What did you learn about Luther & the Reformation in school?

One thing I totally forgot to talk about in yesterday’s post on Martin Luther and antisemitism is that when I was in school–public school in the United States, mind you, which isn’t supposed to endorse one religion over another–Luther was presented as a great guy.

Two commenters reminded me of it, one who had been to fundamentalist Christian schools, but another who had, like me, been to public school. How common is this? My experience was that it was played as it just being objectively true that the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages was corrupt, and the Reformation forced the Church to clean up its act, so it was a good thing even from a Catholic perspective.

The fact that Protestants intensely persecuted both Catholics and each other was rarely mentioned, with of course the huge exception of being told how the Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom. That the Pilgrims themselves were themselves bastards was left out in grade school and middle school classes, though I think it got decent coverage in high school (The Scarlet Letter was assigned reading in sophomore or junior English).

But the Puritan thing was never put in context of huge amounts of religiously-motivated bloodshed leading up to it. There was some mention of some of the other issues Britain had throughout its history, what with Queen Bloody Mary and all that, but we were certainly never told that Luther was the least bit antisemitic, much less that he advocated executing Anabaptists.

So now I want to hear about reader experiences in this area. We mine typical? Yeah, public school classes don’t go into much depth about much of anything, so I guess you can’t expect them to go into the dark side of the Reformation in any depth, but is the portrayal of Luther as a hero common?

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