Monday, October 31, 2016

A Different Kind of October 31 Movie

It’s October 31, so that must mean it’s time to steal some chocolate from the kids’ haul and put in a scary movie, right? What’s that? Gratuitous blood and brain matter are not your choice for a weekday evening? Well, then, let me suggest a movie celebrating that other October 31 holiday, Reformation Day.

Did you know Reformation Day is an actual civic holiday in some parts of the world? It commemorates the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Supposedly, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door on October 31. His choice of venue and timing make sense. Posting messages on the door was common during that era, and the following day (November 1) was a holy day of obligation when everyone would have gone to church. You know, it was kind of like putting a notice on Macy’s door on Black Friday.

Martin Luther wasn’t the first person to call for reforms in the church, only the most successful. For several centuries, clergymen such as Wycliffe, Hus and Erasmus had voiced concerns about perceived abuses. Church leaders burned Hus at the stake in for his troubles and exhumed Wycliffe’s body 40 years after his death so they could do likewise to his corpse. Challenging the church was dangerous business in 1517. But Luther had two things going for him: a new invention called the printing press (which let his words be widely published) and a sympathetic ruler (Frederick of Saxony) who protected him from the wrath of the established church.

The 2003 film Luther tells the story of the young monk who agonized over his sin until he read about God’s grace.

The movie follows the major events in Luther's life, although it glosses over some of his more controversial opinions. (Some of the film's funding came from the Lutherans.) However, whatever you think of Luther the man, there's no denying he started a movement that changed the trajectory of Western Civilization. Our notions of representative government and individual rights trace their foundations to the Reformation. Perhaps it's not coincidence that Americans will be going to the polls to elect their new president just one week after Reformation Day.

Luther has an all-star cast, period costumes, and a wonderful score. It's rated PG-13 for violence, so tuck the little ones into bed before you put it on the telly. Besides, you don't want them to see you taking their candy.

P.S. I couldn't fit this into the post, but I thought it was too cute to pass up. 

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