“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Communication: a commodity that is underrated, undervalued and underloved. Whenever we communicate our ideas and concerns to others, we intend to get critical and sometimes degrading feedback, which causes us to keep silent for a long time, if not ever. When we see a post on facebook, where a person balks another behind his/her back to please his “friends,” we feel offended because it shows that that person would rather be a coward and promote psychological guerilla warfare rather than be involved in any direct discussion. When we get into a discussion over a post, we intend on going below the belt, through insults, death threats and “echo chambers,” to a point where we get exhausted by their acts of cowardice and take that offender off the friends list.
The Elections of 2016 in the United States clearly showed the true colors of these people indulging in such acts. The victor, Donald Trump won because he had engaged in satanistic acts of hatred and encouraged others to engage in these acts deemed fattening, illegal and even unintelligent. They fall even below the lines of evil wicked pro-wrestlers, like Big Van Vader, Sid Vicious, The Wrecking Crew and the Demolition Crew (just to list a few), who not only submitted their weak opponents in brutal ways, but broke every bone in their bodies doing it.
Yet his brutal acts consisted of demonizing Hillary Clinton and those who didn’t follow the now “President” by using the form of communication we know, use and sometimes abuse a lot these days: the internet. And in particular, 2.0 technology! Consisting of social networks, such as facebook, selfie networks, like Instagram, and blogs, like wordpress, as well as online (chat) platforms, like Moodle, 2.0 technology is one of the most effective ways of communicating with others thousands of kilometers away as well as conveying important messages to the audience. They have, however, been tools for mudslinging and making death threats to a point where people look for ways to block that person, in order to be protected and have one’s serenity back. In my case most recently, after a below-the-belt spat with three Trump supporters on facebook, I not only blocked them directly, but also indirectly.
While doing this, I had an idea for a work on the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther. One of the most important questions that came to mind was this: How would Martin Luther use 2.0 technology to convey his message about the Church to the public and how would the Church respond? How would the public react to his Theses online and in social media?
We need to remember that 500 years ago, when Martin Luther posted his thesis outside the Cathedral in Wittenberg, the only form of communications that existed featured paper and pen, the horse, and word of mouth. That meant that Luther’s way of getting the news around was by addressing the faults of the church through speeches with the audience, whereas his followers spread the word around to people in other communities, even on horseback to towns, like Erfurt, Jena, Weimar, Leipzig, Halle, Zwickau, Coburg and other places, which took days to complete, and it required lodging at different inns, houses, and even in tents along the way. Gutenberg’s printing press, created in 1440, made it easier to copy and spread the news around.
Like in the present-day debates where there is opposition and even misinterpretation that can be posted with a click of the mouse, supporters of the Church worked together with the pastors, cardinals and bishops to not only argue against the revolution being sought by Luther but also apprehend him and bring him to his senses. This all occurred by word of mouth and by having couriers send letters around, going up the hierarchy of the Church until that day on January 3, 1521, when Pope Leo excommunicated Luther, and three months later when Luther spoke the truth with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Worms and was subsequentially declared an outlaw. Sometimes debates with the church ended in violence, which if compared with the Elections of 2016, without 2.0 communication, there would have been more fist fights in saloons, bars, restaurants and on the streets than at the Trump rallies. With 2.0 communication all the fighting can be done with the keyboard, emoticons and a click of the mouse.
We do know two variables that go along with social networking and blogging: the messages can be conveyed much faster than by horse, mouth or even the press. The audience would be reached in larger masses than at that time when the 95 theses were posted, for Luther’s revolution was focused on eastern Germany first and it took four years until it spread to the south, towards Rome. It would take another 150 years until Lutheranism spread to all of Europe and parts of Asia and eventually to America. In other words, with 2.0 technology, the whole world would have known about the faults of the Church within a matter of four minutes, instead of four years!
Like in the 2016 Elections, Luther’s 95 Theses would have impacted global society within a matter of seconds. Luther would have several forms of social media at his disposal to convey his message to the world, yet the easiest way for him to do that was to produce a new blog, facebook account and even Instagram and spread the word on his treatsies in the following order:
- Luther would post his 95 Theses on his blog. As we saw in a couple example literary works about the Theses and the Sojourns and Sayings, Luther was a man of quotes and short sayings by pen, but a man of long speeches by mouth, which inspired an audience of the dozens. This means that Luther would have been forced to describe each of his theses in detail so that the reader would understand his logic. As only one in 1000 do not have a Smartphone or iPhone in their possession, chances are most likely that Luther would need more time than what he actually did in the past to write about it in his blog, let alone speak about it in a video provided that he had a youtube account.
- After posting his theses online, he would have to post it on his facebook page- both in his own profile page as well as in the group pages he either is in or administers. In actual reality, it is easier to spread the word when a person is involved in multiple groups that have the same values. Even pages that involve Christianity can be found on facebook in many languages (Even the author is in a Christian network for central Germany). Luther would have to be careful to not overkill his theses by posting them everywhere, where the themes are either contradictory and can spawn hefty discussion or irrelevant. In short, posting his 95 Theses page on the JC Insurance Agency facebook page, which sells indulgence insurance would be a definite no-go unless you want a discussion with Pope Francis. Or putting them on a Jesus-freak facebook page would turn off all the followers as it would have nothing to do with Jesus and Mary Magdalena. 😉
- Then Martin Luther would have to have an iPhone or a Smartphone in order to have an Instagram page, where he could photograph the plight of the poor, beggers and real believers of Christ who want access to his teachings but are denied because of lack of money. By using the features to “doctor” the photos and add some commentary, Luther could try and make the scenes as graphic as possible to catch the eye of the viewers.
By doing all this using the key social networking pages, the news would spread in a matter of minutes, pending on how many followers Martin Luther would have. It is much more effective to have friends of the “friends” in your network receive the piece, as well as followers and members of the clubs you are in, so that they can react, comment and share the post, than it is when you only have your profile page and that is it. Given his popularity as a revolutionary in Wittenberg and the surrounding area, with about 1500 people in his facebook network, Luther would not have had any problems conveying the message.
However, the responses from the people are a much different story……
Going back to the debate over the election of Donald Trump as President, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, people who didn’t support him became targets of slurs, insults and echo chambers. One needs to understand that in a social network, regardless of your identity and views, you are always in the minority and anything you post may be used against you, where you least expected it.
In my facebook profile page alone, over 80% of the 1000+ people in my network are Trump supporters, which has resulted in me splitting the account into two and separating the people between the toupeed pumpkin supporters on one side, and the cosmopolitans and open-minded Emma Watsons on the other- the latter representing the minority! While that measure may be unkosher to some, the most effective way to protect yourself from trollers and harassers is not only unfriending them, but also blocking them- directly if you had them in your network but also indirectly, where you can look up people not in your network in the directory and block them there. In either case, when you are blocked, you can never find him ever again.
Martin Luther’s response to his 95 theses would not only have been with emoticons, likes and dislikes, but it would have produced discussions and insults from over 75% of the people in his network, mainly those who held firmly to the Church and its beliefs because it was the only institution where the fittest as well as the spiritually and financially strongest people are the ones that are granted immunity from the evils of the Earth, a belief that Luther strongly disagreed. Luther would probably have been forced to spend an average of half his day in front of the computer responding to the critics and indulging in hefty conversations, thus neglecting his job as professor at Wittenberg, as well as his marriage to Katharina von Bora, who would have thrown out his computer, cursing it as the devil, and would have taken him to a psychiatrist who would help him with his online addiction. 😉 Or even better, as computer jobs can put on weight, if Katharina was an athlete, he would have been forced to go running with her. 😉 <3
But putting aside the effects on a powerful, yet fragile relationship between a professor and a nun, the response to the theses would have been two-fold. On the one hand, there would have been more unity among supporters of Luther and his teachings and therefore, the Lutheran Church would not have been fragmented into hundreds of different denominations as they are today, like the Mennonites, Methodists, Episcopalians, Calvinists, Jehovas, etc. And if the fragments, then in no more than eight of the key ones, 2-3 of each representing a region in the world where Christianity is in the majority. People would have received Luther’s ideas more in open arms for they would have had a possibility to read his work and interpret them in a way that they would either agree or disagree with him. In other words, the followers would have been a thousand-fold as many as in Luther’s time when he posted them. Discussions would have fanned out almost instantly, which would have resulted in negative impacts on Luther.
That meant that the Church in Rome would have been informed of Luther’s revolution right away, and he would have been apprehended within a matter of days, instead of the four years it took to not only excommunicate him but also exile him at Wartburg near Eisenach. Damage control would surely have been needed because of the growing opposition toward the Church. Instead of bishops and pastors taking to the streets as the only measure to attract and keep the number of congregators, as seen 500 years ago, with the use of 2.0 Technology and the internet, the Church would have been forced to issue statements right away, protecting its fundamental values and its reputation, while at the same time, play down Luther’s Theses and its effects on the institution and its people on its website as well as through the homepages of cardinals, and even the Pope. In reality, the Vatican has its own website, where you can look at its government, how it was founded and the people who run the smallest city-state. Discussions with the Church with negative consequences would have been high and hot on the facebook pages of those working for the Church, including that withe Pope, thus keeping him from performing his duties.
People opposing Luther would have trolled him on facebook and presented their facts supporting the Church, while demonizing him in the process. The discussion about the Church would have been just as intensive if not even more than with the Elections of 2016 because society before Luther was already established, and the Church was its anchor. It was only at the time of the Theses where Luther reshaped the way we believe in Christ, and the respondants would either have praised him and embraced change or opposed it, clinging onto the old system because it was effective in their eyes, despite the flaws. For 2016, we had a traditionalist of the establishment, a quasi-destroyer of the establishment and a revolutionary from the establishment which resulted in bashing the establishment in general. I’ll leave it as that. 😉
To summarize a rather lengthy discussion of the what-ifs and what could’ve happens, had Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses with the use of 2.0 technology, the word would have gotten out in a matter of minutes instead of years, as with the responses, both positive as well as negative. The message would have reached the rest of the world in a matter of 150 seconds instead of 150 years like it did. The Church would have been forced to clarify Luther’s accusations instantly, while summoning authorities to arrest and extradite the revolutionary pastor at the same time. And given the sometimes misinterpretations of Luther’s work resulting in the Lutheran Church branching off into hundreds of segments, the message that came out online would have been easily read and understood if detailed properly, and there would have been only eight at the most, 2-3 per region in the world.
Whether or not it would have changed the church landscape the way it happened in real time- where Luther was granted immunity by the princes in Germany and in other regions while being pursued by Rome for the rest of his life- remains unclear. However, unlike Luther’s legacy, where he established the church we know today (along with its fragments), when looking at the Elections in 2016, the use of 2.0 technology actually split society into several fragments, each with its own rigid edges, used for defending their rights and privileges, thus changing the landscape of family, friends and even relationships. No matter what you say or state, you are always in the minority. Had 2.0 technology existed during the time of Luther, it would not have been much different, except that instead of Democrats, Republicans and third parties, we would have seen Catholics and Protestants battling it out on the platforms. It is doubtful that there would be any bloody revolutions like we saw in Northern Ireland, it is clear that people would be on opposite ends of the spectrum, spewing out facts and counterfacts, insults and whineries, to a point where instead of actually killing off the person, like it happened in the 1970s and 80s in Northern Ireland, all the person needs to do is delete the other from facebook, never to communicate to each other again.
Whether they would live happily ever after with their families and friends remains another story………
TIP: In your opinion, had 2.0 technology existed in Martin Luther’s time, how would he have used it? Would he use facebook, twitter, Instagram or XING? What about other apps? How do you think the people would respond to hs Theses? This would be a genial classroom discussion and possible activity to think about. 🙂