PROTESTANTS by Steven Ozment

PROTESTANTS

The Birth of a Revolution

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Ozment (History/Harvard), a specialist in the Reformation (Three Behaim Boys, 1990, The Age of Reform, 1980), digs into the trenches with this popular history of Luther's revolution that doubles as neo-Protestant polemic. In Ozment's view, lay people and scholars alike have judged Protestantism to be ``the spiritual equivalent of a sobering cold bath'' and continue to prefer ``traditional Catholic piety and folk beliefs.'' While sympathetic to this choice, Ozment argues that Protestant virtues have been overlooked, in particular ``a heritage of spiritual freedom and equality.'' He makes his case in part through a fascinating examination of Reformation letters, diaries, and pamphlets (including some material written by teenage boys), indicating how, for many Germans, the Reformation meant nothing less than a new lease on life. More combatively, Ozment defends the much-maligned reputation of Martin Luther against modern claims of misogyny and hypocrisy, and places in historical context the Reformation's relentless war against monasticism and religious ritual. As the author admits, his spirited defense pits him against the scholarly consensus, which finds in the Reformation the seeds of Nazism. Ozment's defense of Protestantism now and then swells into fulsome praise, as when he asserts that ``Protestants are society's most spiritually defiant and venturesome citizens.'' A corrective to the intense anti-Reformationism of modern scholarship (``no other great event in Western history is more ignored by historians and the general public'') that shoots itself in the foot through excessive zeal--a charge, ironically, often hurled against the original Reformers. (Fifteen b&w illustrations- -not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-385-42172-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1992




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