Monday, December 2, 2013

Heretics and Heroes

For years I have enjoyed reading Thomas Cahill's "Hinges of History" books.  I remember when I first read "How the Irish Saved Civilization" and "The Gifts of the Jews."  They were worldview-changing books for me.

And so this October I pre-ordered the first book I have ever pre-ordered in my life.  It was Cahill's sixth book in the series, titled "Heretics And Heroes: How Renaissance Artists And Reformation Priests Created Our World."

It's a brilliant book from cover to cover.

There are dozens and dozens of fascinating stories, insights and perspectives on how the Renaissance and Reformation have truly shaped us today.

I will summarize three:
The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church might have re-unified the entire Christian church if not for the Sicilian Vespers in 1282, which began when a few men decided they'd had enough of French occupation. (When I read about this I was reminded of Rosa Parks. What if that one day hadn't happened in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955? What if she had stood up instead of staying seated? Just by sitting down she incited a revolution.) Seemingly small acts CHANGE the entire course of history.

The Reformation may have happened, but would have looked entirely different had Erasmus of Rotterdam's parents not died in The Plague (they did) and his legal guardians had wanted to raise him (they didn't)....... Tragedy, while awful and sad, has the power to shape and refine and change and focus and refocus an individual in ways nothing else can.

Michelangelo is a greater genius than we'll ever fully appreciate. As Cahill remarks, "If any Renaissance artist--or, for that matter, any artist in history--is worthy of being approached on one's knees, that artist is Michelangelo."  But what we do appreciate we owe, in part, and sadly, to the absolute corruption of the church.  Go figure.  Jesus would have had harsher words for the Renaissance and Reformation-era church than for the Pharisees of his day, I think.