Luther’s “wise Turk” quote that he didn’t say

Now that a Mormon is running for president and tends to be favored by Christian conservatives over his Christian liberal opponent, we are hearing more and more that famous quotation from Martin Luther:  “I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian.”  The problem is, no one has been able to find that famous quotation in any of the voluminous works of Luther.  It appears that the quotation is apocryphal.  I suspect it may have originated as an attempt to explain the implications of Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, as in, “Luther would have rather been ruled by a wise Turk. . .” which then was recalled as “Luther said he would rather have been. . . .”  At any rate, I would love to identify the earliest occurrence of that quotation in print.  (If any of you could help with that, I would be very grateful.)

Anyway, despite his reputation as a political fatalist, Luther had quite a bit to say about foolish Christian rulers (just ask Henry VIII).  And he had a lot to say about the threat of being ruled by Turks, wise or otherwise, as the Ottoman Empire was then engaged in a major invasion of Europe, an Islamic jihad of conquest that had taken over much of Europe and that was finally turned back at the gates of Viennain 1529.

Anyway, the frequent commenter on this blog with the nom de plume of Carl Vehse has researched these issues.  Back in 2007 I posted what he put together on this blog, which, unfortunately, was when it was a sub-blog with World Magazine and so is no longer accessible.  So I think it’s time to post it again.  Carl has updated and tweaked the original article, which I post with his permission:

The Wise Turk quote

An August 26, 2012, updated version of an article located at http://web.archive.org/web/20071231154836/http://cranach.worldmagblog.com/cranach/archives/2007/02/draftthe_wise_t.html

In his January, 1997 editorial in First Things, “Under the Shadow,” Richard Neuhaus pointed out that despite the efforts he and others have made to show that Martin Luther never said, “I would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian” or anything like it (even in German), the alleged quote seems to crop up in articles, sermons, blogs, interviews, and even in testimony before a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The year 2012 is an election year and there are non-Christians on the presidential ballot. Thus political editorials in Christian magazines and websites, as well as the fifth-column media, are bound to repeatedly trot out this hackneyed phrase, misattributed to Martin Luther. Let’s be clear. The “wise Turk” quote is an urban legend, an old wives’ tale, just like the oft-repeated fairy tales that Luther threw an inkwell at the devil (or vice versa), or invented the Christmas tree, or that Billy Graham referred to Lutherans (or the Lutheran Church, or the Missouri Synod) as “a sleeping giant.”

This article is yet another Sisyphean attempt to drive a spike through this urban legend non-quote, and specifically to address the erroneous claim that the alleged quote is a loose paraphrase of the following excerpt from Martin Luther’s “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation“:

“It is said that there is no better temporal rule anywhere than among the Turks, who have neither spiritual nor temporal law, but only their Koran; and we must confess that there is no more shameful rule than among us, with our spiritual and temporal law, so that there is no estate which lives according to the light of nature, still less according to Holy Scripture.”

As will be shown below the urban legend quote has absolutely nothing to do with this quoted excerpt from “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility” and any such claimed paraphrase is quite unlikely to have been even loosely uttered (in German or Latin) by Dr. Luther elsewhere. The key points, as they should be for all phrases bandied about as being uttered by (or paraphrased from) Luther, are context, context, context. [Read more...]

From citizens to clients

George Will sums up Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic by Jay Cost, who argues “that the party has succumbed to ‘clientelism,’ the process of purchasing cohorts of voters with federal favors.”

Before Franklin Roosevelt, “liberal” described policies emphasizing liberty and individual rights. He, however, pioneered the politics of collective rights — of group entitlements. And his liberalism systematically developed policies not just to buy the allegiance of existing groups but to create groups that henceforth would be dependent on government.

Under FDR, liberalism became the politics of creating an electoral majority from a mosaic of client groups. Labor unions got special legal standing, farmers got crop supports, business people got tariff protection and other subsidies, the elderly got pensions, and so on and on.

Government no longer existed to protect natural rights but to confer special rights on favored cohorts. As Irving Kristol said, the New Deal preached not equal rights for all but equal privileges for all — for all, that is, who banded together to become wards of the government.

In the 1960s, public-employee unions were expanded to feast from quantitative liberalism (favors measured in quantities of money). And qualitative liberalism was born as environmentalists, feminists and others got government to regulate behavior in the service of social “diversity,” “meaningful” work, etc. Cost notes that with the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, a few government-approved minorities were given an entitlement to public offices: About 40 “majority-minority” congressional districts would henceforth be guaranteed to elect minority members.

Walter Mondale, conceding to Ronald Reagan after the 1984 election, listed the groups he thought government should assist: “the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the handicapped, the helpless and the sad.” Yes, the sad.

Republicans also practice clientelism, but with a (sometimes) uneasy conscience. Both parties have narrowed their appeals as they have broadened their search for clients to cosset.

via George Will: An election to call voters’ bluff – The Washington Post.

Favorite TV shows of different political factions

If you are an ultra-liberal “Super-Democrat,” your favorite TV show is The Daily Show (no surprise there).  If you are an “On-the-Fence Liberal,” your favorite show is the Graham Norton Show (that of the flamboyantly gay variety show host).  If you are an “ultra-conservative,” your favorite TV watching is college football.  If you are a “mild Republican,” you like Rules of Engagement.  If you are a “Green Traditionalist,” you like Lizard Lick Towing, as well as other reality shows (contrary to the image or self-image of crunchy conservatives being all intellectual and sophisticated).

So says a study that gives the top 20 TV shows for each political category.  Find yourself, if you can.  (I found no category for someone who watches the few eclectic shows that I prefer.)  But assuming this is, in the aggregate, correct, what can you learn about the different groups based on the TV shows they watch?  (For example, “Super Democrats” seem to be the main ones subscribing to  premium channels like HBO and Showtime.  What does that mean?  And why would crunch-cons like reality shows?)  After the jump is the entire list. [Read more...]

Romney’s big night

The Republican convention–after a bunch of testimonials from Olympic athletes, businesses saved by Bain Capital, and others about what a good person Mitt Romney is–wrapped up with rambling musings by Clint Eastwood, an impressive speech by Marco Rubio, and then the presidential candidate’s acceptance speech.

What are your thoughts on the last night of the convention and especially Romney’s speech?  Do you think the convention succeeded in its stated goal of introducing Mitt Romney to the American people?  And of humanizing him?  Will the convention prove to be a successful infomercial for the Republican party?

Next week, starting Tuesday, will be the Democrats’ turn.  I hear it will be a veritable abortion-fest.  Expect to hear from a college student at a Catholic colleges whining for her right to free birth control, from teacher union leaders praising our public schools, from in-your-face gay activists, from Obamacare fans, and from would-be comedians mocking conservatives, moderates, creationists, gun-owners, and the general public in general.  Democrats, especially when they play to their base, sometimes over-reach.  They think they are populist, but they are not, and they may come across in ways they do not intend, putting off more voters than they attract.  But we’ll see.

Cataract update

My cataract surgery went well, as far as I know.  (I go in for my post-op exam later this morning.)  Usually it’s done with local anesthetic, but my eye-muscles and reflexes were such that they put me completely under, which was nice, actually.  Instead of watching the probe move closer and closer to the jelly of my eye, I simply went to sleep.  When I woke up, it was done.  My vision from the eye that was operated on is still really blurry.  Some patients report immediate and dramatic improvements, but, from what I’ve read, it sometimes takes longer.  Reading and computering (to coin a verb) is pretty difficult right now.   I’ll keep the blog going, though.  I’m working on formatting something big for you to chew on, so stay tuned.  I really do appreciate the support and the prayers that many of you have been offering.

Convention or conventional?

After my cataract surgery, I was told that reading might be hard, but that I should be able watch TV.  As if that was supposed to make me feel better!  So while convalescing I caught up on Netflix and then finally slipped back into my long-held tradition (or is it betrayal) of watching the political conventions.  (My custom, engrained into me from childhood, is that I should watch both of them.)  So last night I tuned into the GOP speeches.

Quick review, because I can’t see very well to type:  The speech by Ohio’s Rob Portman was not very good–he would have been a disaster as the vice presidential candidate, as he was widely expected to be.  Mike Huckabee did well.  Then Condoleeza Rice gave an outstanding seminar on our foreign policy woes.  Followed by New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, the Hispanic woman who acquitted herself well as a rising star in the Republican party.  Finally, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan gave an outstanding speech, showing strong promise as a campaigner, as well as an intellectual bright light.  (The vice presidential debate between him and Joe Biden should be especially fun.)

Are any of the rest of you watching the convention?  Or do you have to be laid up from an operation to do so?  What observations do you have?

Rudy Giuliani has said that Republicans have a better and deeper “bench” than the Democrats do.  Do you agree?  Who are the upcoming potential stars?   This will be a good thing to watch for in the Democratic convention also.  Who are the upcoming Democratic stars?  Are they centrists, leftists, or do they  have some new ideas?


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