Twitter has become a de facto mechanism for rapidly sharing news of important events, such as the uprising known and the Arab Spring or the fighting in cities in Syria. It is used to update about or comment upon sporting events and other events in our lives. There is a sense of urgency and immediacy in the short messages. Recently Jack Free wrote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, about a very early user of the power of short messages in the medium of his day –
“Long before Twitter Martin Luther was a media pioneer.” (NY Times) The printing press was the new media of Luther’s day, and he was a savvy user. 500 years ago today Martin nailed 95 theses (sort of long tweets) to a church door stating why he thought the Catholic Church should change. The Catholic/Protestant split was underway. If you want to see what he posted, follow this link.
Ironically Lutheran leaders are now meeting with Pope Francis to celebrate a common understanding of major faith issues. They have created a document that documents the 32 areas of worship that there is agreement upon and lists those that remain unresolved. That document is called Declaration on the Way. It’s a rather lengthy (120 pages) document, so you may not want to read it all.
One of the strengths of Twitter is its ability to reach a worldwide audience quickly. In Luther’s day, even the invention of the printing press didn’t guarantee widespread dissemination of what was printed. Transportation of the printed materials was still limited to the slow means of travel available at the time. There was also the problem that few in those days could actually read the printed word. Still, Luther’s 95 “Tweets” had the effect of causing a revolution in the church and giving birth to the Protestant movement.
Long before the printing press was invented there were hand-scribed records of things and even books. Before even that time most of history was preserved in verbal stories and songs. The Psalms in the Bible likely existed for some time as songs before being written down. And, though longer than a Tweet, Jesus used short stories or parables to get his points across. These days they might have included #Jesus #Believe.
The media that we use to exchange information is constantly changing. Video is big right now and VR is on the horizon and the “next big thing”. Maybe someone will create a VR experience that will allow you to walk up to the door of a virtual Wittenberg Castle church and read Luther’s 95 thesis that were nailed to the door there. Perhaps Martin Luther will have even stuck around long enough for you to get a virtual selfie with him. #Impressive!