I study Martin Luther, a theologian whose deep insight into God's grace through Jesus Christ has convicted my heart and mind. I am also the world's foremost authority on the "unpleasant Luther" who self-righteously attacked and urged violence against those with whom he disagreed — from Roman Catholics to fellow Evangelicals, from Turks to Jews.
Luther stands in good — or is it bad? — company with Christians across history. Taught to love God and serve the neighbor, Christians have instigated great evils in the name of our faith. We slaughtered Jews and Muslims during the medieval Crusades, killed off upward a third of central Europe's population in the 17th century wars of religion, justified slavery well into the 19th century, and nourished over centuries a racial and religious contempt that gave comfort to Western imperialism and the Nazi Holocaust.
Here then is the challenge, illustrated by Luther's profound insight, passionate commitment and, yes, self-righteous nastiness: How can we be passionately committed to the particularities of our faith tradition yet still be humble about our claims and respectful of others who are passionately committed to different traditions?
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