Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Questioning Authority -- 490 years ago

I know, for most people October 31 means costumes and trick-or-treating -- but for me, it means good, old fashioned authority questioning.

That's right, it was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Let's take a moment to think about this -- by asking some questions, by pointing out some troubling inconsistencies in an institution, one person radically changed the course of history.

I think that's amazing -- how about you?


rhitt.garrett said...

This subject hits me at a particularly vulnerable moment. I've been doing some genealogy searches regarding earlier ancestors. This week I worked my way back to Rowland Taylor b.1510 in England; he was church rector in Hadleigh. He married Margaret Tyndale, sister of William Tyndale who was burned at stake in 1535 for the heresy of translating the Bible into English. Rowland likewise was burned at stake in 1555 for heresy. His heresy: being married; also refusal to recant and embrace "church" doctrine imposed by Queen Mary. She well deserved the name "bloody Mary." She had Rowland in jail within a week of coming to power.
The issue seems to me, not the questioning of Authority, but rather the standing true to self.
If one cannot be true to what one stands for, then one cannot be true to self. As Jean Val Jean says in Les Miserables, "I am Jean Val Jean". I noticed Paul Potts likewise discovered "himself" when he realized; "I am Paul Potts".

Unfortunately, to be true to oneself inevitably leads to conflict with some existential Authority, but the option of appeal to Higher Authority begins with being true, and authentic, to/with oneself. That is, sooner or later, a difficult road.

Thanks, Ken, for raising these kinds of issues.

Ken said...


That is a family lineage for which you should be proud. I have another friend whose family tree includes some influential abolitionists and others who risked all they had for the right reasons.

You are absolutely correct -- the struggle to be true to oneself is a difficult road, but it is the only one worth traveling!

Thank you for your comments, I hope others join in the discussion.

James said...

Discovering yourself can lead to Cartesian inner dialogues, as can questioning authority. Also, being true to yourself and standing up to authority tempts some to holier-than-thou pride and self-aggrandizement. Avoiding these is part of the challenge.
Also, you run the risk of alienation, since most followers of the powers-that-be are also fearful of the pot-stirrers. But, as in the case of Martin Luther and the martyrs listed above, truth eventually perseveres.

(did that makes sense? it's getting too late.)

rhitt.garrett said...

We all habitually tend to be driven by fear, especially the scorn of others, and in doing so the "Baby gets thrown out with the bathwater". The power of sustaining the status-quo is always near overwhelming.
There is absolutely nothing that is good and worthwhile that cannot be perverted and mis-used. That is the consequence of true Freedom. Some choose to live in fear, and some choose to live in freedom as dangerous as it may be.
A poem, by Emerson I believe, goes along this line: "I honor the man who is willing to risk half his present repute for the freedom to think. And once he has thought, be his cause strong or weak, will risk the other half for the freedom to speak."