About 800 colourful statues of 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther are popping up in the eastern German town of Wittenberg, where Luther first railed against some practices of the Roman Catholic Church almost 500 years ago. The one-metre high plastic figures in red, green, blue and black are the creation of the artist Ottmar Hörl and are intended to replace a statue of Martin Luther on the town square while it is being renovated. “My Luther looks just like the original, except for the feet,” Hörl told German press agency ddp. The art installation has stirred the ire of some Protestant theologians who say the statues, copies of which Hörl is selling on his website for 250 euros each, make a mockery of Luther’s achievements.
You can find the opening remarks of the art installation here
To be honest, I’ve sat staring at this news item (and associated pictures) for a couple of weeks now, wondering what to do with it all. Sometimes I want to throw it out and pretend like I never saw it. Other times I’m ready to get out my credit card and order me up one of those little guys. In all the back and forth, however, I don’t think I’ve ever come to the point where my ire was stirred because of some perceived mockery of Luther and his achievements. Nor, was I willing to applaud the artist for the vision of his work. (It may be cute and/or eye catching but I don’t think anyone would describe it as deep or thought provoking.)
Granted, being a Canadian Lutheran Dr. Marin doesn’t have the same cultural symbolism for me as he does for many in Germany. But really … is this something to get so worked up about. Even if he does come in a range of colours it’s not like the statues are naked. Luther is not picking his nose or “flippin’ the bird” (as some gnomes by the same artist have done in the past). He isn’t depicted with little horns or seven heads.
He’s holding the Bible. He’s pointing to God’s Word!
Indeed, along with the display in the Wittenburg square a local church is doing daily readings from Luther’s Translation of the Bible (if I made sense of my translation software). Think of the impact as someone reads from the Bible and you are surrounded by 800 little Luthers all pointing to the book. All 80o Luthers looking at you as if to say – “Hey You! Yes You! THIS … This is important! You should be reading this!”
To be honest, I find it all rather amusing. The world could use another 800 Luthers running around pointing people to the Word of God, calling people to repentance and faith in Christ. But since that isn’t likely to happen any time soon, maybe this is the next best thing. If they won’t listen to you and me because they’ve gotten so used to dismissing us out of hand (and as a pastor you know I feel this way from time to time – even if it isn’t always true), maybe they would stop and listen to 800 short plastic Luthers. Stranger things have been known to happen.
I think Luther would have a laugh at it too. Far from feeling belittled, if anything, I think he would insist that he be made smaller and the Bible be larger (maybe with a different section of Scripture to be read on each one!) As Luther himself once said: “Whatever I am personally does not matter.” and “My only glory is the fact that I have taught God’s Word purely and have not adulterated it because of any desire for glory or riches.”