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Some Peasant Monk

Thinking back to the discussion at Vanderbilt led by Weinberger and AKMA,  and the debate that arose over the nature, role, status,  and value of "the expert",  I was just thinking about the way the Church leaders of Luther's day looked at him and his use of "printing" as a channel to circulate his views.  They immediately procalimed the printing press as "evil" because it allowed "just anybody" to be heard by a larger public than they as "official leaders" had gained over the centuries.  The Church had,  in conjuntion and cahoots with the crown,  a mponopoly on the "truth" and the "education" of the day,  and so wielded enormous power.

For some peasant monk to so quickly gain an admiring audience ,  without their approval or control,  was cause enouhg for them to proclaim the press itself as a cause of evil.  The evil was that people were beginning to listen to someone else.  And ,  coming back to today,  we can apply the Cluetrain virtue of "Voice" as the tru culprit.  Luther not only championed a "lay renewal",  but also a communication of the gospel in "the language of the people".  The spoken languages are not the only type of language,  as the Cluetrain authors affirm.  The "lexical" sub-set languages of different social groups are a language barrier.  The "marketer-speak" language that today's smarter networked markets are beginning to reject in masse are once agiain infuriating the traditional marketers, as their "market share" is crumbling beneath them. 

The problem the Church had in the early 1500's was that they had enjoyed such a monopoly of information thattheir language had become largely cut off from the people.  The "sacred lexicon" had less and less to do with things that really affected the people other than how it "commanded" their fear lest they suffer eternal damnation if they dare to question.  Martin Luther spoke with a power that enabled them to recalim their spiritual inheritance,  and the power he wielded suprised even himself.  Roland Bainton described this experience of Luther at the close of his book on the reformation by borrowing a little story from Karl Barth:

He [Luther] was like a man climbing in the darkness a winding staircase in the steeple of an ancient cathedral. In the blackness he reached out to steady himself, and his hand laid hold of a rope. He was startled to hear the clanging of a bell.

The bell was the sound with which his words rung out with "Voice" and captured the people who recognized in Luther's writings the sound of Voice that they had not been hearing from the Church,  and they revolted. 

Today,  as the Church faces a new communications challenge,  not unlike what happened with the Printing Press in Luther's day and before him,  with the Gutenburg Bible,  there is such need for Voices to be invited, encouraged, a nd enabled to represent the Voice of the people in the Church.  Not that this voice is being repressed;  but that the potentials for the Church inherent in the Web has not yet been discovered/realized as an avenue to bringing stories to the web.  If we are to help the Church tell its story,  then there is a powerul stoytelling medium that awaits our investment of time and energy to plumb the depths of its potential.

If we do this,  we may well be surprised at the energy this could unleash.  The "re-organization" sought by some denominations faced with declining numbers would happen at a pace and at a level which might even seem overwhelming;  but to most,  refreshing.  

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Last update: 9/23/2003; 3:40:54 PM.