The selling of indulgences, the 95 Theses – what was all that again? A short animated film celebrating the Reformation will whet your appetite for more information about Luther.
It is the birthday of the Reformation. An event that changed the world took place 500 years ago. A fifth centenary simply has to be celebrated. A multi-tier birthday cake has been baked. Balloons float up to the heavens. There is even a rainbow in the sky. Party! All well and good, but “What was the Reformation again?” The animated film made by the Evangelische Jugend (Protestant Youth Association) in Bavaria whets our appetites for more detailed information about the historical events surrounding Luther's reformatory theses from 31st October 1517.
This public posting of arguments against the sale of indulgences practised by the Roman Catholic church is considered to be the “Big Bang” of denominational renewal and division. The practice of selling indulgences was a business based on people's fear of being punished for their sins in purgatory in the hereafter. It was believed that by purchasing these letters of indulgence the duration of these punishments could be reduced. Luther, who himself was indeed greatly afraid of hell and the devil, opposed this belief with the idea of a loving God – one that did not have to be reconciled through punishment. This deprived the Roman Church at that time of its essential sources of economic and psychological power and led to the conflict between Luther and the Pope. When the theologian from Wittenberg refused to comply with the papal demands and made the religious scriptures available to the people with his translation of the Bible from Latin into the vernacular, it finally resulted in a religious schism – known today as the Reformation.
The film draws a simple framework of these complex events and opens up a joyous panorama of history with all the highlights integrated in the storyline. A jolly little man appears with a speech bubble, “Hello, I am Luther.” All kinds of media devices pass by him - starting with the i-Phone, going back to the book. Why? Without the printing of the book – the media revolution of its time – Martin Luther’s 95 Theses would probably have had no impact at all. It is, however, the observer who is to fill in the gaps between the allusions. The Reformation takes place in about 76 seconds. A birthday present that, at the same time, provides food for thought.