Luther At Worms

Human beings seem peculiarly prone to getting hung up on protocol and “place”. The stark disagreements between the church of Jesus day and Jesus who was the fulfillment of everything their church longed for, was over protocol and place. Questions of Jesus authority,” who he thought he was” and the fact that he was doing things they believed were breaking their protocol and law seem from our vantage point to be “suicidal folly”.

So much of what passes for political compromise, and by partisanship today, has more to do with protocol and place than they have to do with good governance. Much debate today and equally as much legislation seems to be “suicidal folly”, in Barbara Tuchman’s words, (“The March of Folly”, Random House 1984). The political concept of “kicking the can down the road”, may be equally as damaging as the idea that those in power can do anything because of protocol and place.

As we approach the 500 anniversary of the Reformation it is interesting to read all the ideas of historians as to why the ruling authorities of Luther’s day seemed to bull headedly march to their own destruction by never considering listening to what Luther said. “Who do you, a mere monk think you are?” “Do you think you know more than the popes and councils and the church”? That hit a nerve because Luther asked himself the question and it bothered him. The question of protocol and place went away with his stand on Scripture. Luther might err but the Scripture cannot. His mind could be changed by Scripture but not by those sought to bind conscience by protocol and place.

There is a story that pops up now and then about the absurdities of pomp and position and protocol and place. Tuchman mentions it too. Philip III, a king of Spain is said to have died from sitting too long near a hot brazier. Why? Because as king it was not his job to get up and move the charcoal heater. As king it was not his job to get up and move to another room. There was a protocol that one of his lackeys should come and do that and his place as king would not allow him to remove his royal backside to a different place. So he died. ,