Thursday, March 24, 2011
Martin Luther and PTSD?
If you go to Germany, I hope you get to Marburg. On the hill you will see a castle; take a car, but you can climb it. Annelie and I have. In the great hall, there is a large oaken table; the top is about two inches thick. Down at one end you will see about a six inches split, as I remember. Martin Luther was conferring with some other reformers and got so worked up over the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper that he hit the table with his fist – and there you have it. For those of you who have been around PTSD folks a while you might think, “Yeah, I’ve known a couple of guys with a temper just like that.” Makes you wonder.
Of course, young man Martin did have his time of withdrawal; he went into a monastery for a time. He must have had a lot of feelings to deal with because he used to go off into his cell and beat himself bloody and finally pass out. You may have known a couple of instances where things got self destructive… Then there was that pilgrimage to Rome. He was crawling up some stairs in what was to be a high point of inspiration, but he ended up just walking off muttering. Sounds like a person experiencing alienation?
Since persons tending to startle responses do not like surprises, well, yes. As a young man Martin was sitting on a wagon seat when a bolt of lightning killed his best friend sitting beside him. I have had some reliable descriptions of walking beside someone who stepped on a mine and watched his helmet go up and up: probably Martin had similar feelings.
Yes, he had it tough, but he did have an older friend, a mentor. He went back to school and got a doctorate. From there he had his troubles - and he made some - but he did something with his life. Maybe it was because of his PTSD, maybe it was in spite of it: but he made his contribution.
Lots of fellows have problems with intimacy after a war, and Luther was in and around a lot of excitement. In fact, he seems to have had to duck a lot. When he got into middle age though, he married a really fine woman, settled down and started having kids. He just loved to sit around the dinner table with friends and talk theology. He was particularly fond of the Apostle Paul, but then they had a lot in common – except for the chance to have a good wife and a home. Either way, I have to admire them, don’t you?