Seeing It From Russia’s Point of View

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“This week, with Washington rejecting two of Moscow’s three key security demands, Russian military equipment massing near the border with Ukraine and NATO “prepared for the worst,” the question dominating global affairs remains: Will Russia invade Ukraine?”

“The White House answer is a qualified yes, the Kremlin’s a qualified no. Two of Western Europe’s most powerful countries, Germany and France, seem to think Putin is bluffing; a third, the U.K., seems pretty sure he’s not. Kyiv, meanwhile, is downplaying the threat of an imminent invasion by Russia. Analysts are similarly split.” — Parsing the Evidence: Will Russia Invade Ukraine? January 27, 2022

There is an old saying that you should walk a mile in another’s shoes before you judge them.  Today, we are once more on the brink of a war with Russia.  For over 100 years, Russia has been the big bad boogie man for America.  Nothing Russia does or says can be trusted, at least according to our politicians.  It never seems to occur to people that Russians want the same thing as Americans and have the same dreams and hopes as we do.

Before I go any further, I am not a big fan of Russia or Putin.  Two years ago, Karen and I had a trip scheduled to go from Paris to Moscow.  We had tickets to attend the Bolshoi Ballet.  Everything was ready to go and then Covid hit the world.  We had to cancel our trip.  We were able to get most of our money either refunded or saved in a voucher for future travel.  The Bolshoi was the first to return our money for the tickets we had purchased.  However, the Russian embassy was not as liberal with returning the money that we had to pay for our visas.  Between the Russian and Belarus visas, we were out about 1,000 dollars.

We rescheduled a trip to Spain in 2021 with the moneys that had originally been allocated for our Russian trip.  Karen wanted to go to Russia as we had planned but I was angry about not being able to get a refund for our visas and I said “F—K Russia.  Putin has a reputation for being both a strong leader and a bully.  Many liberals in this country blame him for helping Trump get elected.  It certainly seemed to me that Putin and Trump were “kissing” cousins.  I detest Trump and anyone that helped get him elected.  Thus, you see my “credentials” for disliking Putin are greater than many.

With the above caveats about my Russian attitudes, I will now mention that as much as I dislike Putin, I also do not trust any motives given by Democrats or Republicans for beating the drums of war in this country.  With Vietnam, it was the lies about the domino effect.  Still a lie used by many to justify war.  With Iraq, it was the lies about the “weapons of mass destruction.”  There have been many coups in South America orchestrated by the CIA to destabilize regimes that we thought threatened American interests.  Seldom does the public get any truth about these clandestine efforts.  So let’s look at some facts before we decide that Russia is once more the “bad” guy in the recent Ukraine problem.

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Russia is ready to go to war!

The newspapers, Biden, and our Secretary of State Blinken are all shouting to the rooftops that Putin and the Russians are poised for war.  The former defense minister under President Zelenskyy from 2019 to 2020 for the Ukraine, Andrij Zagorodniuk, was interviewed by an NPR reporter the other morning and he said, “It just isn’t so!”  He gave the following reasons.

  1. Ukrainian estimates of Soviet troop strength are too small for them to attack without serious loses. The Ukraine has nearly 280,000 combat ready troops and Russia has only 125,000 troops on the border.  The Ukraine army is the third largest in Europe after the Russian and French Armed Forces.
  2. The Ukrainian intel shows no evidence of enough medical units necessary to support a sustained war.  He does not believe that Russia would attack without medevac units available.
  3. He doubts that Russia would attack just before the beginning of the Olympic Games.  China is a Russian ally, and they have a vested interest in the Olympics generating favorable publicity for China.  If Russia attacks the Ukraine, the publicity around the Olympics would be vastly overshadowed by the news following the Russian attack.

Why has Russia massed its troops on the border of the Ukraine?

Once upon a time, there was two big alliances of countries in Europe.  There was the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) and there was the Warsaw Pact.  These alliances consisted of countries with treaties to protect the other members of the alliance.  NATO had about 20 members and the Warsaw Pact had nine members.  With the end of the Russia hegemony over much of Eastern Europe, many countries left the Warsaw Pact.  Several of these former Soviet allies joined NATO.  The number of NATO countries now stands at 30 members.  The former Warsaw Pact has been reorganized and is now called “The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).”  It consists of six member countries, the largest of which is still Russia.  To say that the Warsaw Pact has been downsized would be a gross understatement.

“The CSTO is a much weaker organization in military terms than the Warsaw Pact was. According to NATO histories, in 1984 the Warsaw Pact ground forces had six million soldiers serving in 192 divisions, as compared to 4.5 million NATO soldiers serving in 115 divisions. Approximately one-third of Warsaw Pact forces were Soviet, while approximately twenty percent of NATO forces were from the United States. The Warsaw Pact also had a significant preponderance of battle tanks, artillery and attack helicopters. At present, NATO member states have a total of approximately 3.5 million soldiers, while CSTO member states’ militaries have just over one million soldiers. About 40 percent of current NATO troop strength comes from the United States, while approximately 85 percent of CSTO troop strength comes from Russia.”  Russia and Collective Security: Why CSTO Is No Match for Warsaw Pact — 5-27-2020, Dimitry Gorenburg,  Harvard Kennedy School for International Affairs.

So now we have the USA attempting to convince the Ukraine to join NATO.  Imagine if you will Russia attempting to get Canada or Mexico or Peru or Brazil to join CSTO.   What do you think we would do in the USA?  Do you remember what happened with the Cuban Missile Crisis?  In this event, Khrushchev went ballistic because the USA attempted to place missiles on Turkey’s borders facing Russia.  Russia decided to retaliate by sending missiles to Castro who was a Russian ally.  Cuba is only 90 miles from the USA border making it easy for any missiles to strike American targets.

Then President Kennedy faced off against Khrushchev.  Many people think the victory went to Kennedy since Russia withdrew their missiles.  What is less well known is that Kennedy withdrew our missiles in Turkey and agreed to Khrushchev’s demand that we promise not to invade Cuba.  The resulting publicity in America made it look like a wild-west gun fight with the clear winner being the USA.  The truth was hardly ever mentioned.

Consider the scenario we have now.  Putin has made several demands in respect to protecting Russia.  These demands hinge on the relationship between the Ukraine and the USA.  Putin understandably does not want to see a neighbor as close as the Ukraine is to Russia become any closer to either NATO or the USA.  Again, what would we do if Mexico wanted to become a Russian ally?  For the USA, negotiations hinge on three key points laid out by Secretary Blinken.

We make clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend – including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances.”

  1. Ukrainian sovereignty
  2. Ukrainian territorial integrity
  3. The rights of states to choose their own alliances and security arrangements

Consider these three “non” negotiable principles that we are using that could bring us to the brink of a Third World war.

First of all, when did Ukrainian sovereignty become a core principle of American politics?  According to Micah Zenko who is a fellow in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, the USA has repeatedly violated the sovereign rights of Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  We have a doctrine called the Monroe Doctrine that we have used to violate the sovereign rights of numerous countries in South America including Columbia, Peru, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, and many others.  All of a sudden, we are concerned enough to go to war with Russia over the sovereign rights of the Ukraine?

If you look at the key points of the Monroe Doctrine you can see how hypocritical Blinken’s principles are:

“Monroe made four basic points: (1) the United States would not interfere in European affairs; (2) the United States recognized and would not interfere with existing colonies in the Americas; (3) the Western Hemisphere was closed to future colonization; and (4) if a European power tried to interfere with any nation in the Americas, that would be viewed as a hostile act against the United States.” — Brittanica

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It seems that we reserve the right to meddle in the sovereign affairs of our neighbors in this hemisphere, and we also now claim the right to meddle in the sovereign affairs of neighbors in the Eastern Hemisphere.  Blinken’s third principle about the rights of states to choose their own alliances is just as hypocritical and even more ludicrous.  We may say that we support the rights of other nations to enact treaties and alliances, but in reality we often do everything we can to undermine these efforts.

“The United States enters into more than two-hundred treaties each year on a range of international issues, including peace, defense, human rights, and the environment. Despite this seemingly impressive figure, the United States constantly fails to sign or ratify treaties the rest of the world supports.” — On International Treaties, the United States Refuses to Play Ball, Council on Foreign Relations.  — by Anya Wahal, January 7, 2022

What is really going on here?

My friend Bruce wants to know why we are pushing a policy that could potentially result in a war that ends life as we know it on earth.  Is it ego, politics, economics, power, stupidity, or a combination of all of them?  I honestly do not know.  I do know that 2 + 2 equals 4 and that the facts of this situation are out of proportion to the potential consequences.

My friend Denny wants to know why the media is so hell bent on pushing a narrative that only looks at one side of the issues and that seems to applaud the most dangerous rhetoric possible.

All three of us want to know why there has not been more skepticism in the media towards the efforts of politicians to push this potential conflict forward.  This morning on NPR I listened to an uncritical interview with some politician from Pennsylvania who thinks sending 50,000 American troops over to the Ukraine would be a good idea.  According to this brainless idiot, we must “Nip it in the bud.”  The old domino effect is still used to push a narrative of impending disaster if we don’t do something right now.

Is it too much to ask, to see both sides of the story?  Is it too much to ask to expect to see facts and not just hyperbole being used by our elected officials?  Where are the journalists that are paid to present both sides of the story?  How long did it take for them to discover that there were no weapons of mass destruction?  Will we be in a war over the Ukraine before the media finds the real reasons behind this conflict.

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Finally and most importantly, why are there two standards at play here?  We have one standard for Russia and another standard for the USA.  Are the lives of our citizens so cheap that we are willing to put them on the firing line once more for a political or economic cause?  Are the lives of Russians and Ukrainians so cheap that we can use them as cannon fodder for our own national objectives?  What if our goals and strategies were to help both Russia and the Ukraine find ways to work together more effectively instead of becoming the middleman in a war?

If you think I am making any sense with this blog, I encourage you to share it with others and to send it to any politicians out there who may be willing to listen to reason. 

Sex:  The Region of Permissions and the Region of Prohibitions

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In an earlier blog, I said that sex was like a continent divided into two regions.  One region gave permissions or legitimacies to certain sexual practices.  The other region consisted of prohibitions concerning sexual practices.  Some sexual practices have been and in some countries still are prohibited by law.  Permissions and prohibitions are defined by religion, culture, and politics.  These elements influence the individual in terms of their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial appeal for sex.

Religion:

Religious teachings exert a powerful impact on what is permissible in terms of sex.  According to many religions, a man and a woman must be married to have sex.  Adultery is a term for a married individual who has sexual relations with someone they are not married to.  ““Thou shalt not commit adultery” is found in the Book of Exodus (Exodus 20:14) of the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament.  It is considered the sixth commandment by Roman Catholic and Lutheran authorities, but the seventh by Jewish and most Protestant authorities.” Wiki

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Jesus in the New Testament forgave a woman who was considered an adulterer when the crowd was going to stone her to death.  The religious taboos against adultery are only one of many religious taboos concerning sex.  Sex is forbidden among sex partners when procreation is not the objective and in certain physical positions not thought of as proper.  In some religions there is no such thing as rape between a husband and his wife.  Most religions prohibit sex between same sex partners.

Many of the prohibitions against sex by religions seem ludicrous and without any purpose.  Some such as the adultery prohibitions are almost impossible to enforce and are disregarded by a large number of religious adherents regardless of their theology or faith.

  • Statistics on Infidelity Rate: (2021): How Much Cheating is Going On?
  • Surveys show that 22% of married men have committed an adulterous act at least once in their life
  • 14 percent of married women have had affairs at least once during their married lives

Infidelity remains the number one reason that married and unmarried relationships end all across the world.  Everyone admits that cheating is wrong.  Religions rail against adultery and infidelity but humans routinely ignore the sanctions and prohibitions.  No one seems to stop and ask why we permit religions to prohibit many acts which people routinely perform.

anti-gay-but-sex-abuse-ok (2)The Catholic Church prescribes celibacy for its nuns and priests.  The recent scandals regarding the abuse of power by priests, bishops and cardinals would suggest a serious hypocrisy.  More importantly perhaps would be for the church to ask itself if these prohibitions do any good or serve any purpose.  Tradition may have a role in life but there is also a time when traditions must be changed.

Traditions can become evil when they force people to commit acts which religion regards as sinful yet are only a manifestation of human nature.  It is natural for people to be attracted to others and to want to make love to people they are attracted to.  Prohibitions based on the age of consent make sense.  It may be argued that the age of consent is a nebulous number that varies from country to country, but no one would argue that there should not be some age of consent.

“Age of consent laws vary considerably worldwide, although most countries require young people to be over 14 before having sex. Angola and the Philippines at 12, and several other countries, including South Korea and Japan at 13.”  —  “Age Of Consent By Country 2021

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So why are religions so opposed to sex?  What are the benefits that religions get out of controlling sex?  Why do religions make life difficult for their members by imposing sexual mandates which will be broken repeatedly and are broken repeatedly.  Even the authorities in various religions are guilty of breaking their own prohibitions.  Why?  Why? Why?

“Sexually awakened women, affirmed and recognized as such, would mean the complete collapse of the authoritarian ideology.” — Wilhelm Reich

The simple answer is power.  As Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Churches exert power in a variety of ways.

  • They control who goes to heaven and who goes to hell
  • They control who is forgiven their sins and who is not
  • They control a number of sacraments needed to live a sacred life

Perhaps the most powerful control they exert over their members is their domination of the sex life of their members.  By controlling who can have sex, who they can have sex with, what sex is for and when it can be used, religions keep their financial treasuries full.  Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Divorce are all sacraments that churches use to make sure that their halls are full on Sunday or Saturday.  There is a looming problem though.

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People are not going to church anymore.  The non-affiliated outnumber the affiliated.  Even those people who declare themselves with some religion seldom go to church anymore.  They may show up for marriage, baptism, and confirmation but after that they are like ghosts.  Only twenty-four percent of Americans attend a church service each week. — “Church attendance of Americans 2020”  Mainstream churches are losing members faster than baby boomers are dying off.  Any company that lost a share of its market like these churches have would take a serious look at its products and services.  Religions seem to be blind to the changes that culture are bringing to peoples views on sex.  Next blog we will look at the cultural influences on sex that impact what is permissible and what is not.

“I am not a Christian or a Jew or a Mohammedan, a Mormon, Polygamist, Homosexual, Anarchist or Boxer. . . . I do not believe that, in order to be religious in the good and genuine sense of the word, one has to ruin one’s love life and has to become rigid and shrunken in body and soul. I know that what you call “God” actually exists, but in a different way from what you think: as the primal cosmic energy in the universe, as your love in your body, as your honesty and your feeling of nature in you and around you.”  — Wilhelm Reich

The God of Hypocrisy

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The most merciless God of all is the God of Hypocrisy.  But did you know that the Greeks and Romans did not have a God or God of Hypocrisy?  According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word hypocrisy:

“The word hypocrisy ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player.” The Greek word itself is a compound noun: it’s made up of two Greek words that literally translate as “an interpreter from underneath.”

This is a rather benign term for one of the most dangerous people of all time.  We commonly think of a Hypocrite as someone that says one thing and does another.  However, before we come back to how the God of Hypocrisy was born and who her parents were, let us look at some examples of hypocrisy to see why I say she is the most merciless of all Gods.  Our first example must start with the Greeks themselves.  The very ones who conveniently never found or identified the God.

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Once upon a time in old Greece, there was a man named Socrates.  You all know who Socrates was since the Delphic Oracle pronounced him the smartest man in the world.  That appellation came because only Socrates among millions of men (women did not count back then) knew that he knew nothing.  That’s right, Socrates really did not believe that he was smart and that is why he asked so many questions.  Smart people really understand that most of the world is beyond understanding.

Now you would think that the Greeks would be overjoyed at having the smartest man in the world live right in Athens.  And for little or no fees, Socrates was willing to help teach all the children of the upper and lower classes in Athens.  But if you remembered your history, they executed Socrates for teaching their children to think for themselves.  Can you imagine a country that even today we remember for being one of the first democracies in the world and they put old Socrates to death for educating their kids?  I believe that is why the Greeks did not identify a God of Hypocrisy because they were big hypocrites themselves.  It is perhaps ironic that in the good old USA, a nation of hypocrites we do not think of the Greeks as being hypocrites.

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Which brings me to our second example of the God of Hypocrisy exercising her evil in the world.  This example concerns the largest and perhaps oldest established organization in the world.  The organization that I speak of is called the Roman Catholic Church (RCC).  For centuries, the RCC has taught the evils of sex.  When I was a young boy growing up with fantasies of some of the girls in my junior high school class, I was prohibited by church doctrine from masturbating to any of these thoughts.  Masturbation was then and even now defined as some type of evil activity that would cause hair to grow on my palms and immediately identify me as a sinner and masturbator.

Go ahead and type in the following in Google: “Is Masturbation Wrong.”  Here is what you will get for an answer.  This comes from the site www.beginningcatholic.com/

  • The Catholic teaching on masturbation says that masturbation is always morally wrong.
  • Sex is intended to be both an expression of love for your spouse, and a beautiful means of procreation.
  • Sex is so special, powerful, and valuable that it is properly used only within marriage. If you’re not married, you should abstain from sexual activity.

I could expound on many other elements of sex that the RCC uses to create sinners and ensure a ready supply of penitents for their confessionals but I think just this example of masturbation is enough.  You might have already guessed where the hypocrisy comes in.  I know many of you are already thinking how can an organization that is rife with pedophiles be so hypocritical that they can condemn young men and women to hell for enjoying their own bodies.  You might think that this is a 21st century problem for the RCC but just look at the history of the RCC and you will see that a double standard on sex goes back many hundreds of years within the church.  If you are curious about how many Catholic Popes broke their vows of chastity see the following data on Wikipedia:  List of Sexually Active Popes/  This list is quite long.  Can you imagine how long it would be if it included priests?

Just a few months ago, it was revealed that a priest who I had always admired at the Demontreville Retreat Center (where I have made nearly 35 silent Jesuit Retreats) was having an affair with a woman outside the retreat center.  We were cautioned “not” to judge others less with be judged ourselves, but I have always been judged by a church that preaches one thing about sex but has another standard and is apparently infected by the God of Hypocrisy.  I will not go into all of the allegations that have surfaced throughout the world concerning the sexual practices of the RCC.  It would fill a hundred books, but it would amply demonstrate the work of the God that I speak of and her attendant evil.

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My final example of the egregiousness of the hypocrisy that this God sows concerns the so-called “Pro-Life Movement.”  This is a movement also know more colloquially as the Anti-Abortion movement.  According to the adherents of this philosophy “All live is sacred from the moment of conception.”  I would assume this means that the moment my sperm unites with a female ovum, life begins.  Scientists, doctors, pro-lifers, politicians, and lawyers will argue this conception of life probably until the sun flames out and the world ends.  For our purposes, it is a red herring.  A needless diversion that obscures the real truth behind the Pro-Life Movement.  The real truth is the hypocrisy that these people are pro-life.  The reality of the hypocrisy is that they only care about whether or not a woman has any control over her own body.

Pro-Lifers can be viewed at dozens of Trump Rallies carrying their banners and signs but not, I repeat not wearing a mask.  They have repeatedly demonstrated at these rallies that they care little or nothing about the lives of other people that they might infect with the Coronavirus.  However, the hypocrisy of Pro-Lifers goes much deeper.  It extends to such issues as war, capital punishment, caring for the sick and needy and helping to protect immigrants and minorities from abuse, torture, death, and murder.  Show me the Pro-Lifers on the front lines of the “End Capital Punishment Marches” or the “Black Lives Matter Movement.”  Hypocrites one and all.  Hypocrites through and through.  Hypocrites well past the deaths of anyone except the so-called “unborn child.”

This concludes my examples of notorious cases of hypocrisy.  I could provide many more examples.  I think of Jesus calling the Pharisees hypocrites.  Indeed, on a personal level, I have often been infected by the God of Hypocrisy myself.  But if you do not by now believe in the God of Hypocrisy and the evil that she creates, I have little left to tell you.  For those of you who are believers, I propose that we need a name and history for the God.

Yes, witness the birth of a new God.  One as evil and mischievous as any that the Greeks created.  And since she does not exist, let us birth and name this new God and add her to the pantheon of Gods that the Greeks identified.  She needs a birth story (I would love to hear any ideas from you regarding her story) and in my next blog, I will write her story.  For now I will end with suggesting some names for her.  I am open to other ideas and if you care to share any suggestions, please do so in the comment list for this blog.  Here are my suggestions:

  • Phoneycia
  • Pretense
  • Tartuffe
  • Deceptor

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Here is an example of hypocrisy if there ever was one: 

“The Diocese of Brooklyn on Thursday cheered the Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily block Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s capacity limits at houses of worship in COVID-19 hotspots.”

Apparently to the Diocese of Brooklyn, lives are not as important as attending church on Sunday.  Imagine this from a major proponent of the so called “Pro-Life” Movement.  Pro-Life when it does not interfere with their collecting an “offering.”

Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Martin Luther: “Here I Stand”

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I have attended over 35 Jesuit retreats at Demontreville Retreat Center.  Every year at the end of each retreat, I have received a Plenary Indulgence bestowed by the Pope on people who complete a retreat.  Unlike in the day of Martin Luther, I do not have to pay for these indulgences.  My understanding is these indulgences will knock some of the time off that I have to spend in purgatory as reparations for my less than mortal sins.  You still cannot get time off for mortal sins without going to confession.

I am not sure how much time will be knocked off and since I am an atheist or sometimes an agnostic, I am not sure whether or not they will be valid.  I once wondered if I could put them up on eBay and maybe get some money from them.  This would be more in line with the uses that were associated with these plenary indulgences in the time of Martin Luther (1483 to 1546).

Reformation.crop_528x396_2,0.preview (1)There are many who would consider Martin Luther the father of the Protestant Reformation.  Growing up Catholic, we regarded Protestants as heretics.  We all knew that the one true religion was Catholic, and Protestants did not know what they really wanted.  What does the name Protestant even mean?  Taking it at face value, it would seem to mean to protest against.  The dictionary defines a Protestant as someone who has broken from the Roman Catholic church.  If you are a Protestant you practice a form of Christianity in protest to the Catholic form.  There are over 200 major Protestant denominations in the USA and over 35,000 independent or non-denominational Christian churches which are ostensibly Protestant.  During the past few decade, we have seen numerous splits in Protestant churches over such issues as gay marriages, gay clergy, women ministers.  Even though I am a non-Catholic myself, I can’t help but be amazed at the dissension and disunity among Protestants.  I wonder what Martin Luther would have thought if he were alive today.

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In any case, Luther protested against the selling of Indulgences by the Catholic Church and the Pope.  He published his famous 95 Theses (which were polemics primarily against the monetary abuses of the Church) by nailing the theses on the door of All Saints’ Church and other churches in Wittenberg, Germany.  An extremely dramatic way to advance his opposition.  The theses were quickly reprinted and spread like wildfire throughout Europe.  And thus, began what is known as the Protestant Reformation (1517 – 1648).  It actually started even earlier but Luther’s theses were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

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Martin Luther’s position and actions were quite bold, even audacious.  Luther’s ecclesiastical superiors had him tried for heresy, which culminated in his excommunication in 1521.  This retaliation on the part of the Catholic Church was quite serious.  Luther risked life and limb with his attack on the Church.  The following is a list of people executed for challenging Catholicism during the period from 1500-1600 CE.

  • Ipswich Martyrs († 1515–1558)
  • Jean Vallière († 1523)
  • Jan de Bakker († 1525), 1st martyr in the Northern Netherland
  • Wendelmoet Claesdochter († 1527), 1st Dutch woman charged and burned for the accusation of heresy
  • Michael Sattler († 1527), Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany
  • Patrick Hamilton († 1528), St Andrews, Scotland
  • Balthasar Hubmaier (1485–1528), Vienna, Austria
  • George Blaurock (1491–1529), Klausen, Tyrol
  • Thomas Hitton († 1530), Maidstone, England
  • Richard Bayfield († 1531), Smithfield, England
  • Thomas Benet († 1531), Exeter, England
  • Thomas Bilney († 1531), Norwich, England
  • Joan Bocher († 1531), Smithfield, England
  • Solomon Molcho († 1532), Mantua
  • Thomas Harding († 1532), Chesham, England
  • James Bainham († 1532), Smithfield, England
  • John Frith (1503–1533), Smithfield, England
  • William Tyndale (1490–1536), Belgium
  • Jakob Hutter († 1536), Innsbruck, Tyrol
  • Aefgen Listincx († 1538), Münster, Germany
  • John Forest († 1538), Smithfield, England
  • Katarzyna Weiglowa († 1538), Poland
  • Francisco de San Roman († 1540), Spain
  • Étienne Dolet (1509–1546), Paris, France
  • Henry Filmer († 1543), Windsor, England
  • Robert Testwood († 1543), Windsor, England
  • Anthony Pearson († 1543), Windsor, England
  • Maria van Beckum († 1544)
  • Ursula van Beckum († 1544)
  • Colchester Martyrs († 1545 to 1558), 26 people, Colchester, England
  • George Wishart (1513–1546), St Andrews, Scotland
  • John Hooper († 1555), Gloucester, England
  • John Rogers († 1555), London, England
  • Canterbury Martyrs († 1555–1558), c.40 people, Canterbury, England
  • Laurence Saunders, (1519–1555), Coventry, England
  • Rowland Taylor († 1555), Hadleigh, Suffolk, England
  • Cornelius Bongey, († 1555), Coventry, England
  • Dirick Carver, († 1555), Lewes, England
  • Robert Ferrar († 1555), Carmarthen, Wales
  • William Flower († 1555), Westminster, England
  • Patrick Pakingham († 1555), Uxbridge, England
  • Hugh Latimer (1485–1555), Oxford, England
  • Robert Samuel († 1555), Ipswich, England
  • Burning of Latimer and Ridley, Oxford, 1555
  • Nicholas Ridley (1500–1555), Oxford, England
  • John Bradford († 1555), London, England
  • John Cardmaker († 1555), Smithfield, London, England
  • Robert Glover († 1555), Hertford, England
  • Thomas Hawkes († 1555), Coggeshall, England
  • Thomas Tomkins († 1555), Smithfield, London, England
  • Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), Oxford, England
  • Stratford Martyrs († 1556), 11 men and 2 women, Stratford, London, England
  • Guernsey Martyrs († 1556), 3 women, Guernsey, Channel Islands
  • Joan Waste († 1556), Derby, England
  • Bartlet Green († 1556), Smithfield, London, England
  • John Hullier († 1556), Cambridge, England
  • John Forman († 1556), East Grinstead, England
  • Pomponio Algerio († 1556) Boiled in oil, Rome
  • Alexander Gooch and Alice Driver († 1558), Ipswich, England
  • Augustino de Cazalla († 1559), Valladolid, Spain
  • Carlos de Seso († 1559), Valladolid, Spain
  • María de Bohórquez († 1559)
  • Pietro Carnesecchi († 1567) Florence, Italy
  • Leonor de Cisneros († 1568), Valladolid, Spain
  • Dirk Willems († 1569), Netherlands
  • Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), Rome, Italy

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The famous scientist Galileo was forced to recant his idea that the earth revolved around the sun.  This was widely known among many scientists, but it was opposed by the Catholic Church which held to the view that the sun revolved around the earth.  Thus, in 1521 Galileo was charged with heresy.  After a rather lengthy trial, Galileo retracted his theory preferring to live rather than to be right.  Nevertheless, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.  Publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any future works.

martin luther

Martin Luther’s Speech at the Imperial Diet in Worms (18 April 1521)

On 18 April 1521 Luther stood before the presiding officer, Johann von Eck at the ongoing Diet in Worms.  Luther was called before the political authorities rather than before the Pope or a council of the Roman Catholic Church.  Eck acting on behalf of the Catholic Church informed Luther that he was acting like a heretic.  Pope Leo X had demanded that Luther retract 41 sentences included in his original 95 Theses.  Luther had been questioned the day before, but he had requested time to think about his response to the charges.  Thus, began Luther’s short but famous speech.   His life depended on his response.

“I this day appear before you in all humility, according to your command, and I implore your majesty and your august highnesses, by the mercies of God, to listen with favor to the defense of a cause which I am well assured is just and right.  I ask pardon, if by reason of my ignorance, I am wanting in the manners that befit a court; for I have not been brought up in king’s palaces, but in the seclusion of a cloister; and I claim no other merit than that of having spoken and written with the simplicity of mind which regards nothing but the glory of God and the pure instruction of the people of Christ.”

Luther begins his speech with humility and with apologies for any lack of etiquette or procedure, but no apologies for his actions.  He is certain that he is right.

“I have composed, secondly, certain works against the papacy, wherein I have attacked such as by false doctrines, irregular lives, and scandalous examples, afflict the Christian world, and ruin the bodies and souls of men. And is not this confirmed by the grief of all who fear God?  Is it not manifest that the laws and human doctrines of the popes entangle, vex, and distress the consciences of the faithful, while the crying and endless extortions of Rome engulf the property and wealth of Christendom, and more particularly of this illustrious nation? Yet it is a perpetual statute that the laws and doctrines of the pope be held erroneous and reprobate when they are contrary to the Gospel and the opinions of the church fathers.”

Luther’s words could not be stronger here.  He accuses the Pope of offense that are scandalous, immoral, and perhaps even criminal.  He softens his words here not one bit.  He is not on the defense but on the offense.  Here is a man not dissembling or hedging his words.  If he is afraid for his life, his words show no fear or caution.  He is doing no political two step or making effort to appease the Pope.  Perhaps Luther knew that he was in little danger of being executed but the fact that he spent the next nine months of his life in hiding would suggest differently.

“In the third and last place, I have written some books against private individuals, who had undertaken to defend the tyranny of Rome by destroying the faith.  I freely confess that I may have attacked such persons with more violence than was consistent with my profession as an ecclesiastic: I do not think of myself as a saint; but neither can I retract these books.  Because I should, by so doing, sanction the impieties of my opponents, and they would thence take occasion to crush God’s people with still more cruelty.”

Luther does not back down one bit.  He confesses to more passion than might have been required but he will not retract anything he has written.  I am no saint he says but I will not be a hypocrite.  Just think of the people surrounding President Trump and contrast their lies, obfuscations, and baffling oratory with the quite clear words of Martin Luther: “What, then, should I be doing if I were now to retract these writings?”  “What if I said my president was lying?  What if I said my president was engaging in double speak?  What if I admitted that my president actually said the words which he claimed that he did not say?  Would I be subject to trial by fire or would I be burned at the stake?”

What makes someone lie on behalf of someone else?

The ending of Luther’s defense was epic.  Perhaps no more forceful words have ever been spoken in history.

“I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience.  Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me!  Amen.”

Emperor Charles V passed the Edict of Worms, which banned Luther’s writings and declared him a heretic and an enemy of the state.  Luther fled and although the Edict mandated that Luther should be captured and turned over to the emperor, it was never enforced.  Bear in mind the list of heretics who came after Luther and was executed.

Luther was a German professor of theology a composer and a priest.  He was no warrior or fighter.  In many ways, he was average, except in one especially important way that mattered and would make him a hero for all time.  He was not afraid to stand up to tyranny and to stand up for his beliefs and to speak out on behalf of what he believed.

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Imagine if more citizens were courageous enough to stand up for what they believed and to speak out forcefully and not meekly on behalf of these same beliefs.  It has been said that “Evil triumphs when good people do nothing.”  Doing nothing or saying nothing are one of the same cloth.  If you want to allow a dictator, bully, or tyrant to take power, simply stay quiet and bemoan the fact that you can do nothing.  Or you can write, speak, march, protest and organize against injustice wherever it can be found.  Any less makes us guilty of a conspiracy of silence.

“A conspiracy of silence, or culture of silence, describes the behavior of a group of people of some size, as large as an entire national group or profession or as small as a group of colleagues, that by unspoken consensus does not mention, discuss, or acknowledge a given subject.  The practice may be motivated by positive interest in group solidarity or by such negative impulses as fear of political repercussion or social ostracism.”  —  Wikipedia

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