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Martin Luther and Banana Peel

Posted: January 7th, 2005, 4:23 am
by zoofence
We rented the movie “Luther” the other day. It’s the story of Martin Luther, the sixteenth century Augustinian monk whose 95 Theses nailed to a Wittenberg church door in 1517 very nearly cost him his life at the hands of the Inquisition, and set the spark for the Protestant Reformation, or at least fanned it into flame. I think the movie was produced by a Lutheran organization, and so it may have been historically generous to him; but all the same, it is a good movie, well acted and well scripted, and interesting.

Although Luther’s principal complaint against Rome concerned the use and misuse of Indulgences by the Church (in Roman Catholicism, an Indulgence is a remission of punishment generally, or specifically a term in purgatory, and in Luther’s time, Indulgences were sold by the cartload in what was apparently a thriving market!). In the end, the argument he began evolved far beyond Indulgences, eventually splitting the Church apart.

Viewing a movie like “Luther”, it is very easy to come away angry at the Church in Rome and at institutional religion everywhere. Goodness knows, history, even recent history, is replete with examples of terrible deeds done in the name of God, organized religion, and such. How many innocent, well-intentioned seekers have been led mercilessly astray by mean-spirited priests and prophets and other spiritual phonies.

But this is a dual universe, and there is another side to the coin. Religions and churches from the beginning of time have produced and sheltered great saints and great teachings from whom every seeker, even all the world, gains. Francis, Teresa, Rab’ia, Suzuki, Ramakrishna, Eckhart, Bodhidharma, Kabir, Yogananda, Inayat Khan, and, yes, Luther, to name just a random few.

Not too long ago, I came across a website quoting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: “Religion is like the peel of a banana, and spirituality is the banana”. Just so, the peel protects the fruit, but is itself inedible.

Posted: January 7th, 2005, 1:50 pm
by W4TVQ
I missed the movie (but I did get a lot of Luther in the Lutheran seminary!!). Luther was and is one of my favorite people, because he was uncompromisingly human: profoundly dedicated to God and as earthy and unpretentious as a rubber tire.

I've held in the past, and still do, that there are two strands of reality running through history from Calvary to the present -- the strand of the visible church, which is sometimes sublime, producing people like Luther, St. John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila -- and at others producing loathsome corruption such as the Inquisition, the Salem witch hunts and the Crusades. But underlying what is going on on the surface is the Continuing Church, the one that came into being in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. The Theresas, Luthers and Martin Luther Kings are surface-level appearances of what is below the surface. They have risen above religion to the level of faith which is referred to in the Bible as "salvation."

Now I hear a rumbling in the background, quite appropriately: "why only from Calvary to now?" Actually, of course, the line stretches both directions. Plato was on that line quite as much as was Paul or Peter. Plato even wrote down the story of the death of Jesus just as it happened, that long before it actually came to pass on the surface. Calvary only manifested visibly something that was a reality from the beginning.

So my object is to minimize the importance of religion in my life, though I do attend and participate in a church and find it very helpful. Heaven, like the ark, is entered two by two. The real object, though, is to tap into that substratum, the Continuing Church, and manifest it on the surface the way a tree manifests the water and nourishment it receives from below the soil. To be, as the Psalm says, "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season."

Shalom aleichem

Egg Tooth!

Posted: January 9th, 2005, 12:08 am
by zoofence
Good points, nicely stated! (I did not know that you had been in a Lutheran seminary. Wow.) I remember reading, years ago, when we had a flock of chickens, that when a chick in the egg is ready to break free of the confines of the shell which had protected and nourished it theretofore, an "egg beak" or "egg tooth" naturally develops, the sole purpose of which is to enable the chick to break through the shell and emerge into the world. And, in fact, shortly after the chick is rid of the shell, the egg tooth disappears. God is very good, very clever.

Egg Tooth

Posted: January 9th, 2005, 11:03 pm
by Ihavesayso
God is very good, very clever.
Yes, as he gave us reason, not religion!

Posted: May 13th, 2007, 12:33 pm
by Speculum
ihavesayso, Nicely put!