What the Reformation and Facebook share

Each week one of our Research Assistants will be offering their reflections on the pieces that we have recently posted as part of the 500 Project. First up is John McGrath.

Freedom of speech, equality and individualism are key rights that we millennials hold with a certain degree of sacredness today.

Facebook gives all of us a platform to exercise our freedom of speech, sharing our views, frustrations and joy with our friends and the public. The reformers of 1517 did not have the luxury of instant worldwide communication platforms to disseminate their ideas with the world. However, their passion for truth, and their frustration with a broken church system is as relevant today as ever.

In the last year, we have all felt the impact of jarring, powerful and prophetic critiques of society, government and church across the world. From the robust calls for justice from Black Lives Matter to the anti-regime cries in Syria; protest has been woven into the fabric of every nation in our world. Social media has given all of us the platform that Luther could only have dreamt of to influence the minds of the masses with a clear message, a gospel message. It is inevitable that this message will jar with the prevailing narrative of our world as Luther’s message did with his. But we have been called for such a time as this to walk wisely and speak hopefully of God’s goodness in seemingly hopeless times.

Over the past week, the various articles posted on our new website inform us of how the reformation established many key ideas we take for granted. Professor Sarah Williams showed how modern democracy has its roots in the Reformation. The Very Rev Dr Norman Hamilton reflected on how the Reformation should challenge us to beware the restrictions we in society have placed on freedom of conscience, speech and equality. The Reformation encourages all of us to speak truthfully even when faced with resistance from both inside and outside the church.

We millennials have been given a window of opportunity unlike any generation in human history. Social media, Facebook, globalisation and instant connectivity have given us a podium to speak hopefully in a time of fear and division. May we like Luther, speak with courage and conviction a better story of unity, peace and goodwill to a world fractured by division and pain.