After the peasant rebellion; an act of peasants committing crimes under Gods name, Luther proposes that the peasants, also known as rebels, must be killed due to his belief that “no crime was worse than rebellion, for it opened the door to all other crimes” as stated in his opening letter, Admonition to Peace (130 Baylor). The public fights and disapproves of Luther’s harsh idea of actions to take against the peasants, causing him to write a reply explaining his beliefs.
Interestingly, Luther decides to side with rulers who do not follow the ideals of God, but favors them because of their punishments towards the peasants. Luther feels strongly that these rebels are past the point of repair. However, at first Luther suggests that the community must accept gods value and offer the peasants a second chance even if they do not deserve it, if this proposal fails then murder is the only option (133). This debate brings up an interesting case, originally it is against God’s word to murder, but in this case it is appropriate to kill one peasant in order to save the rest of the town, (134). This act is looked apron as heroism rather than sinful act. In other words, saving the rest of the community from sadistic rebels, “a prince can win heaven with bloodshed better than other men with prayer!” (134). Lastly this document suggests that one rebel can recruit innocent souls; positioning them into purgatory, proposing that one can be a savior for removing these souls from the devil creating the image of murder being a deed of morality.
Later on Luther publishes a document discussing the matters of killing the peasants. The brutality of these deaths among the rebels caused an outbreak of disapproval from the public, angry at Luther’s harsh and unforgiving approach to the situation accusing his decisions for being “un-Christian”, (137). Luther writes a response letter to defend his arguments, An Open Letter on the Harsh Book against the Peasants, explaining to the community how mercy and sympathy for the peasants is an act against God. Luther proposes that “who thus sympathizes with the rebels makes it perfectly clear that he has decided in his heart that he will also cause disaster if he has the opportunity”, (138). By using rhetoric Luther can create the image that the community who disapprove of his ways are disobeying God. When merciful of the rebels, one is siding with the devil in comparison to the lord who opposes the rebels’ choices. Luther also argues that the people, who show remorse for the peasants, disregard the event of the peasants’ rebellion. Finally Luther is able to achieve a promising argument that the people who feel sorrowful for the peasants are murderers; allowing one rebel to live, is considered murder, and that one should “not worry about committing murder; for he is warding off an arch-murderer, who wants to murder the whole land” (140). This proposal suggests that it is more important to follow the word of God, and the necessity to obey his laws rather than believing in a individual’s idea of morality.
Baylor, Michael G.. The German Reformation and the Peasants’ War. A Brief History with Documents. Copyright 2012 by Bedford/St. Martin’s.