Are non-denominational Christians considered Protestants 3

Effects of the Reformation in Europe

Luise Schorn-Schütte

Luise Schorn-Schütte is Professor Emeritus for Modern History at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main.

Protestantism changed the world - as all denominations or religions can claim for themselves. The intended consequences can be concentrated over a period of a good 50 years. All further developments are not intended and are therefore subject to different evaluations by both contemporaries and historians.

A striking event of the French Wars of Religion is the massacre of the Calvinist Huguenots on St. Bartholomew's Night on the occasion of the wedding of King Henry IV with Margaret of Valois in Paris in 1572. (& copy akg-images)

Protestantism and secular power

The division of Christian Europe into denominations had been in effect since the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 (with the principle: Latin: cuius regio, eius religio, whose territory, whose religion) a political fact, from then on the power constellations changed permanently. Instead of a universal monarchy, the representative of which Emperor Charles V (1500–1558) had considered himself to be, one emerged Multitude of regional powers with quite conflicting denominational political interests.

16th and 17th centuries: Since the domestic political contradictions were also dovetailed with denominational conflicts, Europe at the end of the 16th and 17th centuries was shaped by a never-ending series of denominational conflicts. Last but not least, the tensions turned into devastating ones Wars of religion, to which the Huguenot Wars in France (1562–1598), the Dutch struggle for freedom from 1568, the English Civil War (1642–1649) and the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) are counted.

There had been military conflicts even before the Reformation, so the use of force is not solely due to the existence of Protestantism. The functionalization of the Christian denominations for political purposes, this unholy alliance for the enforcement of the interests of power, for the implementation of political goals with the help of denominational opposites, however, remains an - albeit unintended - consequence of the Reformation. The fact is as "Confessionalization" also of foreign policy and applied to all Christian denominations in Europe.

In research, "confessionalization" is also described as a possible stage in the development of the "modern state". Whether it is a concentration of power in the monarchy, for example, is one of the inevitable stages in the development of European forms of rule is disputed. Because specific historical framework conditions always have to be taken into account, alternatives can be recognized almost everywhere.

The role that Luther assigned to the sovereigns as emergency bishops, however, undoubtedly strengthened the secular territorial authorities; it did not remain a temporary phenomenon. The aristocratic rulers strove to unify their territories confessionally, geographically, militarily and constitutionally. The increase in power that the Reformation movement also brought economically - for example because the property of the Catholic Church, including monastery property, fell to secular rule (nobility, cities) - made it easier to implement such goals.

Nevertheless, there was always opposition to the claims to power of the secular authorities: Pastors, parishes and their officials defended themselves against interventions in the inner-church living space, which was characterized as autonomous; Violent conflicts arose over the content of hymn books, for example. It is therefore certainly correct to speak of the centralization intentions of secular authorities, but at the same time it must be emphasized that they are often only intentions. The Separation of religion and politics was "the" argument on both sides - only over the exact delimitation of the two areas arose again and again disputes.

A general questioning of the secular authorities was not associated with this in any of the Christian denominations up to the end of the 18th century, nor was an unclouded unity of throne and altar. "The new evangelical religion and the new, self-confident territorial state: They are certainly not disconnected, but they are nevertheless essentially separate. This separation is fundamental for a Western model of society," said the former Federal Constitutional Judge Udo di Fabio in 2017.

This indicates the direction in which Protestantism has been moving - albeit slowly - since the middle of the 19th century. As is generally the case in Europe, it had to be accepted, learned and put into practice in this denomination since the end of the 18th century that rule was no longer regarded as given by God, but as a secular right that was exercised by choice (not immediately by all, such as the three-class right to vote), was not inherited and therefore controlled by law.

19th century: In the context of the 300th anniversary of the Reformation in 1817, a growing identification of Protestantism with the German national unity movement, which had only just consolidated itself in the liberation wars against Napoleon's France in 1813, can be ascertained.
It is therefore in this phase of upheaval that anti-French, national liberal and Protestant sentiments came together around the anniversary of 1817. The language skills of the Wittenberger and the contribution he had made to the unity of the German language through his translation of the Bible were particularly praised.

Prussian politics tried to integrate Protestantism as well as the unity movement into its politics; Both currents should serve the goal of pushing back the early constitutional movements with their desire for freedom, democracy and political participation (liberalism) not only in Prussia, but in all of Germany. Again, the religious was functionalized for the interests of dynastic power politics, now as a European phenomenon, also an unintended consequence of the Reformation.

In Protestantism at the beginning of the 19th century there were supporters of early liberalism as well as supporters of a national freedom movement; the constitutional questions were controversial. Protestant pastors and parishes were thus to be found as part of the articulating early liberal bourgeoisie on both sides of the controversies over the constitutional question. The Hessian constitutional struggle in the 1830s, which was also intended to determine constitutional forms for the churches, is an example of this.

In general, it must be taken into account that developments in the German territories of the 19th century, as in the rest of Europe, often took very different paths. "The" Church and "Protestantism did not exist as a single bloc.
For example, Lutheran pastors and their parishes in the Grand Duchy of Baden around 1860/70 showed a great deal of openness to Protestantism and the modern world. For the practical pastoral care and the political participation of the clergy there was a "pastoral concept of citizenship", which is described as "political bourgeoisie". And in Prussia, too, the "political clergyman" was a much discussed phenomenon in the middle of the 19th century and a problem for many parishioners as well as for some governments, because some Christians did not want to see political opinions carried into the church.

The relationship between the Protestant church, clerical office and politics was always controversial, but a "political religion" was rejected. In 1863 the Bavarian Lutheran Consistory emphatically formulated that no Christian is obliged to a certain political opinion: "What is more wrong than this, to say that a Christian as such must be a royalist, or he must be a republican, or he must be a constitutionalist or something like that His Christianity obliges him to nothing but that he does not think of abolishing the existing order by force, but that he actually himself as a royalist in an unconditional monarchy, as a constitutionalist in a constitutional state, and as a republican in a republic hold. " Both the Lutheran and the Calvinist Reformed side openly criticized the secular authorities, and a politically divergent attitude was expressly claimed.

After the founding of the empire in 1870/71, national, anti-Catholic currents interlocked in large parts of Lutheranism with the awareness that they would play a key role in supporting the new German monarchy in the empire. In research this is described as "pastor nationalism". It is understandable that there were hardly any such movements in the Catholic part of the empire, because there devout Catholics were faced with a dilemma between the claims of the Catholic Church (ultramontanism) and the claim to power of the autonomous nation-state.