(A Dissociated Press story from the trenches of our Postmodern Psycho-Times)
(For your enjoyment. If you do not enjoy it, do not read it.)
It’s well known that Martin Luther had his problems. Here is a brief study of one of them that seems to be resurging in some circles.
No, we will not bring up his medieval opinions about how Christian rulers could best defend the eternal well-being of their subjects from the persistent challenge of unbelieving Jews. We’ll save that study for another time.
I’m writing today about the Worms Complex. Martin Luther is the first known case, and it has passed on to Lutherans and others ever since. It seems to be a mutation of the more general Martyr Syndrome, exhibited by the likes of Stephen in Acts chapter 7.
The initial outbreak of the Worms Complex has been captured and reproduced in multimedia, and made available online.
The symptoms are as follows.
First, the subject acquires a dreadful certainty that truth exists, and that it’s knowable, and that he has somehow learned what it is.
After that, the subject writes about it in some form of media. Note that earlier outbreaks of the Martyr Syndrome were mostly exhibited outwardly in speech rather than writing, but the invention of movable type by Gutenberg in 1445, may have actually caused the mutation into what we know as the Worms Complex. Consider the following observations from an eyewitness of these times:
Initially, some wondered if Gutenberg’s invention was purely a tool of Satan. When some authors published things with which readers disagreed they spread debate from town to town and from village to village, well beyond the natural limitations of spoken arguments. Subsequently, entire publishing industry was labeled by the establishment as “wicked” and “a waste of time.” Some even wondered how a pastor/professor like Dr. Luther could have any time for publishing, and whether he should have any time. Wasn’t he kept busy by his duties in Wittenberg? Or was he, perhaps, even being unfaithful to those duties by spending so much time sitting or standing at his desk, with pen and ink?
It certainly seems that media was a factor in the development of the Worms Complex.
The next symptom occurs when the subject is confronted with a forcible attempt to make him publicly withdraw or recant his published writings. This is what happened at Worms in the case of Martin Luther. Following the Luther pattern, the subject may use the word “conscience” in an appeal to some “absolute truth” (as though conscience should determine a person’s course of action). He may even try to distinguish between the different things he has written or statements he has made, as though some parts are better than others.
The final symptom is the strangest of all. The subject refuses to withdraw what he has written, unless he is shown that he is wrong. The strange thing is that he will not accept just any proof that he has erred. With the Worms Complex, the subject will, without exception, consider only the highest authority as worthy of consideration. It seems that he considers himself, or his conscience, to be subject ultimately only to that one authority, so that any lower authority does not carry the same weight! In fact, even given a situation in which the highest authority contradicts all other authorities, the subject will still become emboldened to state that all the other authorities are wrong! Note the strong presumption of real, knowable truth, and a frightening lack of tolerance. In addition, there is an assumption that contradictory truths cannot peacefully coexist.
In the Lutheran Church, the Worms Complex has been perpetuated among many (but not all) clergy by the continued insistence that they take an oath to teach according to the Lutheran Confessions. While some consider this a mere formality, many of these clergy take the oath seriously. They are apparently willing to suffer harm rather than break this oath, again illustrating a deep-rooted belief in truth, while also identifying the highest authority for determining what the truth is.
Suprisingly, the Lutheran Confessions themselves are not the highest authority for these pastors, despite the oath they take. Instead, the Lutheran Confessions identify the highest authority as “holy scripture,” colloquially known as the Bible.
The Worms Complex today is manifested in much the same way that we see with Luther in Worms. The symptoms follow the same pattern, though the media used for publishing have multiplied. In fact, the advent of digital media and publication on the Internet seems to have empowered individuals in a way similar to the invention of movable type. Now, those suffering from the Worms Complex have more effective tools to convey their peculiar notions, and there is a corresponding danger that this situation may lead to an epidemic, as happened in the 16th Century on a smaller scale.
Church bodies worldwide are still searching for a cure, though it seems
that the more theologically progressive/liberal ones may have made a
breakthrough. While theologically conservative churches have generally attempted to curtail
the effects of the Worms Complex through reprisal or even stonewalling of communication,
the liberal ones have had much greater success by altering the fundamental concept of truth,
thereby preventing the activity known as “confessing the faith” by eliminating the need.
It has been observed, however, that the so-called Ecumenical Creeds have made this process difficult, so efforts are underway to update them with more practical content.
This article has very little basis in fact, but some may say that it has a strong foundation in reality.