Category: Ryan Walters

The 500 year-old lesson from Martin Luther


A society where commonly held beliefs could not be questioned.  A system of higher learning that attempted to indoctrinate according to unfounded dogma. A civilization that brutally attacks the reputation of individuals who dare attempt to think for themselves.  This was Europe in the 16th century.  In 1517, however, one friar transforms Germany and Western civilization.  Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis posted 500 years ago (Oct. 31, 1517) outlined the injustices of the Catholic Church. It was revolutionary at the time, and its effects are still felt through most mainstream Christian churches today. It is often difficult for those living in 2017 to fully grasp the magnitude of the Protestant Reformation because of the current secular society, but it is that movement that led to a non-theocratic West. Three parallels exist between 1517 and 2017 that may have many in America identifying with Martin Luther’s struggle.

The 16th century conventional wisdom was not a politically correct moral relativism, but the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church.  The church at the time were the sole keepers and translators of the word of God.   In medieval times, those who challenged the Church found themselves burned at the stake. The Catholic Church fought against the translation of scripture into a common language precisely to avoid any challenges to their interpretation of the Bible.

Today certain positions unpopular among some political activists are labeled “offensive.”  Once these anti-free speech factions have ideas labeled “offensive” they seek to have the ideas stripped from any public forum.  The left, which has been noticeably silent when members of their faction use these attacks, has begun to see its dangers. Bernie Sanders, who is a frequent proponent of this political strategy, is recognizing the negative consequences of suppressing opposing views.   Those attempting to silence their political opponents claim they are doing so to protect those who may be offended, but the result is very different.  The forced uniformity of any belief system breeds unrest in society. Meanwhile, an independence of thought is crucial, especially in a society that claims to favor respect for the individual.  Societies that oppress differing viewpoints are no longer representative of their community.  This society would be closer aligned to the tenets of fascism instead of republicanism.

In 1517, it was not public colleges indoctrinating its students, but school systems run by the church.  In the medieval times, period schools were created by charters issued by the pope and the Holy Roman Empire.[1] These denominational schools taught their doctrine with no room for interpretation. This created a ruling class of priests and bishops who were monolithic in their interpretation of scripture. Having a group of individuals come to the same analysis over scripture is not a problem if done independently or with academic integrity. That was not the case at the time of Martin Luther. The fact that he dared to question the use of indulgences and the role of faith in salvation made him an enemy of the religious institution.  We have seen the data recently that point to the overwhelming number of liberal faculty in  higher education.  The Washington Post reported in 2014 that 60% of professors describe themselves as “liberal” or “far left.”  Liberal professors outnumber conservative professors at almost a 12:1 ratio. William F. Buckley, Jr. points out in his seminal work God and Man at Yale that the faculty at Yale forced liberal beliefs on its students.  This is not an isolated instance of indoctrination, but representative of many of our major universities.

Luther and his followers were not targeting the large bureaucratic organization of the state, but the robust administrative body of the church.  Looking beyond theological differences in the Protestant Reformation, (there are many and worth exploring) part of what plagued the Catholic Church was its growing bureaucratic governing body.  There were bishops, popes, priests who decided what was scriptural and in accordance with church tradition. This was an exclusive group of clergy who thought they knew better than the rest of society. Their word alone carried the magnitude of the Gospel.  There seemed to be no recourse for a common man who felt there may have been improprieties in how the Gospel was being presented. Today, a bureaucratic state attempts to govern every aspect of the individual’s life. The EPA in 2016 attempted to fine a Wyoming welder $16 million for building a stock pond in his backyard.   The agency pointed to the broad power given them by the Clean Water Act. If not for a significant backlash on the agency this fine would have remained.  When such power is placed in the hands of a few individuals, whether it be the power of the federal government or the power to be the sole interpreters of biblical truth, there will be tyranny.  As Thomas Jefferson stated, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”  The founders of the American government and the architects of the Protestant Reformation both attempted to reduce the capacity of a powerful governing body.

The effects of Martin Luther’s actions are difficult to quantify.  The posting of the 95 Theses forever changed the way Christians viewed their worldly church authorities. Large segments of the West now view religious authorities and governmental authorities with much skepticism.  This is not to say that many did not share this skeptical view prior to Luther, but that Luther made it mainstream.  One man standing up to the religious hierarchy of his day. Questioning what was to never be questioned. Luther wasn’t just facing shame or public ridicule for these unpopular beliefs.  He was facing death.  Martin Luther spoke for truth at a time when truth could cost him his life.   George Washington stated in a letter to Charles Thruston that “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.”  Speaking truth when it is most difficult is precisely the time when it should be spoken. 

[1] Hermans, Jos M. M., and Marc Nelissen. Charters of Foundation and Early Documents of the Universities of the Coimbra Group. Leuven: Leuven UP, 2005. Print.

 

Ryan Walters teaches Advanced Placement World History, AP U.S. History and AP U.S. Government and Politics, at McAlester High School in McAlester, Okla. He was a finalist for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Competition in 2016.

 

He can be reached by email at  ryan.walters37gmail.com or on twitter at @ryanmwalters.

A society where commonly held beliefs could not be questioned.  A system of higher learning that attempted to indoctrinate according to unfounded dogma. A civilization that brutally attacks the reputation of individuals who dare attempt to think for themselves.  This was Europe in the 16th century.  In 1517, however, one friar transforms Germany and Western civilization.  Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis posted 500 years ago (Oct. 31, 1517) outlined the injustices of the Catholic Church. It was revolutionary at the time, and its effects are still felt through most mainstream Christian churches today. It is often difficult for those living in 2017 to fully grasp the magnitude of the Protestant Reformation because of the current secular society, but it is that movement that led to a non-theocratic West. Three parallels exist between 1517 and 2017 that may have many in America identifying with Martin Luther’s struggle.

The 16th century conventional wisdom was not a politically correct moral relativism, but the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church.  The church at the time were the sole keepers and translators of the word of God.   In medieval times, those who challenged the Church found themselves burned at the stake. The Catholic Church fought against the translation of scripture into a common language precisely to avoid any challenges to their interpretation of the Bible.

Today certain positions unpopular among some political activists are labeled “offensive.”  Once these anti-free speech factions have ideas labeled “offensive” they seek to have the ideas stripped from any public forum.  The left, which has been noticeably silent when members of their faction use these attacks, has begun to see its dangers. Bernie Sanders, who is a frequent proponent of this political strategy, is recognizing the negative consequences of suppressing opposing views.   Those attempting to silence their political opponents claim they are doing so to protect those who may be offended, but the result is very different.  The forced uniformity of any belief system breeds unrest in society. Meanwhile, an independence of thought is crucial, especially in a society that claims to favor respect for the individual.  Societies that oppress differing viewpoints are no longer representative of their community.  This society would be closer aligned to the tenets of fascism instead of republicanism.

In 1517, it was not public colleges indoctrinating its students, but school systems run by the church.  In the medieval times, period schools were created by charters issued by the pope and the Holy Roman Empire.[1] These denominational schools taught their doctrine with no room for interpretation. This created a ruling class of priests and bishops who were monolithic in their interpretation of scripture. Having a group of individuals come to the same analysis over scripture is not a problem if done independently or with academic integrity. That was not the case at the time of Martin Luther. The fact that he dared to question the use of indulgences and the role of faith in salvation made him an enemy of the religious institution.  We have seen the data recently that point to the overwhelming number of liberal faculty in  higher education.  The Washington Post reported in 2014 that 60% of professors describe themselves as “liberal” or “far left.”  Liberal professors outnumber conservative professors at almost a 12:1 ratio. William F. Buckley, Jr. points out in his seminal work God and Man at Yale that the faculty at Yale forced liberal beliefs on its students.  This is not an isolated instance of indoctrination, but representative of many of our major universities.

Luther and his followers were not targeting the large bureaucratic organization of the state, but the robust administrative body of the church.  Looking beyond theological differences in the Protestant Reformation, (there are many and worth exploring) part of what plagued the Catholic Church was its growing bureaucratic governing body.  There were bishops, popes, priests who decided what was scriptural and in accordance with church tradition. This was an exclusive group of clergy who thought they knew better than the rest of society. Their word alone carried the magnitude of the Gospel.  There seemed to be no recourse for a common man who felt there may have been improprieties in how the Gospel was being presented. Today, a bureaucratic state attempts to govern every aspect of the individual’s life. The EPA in 2016 attempted to fine a Wyoming welder $16 million for building a stock pond in his backyard.   The agency pointed to the broad power given them by the Clean Water Act. If not for a significant backlash on the agency this fine would have remained.  When such power is placed in the hands of a few individuals, whether it be the power of the federal government or the power to be the sole interpreters of biblical truth, there will be tyranny.  As Thomas Jefferson stated, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”  The founders of the American government and the architects of the Protestant Reformation both attempted to reduce the capacity of a powerful governing body.

The effects of Martin Luther’s actions are difficult to quantify.  The posting of the 95 Theses forever changed the way Christians viewed their worldly church authorities. Large segments of the West now view religious authorities and governmental authorities with much skepticism.  This is not to say that many did not share this skeptical view prior to Luther, but that Luther made it mainstream.  One man standing up to the religious hierarchy of his day. Questioning what was to never be questioned. Luther wasn’t just facing shame or public ridicule for these unpopular beliefs.  He was facing death.  Martin Luther spoke for truth at a time when truth could cost him his life.   George Washington stated in a letter to Charles Thruston that “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.”  Speaking truth when it is most difficult is precisely the time when it should be spoken. 

[1] Hermans, Jos M. M., and Marc Nelissen. Charters of Foundation and Early Documents of the Universities of the Coimbra Group. Leuven: Leuven UP, 2005. Print.

 

Ryan Walters teaches Advanced Placement World History, AP U.S. History and AP U.S. Government and Politics, at McAlester High School in McAlester, Okla. He was a finalist for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Competition in 2016.

 

He can be reached by email at  ryan.walters37gmail.com or on twitter at @ryanmwalters.



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Revisiting Churchill: Where are the statesmen today?


The English Oxford Dictionary defines a statesman as “a skilled, experienced, and respected political leader or figure.”  To be viewed as a statesman one must have principles, courage, and vision.  These are the qualities that make a statesman respected. 

Why does it seem so difficult to find politicians that possess these qualities today?  One of the last great statesmen, Winston Churchill, was recorded by Richard Langworth in his book Churchill by Himself as stating: ‘How hard to build. How easy to evacuate. How hard to capture. How easy to do nothing. How hard to achieve anything. War is action, energy & hazard. These sheep only want to browse among the daisies.’

Young Winston was expressing his frustration at being replaced as Lord of the Admiralty in the middle of World War I.  Churchill proposed a risky beach landing at Gallipoli which proved to be a huge defeat for the allies, leaving 46,000 Allied troops dead and 250,000 casualties.  While many leaders ran from the ill-fated plan, Churchill took complete responsibility.  Churchill believed “the price of greatness is responsibility” so as the Lord of the Admiralty he would accept his fate.  Despite the many politicians and military leaders who supported this military action, Churchill would almost exclusively carry the blame.  Churchill would be forced from his post, and the Dardanelles Commission would be launched to hold Churchill culpable.  The Commission would go on to find that many of the problems with the Gallipoli Campaign lay with the commanding officers themselves. It was the execution of the plan that caused its failure. 

After being removed from office Churchill would accept the official rank as Captain and fight in the trenches in France. Churchill’s political courage would not be forgotten. For the rest of his life the “ghosts of Gallipoli” would haunt him as displayed by jeers from critical crowds. However, Churchill’s vision of an enormous sea to land invasion would later make the Allied invasion of Normandy possible.  His actions after the failure at Gallipoli also displayed his political courage. A courage that would be displayed time and time again.

It is difficult to imagine this scenario playing out in modern day:  a politician who accepts the blame of a policy which turned out to have flaws in its implementation;  a leader willing to go from leading an entire branch of the military to the frontlines of a World War.  Today it would seem more likely to be a plot in a movie.  We see politicians more concerned with “browsing among the daisies” than achieving something great.  We see leaders more concerned with polling and sound bites than action.  At a time where the challenges are great, we need courage, we need vision.  We need a statesman.

 

Ryan Walters teaches world history, U.S. history and government at McAlester High School in McAlester, Oklahoma. He was a finalist for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Competition in 2016.

 

 

 

The English Oxford Dictionary defines a statesman as “a skilled, experienced, and respected political leader or figure.”  To be viewed as a statesman one must have principles, courage, and vision.  These are the qualities that make a statesman respected. 

Why does it seem so difficult to find politicians that possess these qualities today?  One of the last great statesmen, Winston Churchill, was recorded by Richard Langworth in his book Churchill by Himself as stating: ‘How hard to build. How easy to evacuate. How hard to capture. How easy to do nothing. How hard to achieve anything. War is action, energy & hazard. These sheep only want to browse among the daisies.’

Young Winston was expressing his frustration at being replaced as Lord of the Admiralty in the middle of World War I.  Churchill proposed a risky beach landing at Gallipoli which proved to be a huge defeat for the allies, leaving 46,000 Allied troops dead and 250,000 casualties.  While many leaders ran from the ill-fated plan, Churchill took complete responsibility.  Churchill believed “the price of greatness is responsibility” so as the Lord of the Admiralty he would accept his fate.  Despite the many politicians and military leaders who supported this military action, Churchill would almost exclusively carry the blame.  Churchill would be forced from his post, and the Dardanelles Commission would be launched to hold Churchill culpable.  The Commission would go on to find that many of the problems with the Gallipoli Campaign lay with the commanding officers themselves. It was the execution of the plan that caused its failure. 

After being removed from office Churchill would accept the official rank as Captain and fight in the trenches in France. Churchill’s political courage would not be forgotten. For the rest of his life the “ghosts of Gallipoli” would haunt him as displayed by jeers from critical crowds. However, Churchill’s vision of an enormous sea to land invasion would later make the Allied invasion of Normandy possible.  His actions after the failure at Gallipoli also displayed his political courage. A courage that would be displayed time and time again.

It is difficult to imagine this scenario playing out in modern day:  a politician who accepts the blame of a policy which turned out to have flaws in its implementation;  a leader willing to go from leading an entire branch of the military to the frontlines of a World War.  Today it would seem more likely to be a plot in a movie.  We see politicians more concerned with “browsing among the daisies” than achieving something great.  We see leaders more concerned with polling and sound bites than action.  At a time where the challenges are great, we need courage, we need vision.  We need a statesman.

 

Ryan Walters teaches world history, U.S. history and government at McAlester High School in McAlester, Oklahoma. He was a finalist for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Competition in 2016.

 

 

 



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