther’s writings, Emperor Charles V, the political ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, decreed that Luther was a heretic who should be arrested and punished by the state. Luther avoided this fate in part thanks to protection given by Prince Frederick III of Saxony, who had founded the university where Luther taught and had been Pope Leo X’s candidate for Holy Roman Emperor before Charles V was elected. The Protestant Reformation therefore started as both a religious and political controversy, especially since church and state were closely aligned. In fact, political ← 221 | 222 → theology scholar William Cavanaugh explained that “political and economic factors played a central role” in the...
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