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The Fundamental Error in Rejecting Freedom

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The Fundamental Error in Rejecting Freedom:

One of the greatest achievements of the Protestant Movement was that it empowered the "common people". When Martin Luther revolted against the supreme authority of the Catholic Church he empowered fellow Christians to critically examine their belief system and the errors of their religious authority. Unfortunately, he also opened the door to different kinds of error. No longer were religious leaders required to devote themselves to a lifelong study of the Bible, church history, world history, and other religious studies. Still, Luther brought freedom to the people, the likes of which had not been seen since the early days of Christianity.

In the decades that followed, that shift in power continued to develop, much into the way Luther intended. Following Luther's example, many continued empowering the "common people" with knowledge and understanding of religious matters to ensure the freedom Luther fought so hard to gain. Over time, however, this new freedom turned into nothing more than tradition, and those born into the faith took their freedom for granted. As tradition gave birth to Christian fundamentalism, and further developed into hyper-fundamentalism, a sub-sect of Christianity returned to the bondage Luther fought to destroy. Religious power and authority were given back to religious leaders, and the "common people" were forbidden to critically examine their beliefs. In this new breed of Christianity, the religious leaders were not required to devote their lives to religious study; even those with limited understanding of scripture or history could become a governing elite in their own sect of hyper-fundamentalism. The value of correct interpretation of the Bible was decreased, while the value of the leader or leaders presenting the information was increased.

The result of this was disastrous. This new breed of Christians had no interest in progressing their level of understanding in religious matters. Like the Catholics at the time of Luther's revolution, they were content to accept statements at face-value -- whether they were correct or incorrect. Worse, when challenged on incorrect understanding, they were trained to be militant in their defense. Studies were forbidden or criticised that furthered understanding, such as textual criticism, literary analysis, historical and cultural examination, or critical analysis of any sort. Many discouraged or condemned religious schools or seminaries. While Martin Luther argued strongly against a dictated religion that did not allow critical thought, hyper-fundamentalist groups no longer allowed this freedom.

Those who escape hyper-fundamentalism and are familiar with the history of the Protestant Reformation often compare the similarities of their experience to that of Christians in Luther's era. Like the Catholic church, the group they escaped was oppressive and authoritative. In the worst cases, the leaders of the hyper-fundamentalist groups are given the same authority as the Pope, and any who speak against the figures in authority are reprimanded or shunned.