“Hail Luther’s Contribution”

A Sixteenth-Century Reformer in Cold War America

In: Church History and Religious Culture

Abstract

Martin Luther was and remains a controversial figure whose contentious legacy has been used to serve a variety of agendas over the centuries. Nowhere is this better seen than in the use of Luther as symbol during the Cold War years in the United States. As American Protestants responded to the social, cultural, and political changes that defined this period they re-interpreted Luther in surprising ways to suit their own needs. Drawing on film, Roman Catholic responses, debates among scholars, Pentecostal, ecumenical, and political representations, this essay argues that Luther’s memory, as a lieu de mèmoire, was used during the Cold War era to promote whatever cause or concern interpreters wanted to associate with his name and legacy.

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