Luther and the Peasants Revolt

1516 Words7 Pages
Whereas the term “Reformatio” signifies an ideal or something of perfect form, the Protestant Reformation was an attempt to purify the mid-16th century form of Christianity that had strayed from a past ideal. With this fall from the past, the church extended its realm of influence and became somewhat of a business rather than a sanctuary of virtue, faith and objectivity in the eyes of G-d. The church’s new spectrum of power also had the affect of suppressing peasants. Through dictating proper beliefs and a sort of uniform, elite culture that a good Christian should strive to fulfill, peasant culture was increasingly marginalized, deemed inferior to the ruling nobility and even subsequently disregarded in modern hindsight; this perceived inferiority contributed to the nobility’s exploitation of peasants. As the paramount representative of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther appealed to peasants through his repudiation of Church excess power, extension of influence beyond pure faith, and the nobility’s suppression of peasant culture. Although Luther wrote the Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants to German princes in 1525 to harshly condemn their rebellion, one could say the ideas promoted by the Reformation were in part responsible for the peasant’s desire to defend their own beliefs against oppressive nobility.
Luther begins this memorandum by placing the blame of the peasants’ heinous behavior not on the peasants themselves, but on the excess of the Church that has spread falsities among them. In this assumption, Luther accuses the church of “what [peasants] had in their false minds, and that the pretences which they made in their twelve articles, under the name of the Gospel, were nothing but lies.” The ...

... middle of paper ...

...esistance. However, earlier works on Luther not only affirm the equality of each man of faith but also implicates the neglecting of sin in the overall picture of salvation. In essence, Martin Luther’s letter to the princes condoning the Peasant Revolt of 1524 is but an attempt to conceal his ideological contributions to the Revolution itself. It is impossible to say whether this revolt would have been possible without Luther’s Reformation ideals and strives to change the current system of hierarchical, Catholic dominance; but it is for sure that the peasants adapted Luther’s teachings in applicability to their own suppression and subsequent revolt.

Works Cited

Edwards Jr., Mark U. Printing, Propaganda and Martin Luther. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1994.
Rupp, E.G. and Benjamin Drewery. Martin Luther, Documents of Modern History. London: Edward Arnold, 1970.
Open Document