Protestant Reformation

A Propaganda Campaign of Godly Proportion
A key to any revolution, in any time period, is spreading the keypoints within the
ideology of the revolution in an efficient and effective manner. The Protestant
Reformation, which is accredited chiefly to the efforts of the German monk Martin
Luther, involved a very large group of people splitting from the Catholic church, an
institution present for 1500 years before the reformation. A task as large as this split
cries out for a method of spreading ideals rapidly, also present was the need to grab the
emotions of the intended targets of the message. In the following the ideals the leaders
of the Protestant used to attract converts, the use of the innovative printing press in allow
for mass distribution of pamphlets, and the effects the reformation had on all will be
From early middle ages to the Sixteenth Century, the Catholic Church evolved to
dominate all sectors of European life, as the church grew, so to did the power of the
hierarchy within the institution. With this power surge, many church leaders went away
from the teachings of humility, charity, and faithfulness that Jesus prescribed,and slowly
began to give way to an unbridled lust for money. One method the church used to
appropriate funds was the paying of indulgences. Indulgences were pieces of paper
issued by the church, that people purchased in exchange for forgiveness. Many in
European society felt alienated by this practice. Especially the poor and merchant class.
These classes saw a church collecting large sums of money, while inflation and other
economic factors hurt their own cause.1 By the time Martin Luther undertook his effort
to reform the church, their was enough seeds planted in these classes to facilitate a
Besides indulgences, their were many theological points that the leaders of the
Reformation sought to reiterate into the Church. In a sermon Luther gave in 1521, he
states that the Church overstepped its Biblical authority by claiming the right to atone
sins, Luther indicates that Jesus, and only Jesus has such authority, he statesGod has
chosen a man, the Lord Jesus Christ, to crush death, destroy sin, and shatter hell…But the
papal dominion treats us altogether differently. It makes rules about fasting praying and
butter eating, that whosoever keeps the commandments of the pope will be saved(290),
Luther goes on to add that Christians should rely on faith in Christ, not a Church that is
not doing what the Bible prescribes. Luther also criticized the priests within the Church,
he believed the priest had succumbed to the teachings of pagan philosophers, and had fell
in line with a corrupted, money hungry papacy. Luther sought to return the focus of the
Church, to the teachings of faith, charitable works, and humility as Jesus had originally
The ideals indicated by Luther appealed to broad spectrum of people. The lifting
of the finiancial burden encompassed in indulgences appealed to the poor, the return to
original Biblical doctrine spurred the interests of educated and rich. But the question of
how to go about spreading these ideas remained. The leaders of the reformation took two
distinct approaches. First the ideals of the Reformation were recorded in the simplest
written forms, so that all could understand. Secondly, a series of wood cuts depicted the
church as doomed, and showed the holiness of the originally biblical intent for the
church. Both of these approaches, coupled with the ability to reproduce in large quantity,
thanks to the innovative printing press, allowed the leaders of the Reformation to spread
their message in a efficient manner that was never before possible.

The simplified ideals of the church were often put in poetic verse, and then
applied to music, so that the ideals the leaders wanted to convey were present in hymn
form. This approach allowed the uneducated, who couldnt read the printed versions of
Luthers sermons, a chance to have the themes of the Reformation imprinted in their
minds. As we see in the opening lines of Luthers hymn, Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Thy
Word, Luther did not go lightly in his approach, he wrote Lord, keep us steadfast in thy
word, and curb the Turks vile sword, Who seek to topple from the Throne, Jesus Christ
thine only son. In one verse, Luther takes a blatant attack at the Church, when this is
set music, this verse would remain in an individuals mind, and keep that person
motivated to keep fighting for the cause.(296) Other hymns ,while not as powerful as
the preceding, incorporated the ideals of the reform, in a similar fashion
The formentioned pamphlets that depicted the evil doings of the Church, the
Devil like qualities of the pope, and Jesus allowing faithful servants to remain in heaven
took the simplification of ideals and their presentation even farther. The first print
observed shows the Cardinals and the Pope, depicted as devils, taking part in issuing
indulgences These church leaders are consumed by hellfire, while heavenly figures
participated in baptism and communion. Another woodcut uses contrast to show the
fallacies within the church. One image shows the disciples bowed around Jesus feet.

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Directly next to this picture is the pope, with the cardinals bowed in similar manner.
The bottom half depicts Jesus chasing the money changes from the temple, while the
pope accepts indulgences. Both of these cuts show Luthers perceived wrongs of the
church. The contrast in particular showed the pope trying to emulate Jesus, a sin itself,
and the church bowing to money, while Jesus rids the temple of those, who exploit the
poor for the sake of money.(299-300)
These images were widely dispersed. They were highly effective in showing the exact
message of the reformation, in simple fashion.
This campaign by the Protestants created two distinct reactions. In the lower
class a series of rebellions by the poor against the ruling class took place, against the
wishes of Martin Luther. The higher classes assimilated these ideas in their lives, and
eventually founded a separate branch of Christianity. The Protestant Reformation is
possibly one of the best propaganda campaigns ever. The leaders of this effort used
simple ideas, catchy jingles, and visual appeal to transform the whole religious landscape
Bibliography:
Justin Chaffin
History 119
9:15-10:15
Essay #3
A Propaganda Campaign of Godly Proportion
A key to any revolution, in any time period, is spreading the keypoints within the
ideology of the revolution in an efficient and effective manner. The Protestant
Reformation, which is accredited chiefly to the efforts of the German monk Martin
Luther, involved a very large group of people splitting from the Catholic church, an
institution present for 1500 years before the reformation. A task as large as this split
cries out for a method of spreading ideals rapidly, also present was the need to grab the
emotions of the intended targets of the message. In the following the ideals the leaders
of the Protestant used to attract converts, the use of the innovative printing press in allow
for mass distribution of pamphlets, and the effects the reformation had on all will be
looked at.


From early middle ages to the Sixteenth Century, the Catholic Church evolved to
dominate all sectors of European life, as the church grew, so to did the power of the
hierarchy within the institution. With this power surge, many church leaders went away
from the teachings of humility, charity, and faithfulness that Jesus prescribed,and slowly
began to give way to an unbridled lust for money. One method the church used to
appropriate funds was the paying of indulgences. Indulgences were pieces of paper
issued by the church, that people purchased in exchange for forgiveness. Many in
European society felt alienated by this practice. Especially the poor and merchant class.
These classes saw a church collecting large sums of money, while inflation and other
economic factors hurt their own cause.1 By the time Martin Luther undertook his effort
to reform the church, their was enough seeds planted in these classes to facilitate a
major change.
Besides indulgences, their were many theological points that the leaders of the
Reformation sought to reiterate into the Church. In a sermon Luther gave in 1521, he
states that the Church overstepped its Biblical authority by claiming the right to atone
sins, Luther indicates that Jesus, and only Jesus has such authority, he statesGod has
chosen a man, the Lord Jesus Christ, to crush death, destroy sin, and shatter hell…But the
papal dominion treats us altogether differently. It makes rules about fasting praying and
butter eating, that whosoever keeps the commandments of the pope will be saved(290),
Luther goes on to add that Christians should rely on faith in Christ, not a Church that is
not doing what the Bible prescribes. Luther also criticized the priests within the Church,
he believed the priest had succumbed to the teachings of pagan philosophers, and had fell
in line with a corrupted, money hungry papacy. Luther sought to return the focus of the
Church, to the teachings of faith, charitable works, and humility as Jesus had originally
taught to his disciples.


The ideals indicated by Luther appealed to broad spectrum of people. The lifting
of the finiancial burden encompassed in indulgences appealed to the poor, the return to
original Biblical doctrine spurred the interests of educated and rich. But the question of
how to go about spreading these ideas remained. The leaders of the reformation took two
distinct approaches. First the ideals of the Reformation were recorded in the simplest
written forms, so that all could understand. Secondly, a series of wood cuts depicted the
church as doomed, and showed the holiness of the originally biblical intent for the
church. Both of these approaches, coupled with the ability to reproduce in large quantity,
thanks to the innovative printing press, allowed the leaders of the Reformation to spread
their message in a efficient manner that was never before possible.


The simplified ideals of the church were often put in poetic verse, and then
applied to music, so that the ideals the leaders wanted to convey were present in hymn
form. This approach allowed the uneducated, who couldnt read the printed versions of
Luthers sermons, a chance to have the themes of the Reformation imprinted in their
minds. As we see in the opening lines of Luthers hymn, Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Thy
Word, Luther did not go lightly in his approach, he wrote Lord, keep us steadfast in thy
word, and curb the Turks vile sword, Who seek to topple from the Throne, Jesus Christ
thine only son. In one verse, Luther takes a blatant attack at the Church, when this is
set music, this verse would remain in an individuals mind, and keep that person
motivated to keep fighting for the cause.(296) Other hymns ,while not as powerful as
the preceding, incorporated the ideals of the reform, in a similar fashion
The formentioned pamphlets that depicted the evil doings of the Church, the
Devil like qualities of the pope, and Jesus allowing faithful servants to remain in heaven
took the simplification of ideals and their presentation even farther. The first print
observed shows the Cardinals and the Pope, depicted as devils, taking part in issuing
indulgences These church leaders are consumed by hellfire, while heavenly figures
participated in baptism and communion. Another woodcut uses contrast to show the
fallacies within the church. One image shows the disciples bowed around Jesus feet.

Directly next to this picture is the pope, with the cardinals bowed in similar manner.
The bottom half depicts Jesus chasing the money changes from the temple, while the
pope accepts indulgences. Both of these cuts show Luthers perceived wrongs of the
church. The contrast in particular showed the pope trying to emulate Jesus, a sin itself,
and the church bowing to money, while Jesus rids the temple of those, who exploit the
poor for the sake of money.(299-300)
These images were widely dispersed. They were highly effective in showing the exact
message of the reformation, in simple fashion.
This campaign by the Protestants created two distinct reactions. In the lower
class a series of rebellions by the poor against the ruling class took place, against the
wishes of Martin Luther. The higher classes assimilated these ideas in their lives, and
eventually founded a separate branch of Christianity. The Protestant Reformation is
possibly one of the best propaganda campaigns ever. The leaders of this effort used
simple ideas, catchy jingles, and visual appeal to transform the whole religious landscape
of the European continent.

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