This being the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, some thought occurs about what it takes to be a great reformer. Of course the Reformation was far more than 1517 and the nailing of 95 theses on a church door. It was 1519 and the Luther-Eck debate that threw down the theological gauntlet to the Dominicans, the vernacular Bibles going back to Wycliff, the theology of Hus and Calvin, the preaching of Zwingli and a good deal of politics about things like German wanting out from under Italy and Netherlands wanting out from under the Hapsburgs and Sulieman wanting everyone under him. Reformers have to be tough and lucky. But above all, you must be Plainspoken.
Zwingli, the redfaced blonde Swiss preacher and Hus who did the same in Prague were plain-talking guys whom the masses understood, “preached in their language”. Luther was the son of a guy who owned 7 mines and 2 smelters, who grew up loving the songs of the tavern, the work ethic of his entrepreneurial father and the simple language of the miners. About the only people who could read and write were clergy who hired out to do technology, accounting, and architecture. To flaunt their position, they often used big words and wrote in Latin which only their peers could discern. All the reformers could do this but chose to speak simply in a way that thrilled the ordinary people. Only perhaps Calvin, with his categorization of Christian teaching was more of an austere lawyer than a son of the soil. But all the movements generated what is called Protestant work ethic. Some Reformation thinkers were left behind in the Catholic church to spur reform from within. When Catholics met Protestants in America, they formed a pact of religious freedom and Lockean government. So resonate was Hus that his movement, though stamped out as he was burned at the stake, fled to the hills of Bohemia and lived on to this day as the Moravian church. Zwingli and Calvin’s dogma spread widest. Luther transformed Germany to this day. His love of song, gave rise to half the great German composers of the Baroque/ Classical/Romantic era and lived in “the singing church” that continued Western music to the Beatles and to Christian Contemporary music. Luther’s zeal for reading and writing spawned public schools and a German public that to this day publishes 6 times the printed volume per capita as the next country, USA.
So apply this to politics and we see the ultimate in plain-spokeness in Trump. Where an intellectual reformer is just a dissendent, a true reformer gets things done. FDR, Disraeli, Washington were like this. Trump is a get ‘r done guy who communicates with the people. All this would seem to say that we are seeing a revolution in a revamping of government—if he can get by the hurdles of Democrat obstructionism and Republican blankie clutching. By the time it is over, it may not be entirely what you and I wanted, but it will be lasting in many ways. This, not Obama’s executive orders, is what legacy is about.