Sunday, October 28, 2012

Celebrate Literacy and the Arts on Reformation Sunday

Today is Reformation Sunday.  A year ago, I wrote about why artists and writers should care.  It's a piece that bears repeating, so here it is again.

Even if you're not spiritual or religious, if you're a scholarly sort, you should celebrate. If you're a writer, or indeed, an artist of any kind, you should celebrate.

Martin Luther and those other Reformers not only created new approaches to church, but they launched us much further down the road towards modernity than we'd have been otherwise.

I'm a Lutheran, so let me just offer some examples from the life of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was the first to translate the Bible into a common language that everyone could read. Why does that matter, you ask. Once everyone could read the Bible, the priests lost the control they had once had. Having access to those Scriptures made it possible for people to think for themselves.

And having the Scripture in those common languages made people yearn for literacy so that they could read those Scriptures. And I'm a liberal arts gal, so I believe that more literacy is better than less.

Yes there are dark periods in Church History where the arts have been repressed, and we see that repression more in some of the religions that came out of the Reformation than we do in Catholicism. But unfortunately, one of the messages of human history is that we're always struggling to find a balance between healthy expression and darker aspects of our nature.

So, on this Reformation Sunday, lift a beer or an apple cider in a toast to the Reformation. Take a popular song and make new lyrics, like so many of those early Reformers did: some of our most famous Lutheran hymns have melodies from drinking songs. Read a book or a blog post and think about how wonderful it is to have the ability to read and more stuff to read than you can ever plow through. Try a new art form. Think about your own art form and the reformations you'd like to see. Treat your inner artist with a spirit of grace, not judgment.

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