We set out to teach the story of the Reformation in a thoughtful way, and to make a one-hour documentary that would be embraced by Lutherans, other Protestants, Catholics, and non-church-goers as well.
We wanted it to be aired on secular public broadcasting as well as in churches, and it needed to be limited to 6,000 words (that's all that fits in an hour of TV). While I'm happy with our production and the final script, I'm also aware that theologians and scholars would have a few bones to pick with us.
Sharing it at home with friends and family explains things we feel and believe that we may have had a tough time verbalizing.
And sharing it as a congregation is like strengthening our roots with history that is still an inspiration.
Was it primarily the Reformation's cultural and historical impact, or was it your own faith and experience? I remember that, when we celebrated the turn of the millennium (in 2000), Martin Luther was #2 or #3 (right up there with Newton and Guttenberg) on secular listings of the most influential people in the last thousand years.
I remember being surprised and thrilled at that, and thinking, "Lutheran as I am, this is really something I didn't appreciate." I love to find historic events set in Europe to illustrate in my travel teaching that are generally underappreciated and not as widely understood as they should be.Given that I was producing a TV show primarily for secular media (to be broadcast on public television), I couldn't simply end with a theological high-five and say, "Hooray! But I was determined that this project would have a much broader audience — and, I think, an audience that would gain more from our work than simply preaching to our Lutheran choir.I'm really thankful that a DVD of "Rick Steves' Luther and the Reformation" will be sent to each ELCA congregation, and that it will air across our country as we raise awareness of the importance of 1517 in 2017.Was there something particularly impactful for you that you learned or experienced while making it?The more I struggled with the script to sort out the world in which Luther lived and worked, the more respect I gained for him both as a struggling human being and as a courageous hero who understood change was both necessary and unpredictable.The stirring image of the Chinese dissident standing bold and solitary in front of that tank on Tiananmen Square kept coming to mind when I considered Luther's courage and challenge.What motivated you to focus on the commemoration of the Reformation by doing this new special?I was concerned that, in an attempt to give my TV special a tidy conclusion, I might romanticize and oversimplify what I consider "the birth of the Modern Age" via Renaissance/humanism/Reformation.But having finished the project and screened it with many thoughtful audiences, I think the conclusion hits the historical impact of the Reformation on the head. " That would be a fine conclusion for a church audience.To me, it's a kind of stewardship not to waste such opportunities when they present themselves.And, considering that, this project was a gift from heaven. I hit it off with ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton when I first met her, and I knew I'd have her support in this undertaking. I'm really thankful this has come together and pleased that virtually every public television station in the country will air our work several times. " when covering something as tumultuous as the Protestant Reformation and the horrific period of wars it ignited.