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Luther nails the theses | Wiki­media Commons

The event com­monly known as the Protestant Ref­or­mation was not a ref­or­mation. To reform some­thing is to change or fix problems and abuses. A revolt, on the other hand, is to sep­arate oneself from an insti­tution or to renounce alle­giance.  

Martin Luther aimed to reform the abuses and cor­rup­tions in the Catholic Church, of which there were many. Luther instead sparked a revolt that splin­tered the Christian Church. Regardless of the­o­logical views, Chris­tians should view the protestant revolt as a great tragedy in world history. Protes­tants should not cel­e­brate it as a joyous or hal­lowed event. Instead Chris­tians should denounce it and treat it with a seri­ousness that becomes its history.

Even if people view the Ref­or­mation as a nec­essary event, they should still treat the Ref­or­mation as a tragedy. In 1054, the Great Schism divided the Church into the East and West or Roman Catholic and Orthodox. The Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church, however, do not cel­e­brate this day as a victory of the­o­logical debate. Rather, both churches express sorrow and regret con­cerning the divi­sions of the Church.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II met Arch­bishop Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church. At the meeting, the Pope for­mally apol­o­gized to the Arch­bishop for all the violent acts com­mitted against Eastern Chris­tians by Western Chris­tians. The reli­gious leaders also released a joint dec­la­ration saying, “We shall do every­thing in our power, so that the Christian roots of Europe and its Christian soul may be pre­served. We condemn all recourse to vio­lence, pros­e­lytism and fanaticism, in the name of religion.”

Those cel­e­brating Ref­or­mation Day should take notes from the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church. A schism between believers is not to be cel­e­brated. The unity of the Christian Church is vital, now more than ever. Instead of cel­e­brating the small dif­fer­ences that keep us apart, we should observe the key sim­i­lar­ities that all Chris­tians possess.

The events that fol­lowed the nailing of the 95 theses to the Wit­tenburg door are nothing short of cat­a­strophic. The amount of Christian on Christian vio­lence is appalling. From the Slaughter of the Huguenots in 1572 to the Thirty Years War in 1618, Protes­tants and Catholics alike faced per­se­cution and death at the hand of their brothers in Christ.

The vio­lence con­tinued into the modern age. Christian on Christian vio­lence plagued Northern Ireland throughout the twen­tieth century. It’s useless to point fingers and make claims about who’s to blame for the Ref­or­mation. The reality is Catholics and Protes­tants alike are respon­sible for the vio­lence that befell Europe after 1517.

It doesn’t matter whether Chris­tians believe they are right about baptism or escha­tology or pre­des­ti­nation, etc. Instead of being a ref­or­mation in which peaceful dia­logue and debate led to changes, it became a revolt and a bloody one at that.  Regardless of your the­ology, the date October 31, 1517 should be marked with sorrow, regret, and reflection.

Chris­tianity is meant to be unified. When Jesus said, “I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church”, he said “church” not “churches.” If Chris­tianity was still one, then as a united force, what could be accom­plished? Imagine the esti­mated 2.2 billion Chris­tians all united, all together. Imagine if we weren’t all pre­oc­cupied with debating paedo and credo baptism or escha­tology or pre­des­ti­nation. The good that would flow from a unified Christian Church would change the world. But Chris­tians live in house divided, and, as told by Mark 3:25, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”