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Pondering Protestant foundations.

We are overwhelmed every day by stories about religions on the margins of the American experience. But there is one religion we almost never see in the news these days. And this is not only strange but also demands some thoughtful appraisal. That religion is Protestantism.

It was unquestionably Protestants who founded the United States. It was Protestant virtues that laid the basis for democracy, for capitalism and for modern science. The deafening silence in America about ProtestantismEs founding principles becomes even more paradoxical when we realize that this month marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when the German Augustinian monk Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. It was on Oct. 31, 1517, that Luther challenged a corrupt and unfeeling papacy, opening that door and infinite others to the light and the complexities of the modern age.

Yet I have seen exactly two print articles about the anniversary and no coverage on television. The only exhibits I have heard about are in Minnesota u nothing here in Washington where, as we know, nothing is ignored accidentally.

So how can it be that the actions of the German monk, who intended only to start a disputation about the VaticanEs excesses, the most tiresomely cited one being the selling of "indulgences" to oil your way through Purgatory, are being so ignored? And why?

One problem is there is no overall institutional voice for Protestants and no dominant Protestant thinker, such as the great Reinhold Niehbuhr. But the problem is more complex than mere institutions. To my mind, mainline Protestants, perhaps silenced by the political correctness that disdains any praise of the American past, seem to be embarrassed, even ashamed, of their success. In contrast to the old missionaries who wanted to bring values to a benighted world, todayEs Protestants are guiltily overwhelmed with memories of a slavery long gone in America, while evangelical Protestants have been obsessed with single issues such as abortion and gay rights.

Around the world it is the original principles that Protestants are adopting. In still "communist" China, Protestants now number between 50 and 100 million and are respected for their moral uprightness. South Korean Protestants constitute almost a national church. In Africa, Protestantism is booming, and in expert discussions one increasingly hears that Muslim countries are doing poorly because Islam "needs a Reformation." One thing is certain: From LutherEs time on, human beings from all ends of the Earth were freer, more daring, more innovative, more bold and more joyful in their faith. In a remarkable book published for the 500th anniversary of LutherEs Theses in Wittenberg, "Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World," historian and pastor Alec Ryrie wrote of this faith: "It is that old love affair: a direct encounter with GodEs power ... It is through that promise to change lives that Protestantism has changed the world."

So why the silence in America? One need not demean other faiths to proclaim your own. Indeed, why u when a weary world full of the poor and suffering is waiting with ever greater impatience for exactly the virtues and values of these people and their "love affair" with God?

[c] 2017, Universal

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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Oct 20, 2017
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