Why Reformation Day is Dumb…

Reformation Day is Dumb.

There, I’ve said it. I’ve been wanting to say it for as long as I can remember.

As many of you recall, I just resigned my Presbyterian ordination back in April. It was not an “I’m angry at Evangelicals” decision. It was a deeper, more profound reconnection with the Catholicism of my youth. While I’ve not “taken the Tiber plunge” just yet, much of my system of Christian thought is now fully Catholic.

Now, some of you may be asking, “What the heck is Reformation Day?”

On October 31, Eve of All Saints Day, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses for debate on the church door at Wittenberg. It was sort of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, or rather, when a monkish debate became public. Luther saw (rightly) the rampant corruption in the Papacy, that had become mired in local political intrigue.

There is no doubt that the church needed a serious overhaul. Still, I’m always amazed at how people think Luther was a lone voice in the wilderness. That just isn’t so. Many voices in the church were rising against the sinful practices rampant in the church at the time.

So, as you might suspect, many modern Protestants consider this their “Christmas” and birthday all rolled into one. In recent times, celebrating Reformation day has been used to fight all the “evil” of Halloween. While I’m not going to get into that one, there is an article over at Biblical Horizons that really nails how Halloween’s origins lay in the church, not in some trumped up, pseudo historical paganism.

To this end, many evangelical Protestant churches hold “Reformation Day” parties where kids dress up as their favorite “Reformer” (no joke) instead of their favorite Avenger. Nothing wrong with that, really, but the attitude around it is something I find completely obnoxious and disturbing.

Why? The answer can be found in a conversation I was having with pastor (Protestant) friend of mine. We tried to figure out why Reformation day was so weird to us. He drank his coffee, and then said, “You know, I think I’ve got it, celebrating Reformation Day is like celebrating a divorce. Maybe it was necessary, but not something you really build a holiday around. And, I can’t help thinking that God isn’t a huge fan of what happened after the Reformation.”

I always find it interesting that my Protestant friends who go on about “The Bible Alone” tend to skip large parts about the passion God has for the unity of His people.

Jesus dedicates a long prayer to Christian unity and tells the disciples that, “All men will know you’re my disciples by the love you have for one another.”

Does this mean that the Protestant Reformers didn’t have a good reason for questioning the Church? No. In fact, as we’ve already discussed, they did. But, the way Protestant reformers go on about them is that NO ONE else was raising a voice against the excesses of SOME of the church leadership.

The problem is, the Reformers set a torch to an already volatile political situation. The early Reformers didn’t break from the church until the political pressure became too much. All of them did so with great reluctance and with sadness. Certainly, most of them didn’t celebrate it. They knew, deep down, they might have done more damage than good.

And in fact, in the past 500 years, the children of the Reformation have made separation and splitting not just a sport, but almost a biblically sanctioned sport. I’ve heard (and often said myself) arguments about how the many splits show the glory of God by giving us different points of view. While I used to buy into these arguments, I can’t any longer, because they seem to be profoundly unbiblical.

So, pardon me if I find the whole idea of Reformation Day absurd at best, and unbiblical at worst. As for my kids, they are going to mock death by getting candy and remembering their life is hidden in Christ.

Given that Martin Luther loved mocking the devil, I think he would be doing the same, and not going around dressing up as himself.

I’m sure this is going to spark conversation, so please weigh in below.

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About Jonathan Ryan

Jonathan Ryan is a novelist, blogger and columnist. His novel, 3 Gates of the Dead, published by Open Road Media, is in bookstores everywhere. The sequel, Dark Bride, will be out in April 2015


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