Martin Luther’s Rendition of “Let it Go”

Translator’s note: On August 1521, Martin Luther was called before the Diet of Worms and asked to recant of his views. After taking a night to consider what he’d do next, Luther was brought before the Diet the next day. While there, he sang the most famous ballad in Protestant history. I have transcribed it below, from the original German, and translated it into English.

My tonsured head glows white at the Diet tonight
Your reflection, could be seen
The Church has isolated me,
Cajetan was really mean

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, Karlstadt knows I tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them sense
You’ll go to heaven if you buy an indulgence
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know

Let it go, let it go
I’m justified by faith alone
Let it go, let it go
To act against my conscience would be wrong

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let this Diet rage on,
The Pope never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how the Scripture
Makes works-righteousness seem dope
And the fears that once controlled me
Are the fault of the Pope

It’s time to tell them what I learned
To test the limits and hope that I don’t burn
No Popes, no bulls, no canon law
I think James is an epistle of straw

Let it go, let it go
I won’t recant what I believe
Let it go, let it go
Last night I drenched the Devil in ink

Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
My conscience captive to the Word

My writings spread to German villages all around
The peasants love me, though I’ll burn them to the ground
And one thought festers in my constipated bowels
I’m never going back,
They’ll have to kill me now

Let it go, let it go
I’ll be starting my own church
Let it go, let it go
I’ll have to hide out for some time first

Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
I’ll marry my Kate
The Pope never bothered me anyway

 

Your Coffee May Be Heretical

When my Theology 2 students take midterms in a couple of weeks they will struggle with remembering and describing the various Christological heresies that plagued the early Church. They would do well to check out Andrew Stephen Damick’s post, “Coffeedoxy and Heterodoxy” at his website. He warns that “your local coffeehouse may be a hotbed of heresy.” Damick has posted a syllabus of coffee errors designed to protect the unwary from aberrant brews. With tongue planted firmly in cheek he declares:

  • Decaf is Docetic because it only appears to be coffee.
  • Instant is Apollinarian because it’s had its soul removed and replaced.
  • Frappuccinos are essentially a form of Monophysitism, having their coffee nature swallowed up in milkshake.
  • Chicory is Arian, not truly coffee at all but a separate creation.
  • Irish coffee is Nestorian, being two natures conjoined solely by good will.

The list goes on. I always suspected that Fair Trade Coffee was Donatist, but who knew that the overuse of sugar was Pelagian? I don’t know if Damick intended for his blog to operate as a teaching tool, but I think it serves as a great (and funny) way to help remember the different early heresies. Even if you’re not studying for an exam you’ll enjoy his post, which can be found here.

This blog is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Briefly Noted: The Redemptive Nature of Laughter (Or, Why an Atheist Can and Can’t Get Jokes)

Now this one caught my attention. In a recent edition of Times Literary Supplement Tim Lewens reviews Daniel C. Dennett’s recent book on the nature of humor, Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind.[1] It caught my attention because Dennett is an atheist, which I think uniquely handicaps him in trying to understand humanity in general, and the comic dimension of humanity in particular.

Lewens notes three main theories of humor. Superiority theories “say that humor illustrates the inferiority in some respect of the joke’s butt” so that one laughs when one feels (at least a bit) superior about someone or something else. Release theories claim that humor provides “a sort of relief from build-up of nervous tension.” Incongruity-resolution theories “assert that humorous situations involve the presentation of an incongruity that is subsequently involved.” Dennett and company offer a version of this theory, arguing that humor is that “we find things funny when our expectations are overturned.”

The “expectations overturned” theory offered in Inside Jokes builds upon three principles. First, humor “requires committed expectations that are subsequently overturned.” Something is funny when it does not fit with the normal rhyme and rhythm of one’s day, and the expectations that come with it. Second, the overturning of expectations must ‘not be accompanied by any (strong) negative emotional violence.’ That is, there is a point at which funny crosses the line into “not funny.” Third, humor “requires that our expectations are swiftly overwhelmed.” Those with a quick wit tend to get more laughs than those who describe a humorous experience with long-winded, plodding, and pedantic prose (get it).

Lewens reflects upon Inside Jokes and offers several strengths and weaknesses this theory. He argues that its strengths are the importance placed on comic timing and shared-knowledge–something isn’t funny if no one knows what the person trying to be funny is talking about. Its weaknesses, though, are in the button-downed approach to humor: it may be too cognitive-based. Is there room in this cognitive theory for slap-stick or even the juvenile side of humor?  Some things are funny because they fit within a conversation, book, show, or film that intends to be funny. That is, Inside Jokes may ignore the genre of humor itself for the sake of a theory of how it works.

In response, I’ll agree with Dennett & Co. that the comic dimension of human existence is captured best by an incongruity-resolution theory of some sort. However, I’ll depart from Dennett & Co. by offering an additional theological insight: laughter is redemptive. Laughter is best understood within a Christian theological framework because it is one of God’s gifts to a fallen world.

In his book Redeeming Laughter, sociologist Peter Berger laughter is universal, that it is a signal of transcendence, and that it is redemptive because it makes life in a fallen world easier to bear.[2] He further argues that humor is best understood in terms of incongruity and resolution.

Where does the incongruence lie? Berger notes that most or all humor revolves around anthropological or ontological incongruence. In an instance of anthropological incongruence, we recognize that we are incongruent with ourselves. We are the only animals capable of standing outside of ourselves, and we live in the tension of being able to do so. In an instance of ontological incongruence, we laugh when we notice our location in the universe. The comic provides us laughter and, in so doing, presents briefly a world without pain.

Our recognition that we are incongruent with ourselves and our longing for another world (one without pain) can be made sense of most fully by a Christian theological framework, one in which God’s redemption extends to God’s (incongruent) imagers but also to his (fallen) cosmos. When we laugh at ourselves and at our location in this painful world, we have a brief respite from the painful realities of life in after the Fall. Our humor is proleptic, anticipating the new heavens and earth to come. As Helmut Thielicke once observed, if humor was given a place in theology, it would be under eschatology.


[1] Tim Lewins, “Around the Fire” in Times Literary Supplement (Dec. 7, 2012): p. 24; Matthew M. Hurley, Daniel C. Dennett, and Reginald B. Adams, Jr., Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind (MIT, 2011).

 

[2] Ibid., 205ff.