Internet, television, smartphones – digitalisation allows us to take a look at the other side of the world any minute. A fire in a Chinese warehouse, a snowed-in Lutheran ambassador by Lake Michigan, a volcanic eruption on Iceland or simply the smiling face of a Child in the favelas – we can take part in world events everyday at the click of a mouse. The fast global exchange of news, images and comments creates a simultaneity and brings us closer to every event throughout the world. Due to the increasingly intertwined nature of politics, society and ecology the world is getting smaller and smaller. Hence the final annual theme of the Luther Decade, on the eve of the anniversary of the Reformation, as it were, is dedicated to this special world of ours.
The Reformation as a global citizen
The theme year “Reformation and One World”, which opens in the French city of Strasburg on 31 October, focuses on the global dimension of the Reformation. Although Martin Luther did not travel around the world and certainly didn’t nail his theses to every church door, the Reformation was not merely a local event. On the contrary, although the decisive spark came from Wittenberg, there were independent reform movements in other cities and regions in Europe based on the thought and achievements of humanism – Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich and Johannes Calvin in Geneva, the Lutheran disciple Mikael Agricola in Finland or the important pioneer of religious reform who paved the way for the Reformation, the Czech Jan Hus, all exemplify the global nature of the Reformation.
The Reformation not only revolutionised spiritual life, but also provided the impetus for wide-ranging social and political developments. Economic life was accelerated and the world view was pluralised, not least in the confessions. The separation of the Church and the state or the emergence of civil rights independent of faith, sex and nationality are also after effects of the Reformation. These insights and achievements have spread around the world to varying degrees. Today over 400 million Protestants worldwide share their spiritual and religious existence with the events of the Reformation. Hence the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 will be celebrated, unlike all the previous anniversaries of Luther and the Reformation, by a global community from Fiji to Finland, from South Korea to North America.
Reformist responsibility – including today
It is not only the humanists and later the advocates of the Reformation who brought about the supraregional development of Martin Luther’s ideas and helped the Reformation have an impact as a global citizen however. It is rather the responsibility of the Reformation, something that remains relevant to this day. Even if the world seems closer to us than ever before, poverty, discrimination and destitution are still part of the daily lives of countless people on this earth. And so, almost 500 years after Luther is said to have nailed his theses to the church door, the same ethos remains: to raise awareness, enlighten and protest.
Even if the themes have changed, we still have new challenges. How do we deal with climate change, improve refugee policies and foster the necessary dialogue between the religions? In the twenty-first century reformist action still means accepting the diversity of humanity and rebelling against intolerance, hatred and fundamentalism. And this acceptance of the diversity of languages, the environment and cultural contexts must be further developed in terms of formulating a reformist plan of action. There is no global theology, no unified world view. But by asking critical questions of ourselves and the world, reformist ideas could not be more relevant than they are today.