30 October 2017

Martin Luther's antisemitism

I've seen numerous articles this week celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, and thereby launching the Reformation.  I thought I'd post something a bit different.

The modern Lutheran Church places a high value on ecumenism and tolerance of religious diversity.
Such could not be said for the church's namesake, as exemplified by this excerpt from Martin Luther's On The Jews and Their Lies:
"...aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew... What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming.... First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians.... Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.... Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.... Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb."
Via MetaFilter, where there is an extensive discussion thread.   See also the Wikipedia entry.

I don't remember hearing any of this in Luther League.


  1. It's really astonishing that someone so obviously capable of clear and independent thought could simultaneously hold such revolting views.

  2. Oddly enough, even criticism of Jews is held to be anti-Semitic. Certainly Luther’s views are detestable. But consider an equivalent truth.... to say that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. Yep, you guessed it—anti-Semitic. To say that Jews persecuted the early church is also hate speech apparently. Oh, that all happened centuries ago? So did Luther’s statements. I am not writing this to belittle our Jewish brothers and sisters, but to point out that there is a tremendous unfairness in how we wish to cast such events. We have ALL messed up and missed it over and over!

  3. Why is it so hard to realize that most people are not just plain good or plain bad but complicated and nuanced? And why is it so hard to understand, especially with historical figures, that aside from whatever they were most know for, a lot of them held views that were not controversial at the time, but would be controversial now?

    The most nuanced person ever must be Fritz Haber, the dude that both invented the way to capture nitrogen into fertilizer as well as chemical warfare. And note that he got a Nobel prize for the former in 1918, after actively participating in the latter. This is the guy that is responsible for keeping you fed and killing hundreds of thousands in both world wars.

    It's quite something to demand of people who achieved significant change to be politically correct to the terms of centuries later. Why not just recognize the significant change they achieved? And then, if there's time left, provide proper context on their achievement, acknowledging that nobody is perfect.

    [Finally, I am not surprised to see that a religious zealot has strong views on another religion. We're talking about the dude who stood up against the very powerful Catholic Church after all]


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