One thought ahead. Three sentences behind.

LUTHER PART THREE: SEX MACHINE

Heretic looking for love.

Since he was kicked out of the church and had few job prospects, Luther did what any ex-monk would do. He went looking for girls. Forty-two years was way too long for a first date and Luther looked to make up for lost time. Since match.com wasn’t yet on the scene, Luther did the next best thing. He engineered the escape of eleven nuns from a nearby convent.

Since religion was a big part of his life, Luther needed to bring God into his new pursuit. For Luther, having sex needed to be a divine and natural order, stating, “Ex-monks and ex-nuns having a beach party is as pleasing to God as a mother nursing a child or a farmer tilling with the plow.”

Nursing, tilling, clearly, Luther was more than ready to start dating. And after playing matchmaker between his monk friends and escaped nuns, he reserved and quickly married Katherine von Bora.

Luther and Katherine sitting in a frame.

Luther loved having sex with his new wife, and being an academic, he loved talking about it. He thought being married and having sex was the best thing in the world. He invited other ex-monks to get married and start having sex. He even suggested a certain time in the day the newlyweds should make love so he and Katherine could also do the same. (Nothing says German voyeuristic compulsion than the previous sentence.)

Instead of a life filled with endless complaining, Luther now found a joyful pursuit. He loved being in bed with his new wife and believed having plenty of sex could cure a person of one of the seven deadly sins – sloth. (He didn’t say whether it might cause a few others.)

First went the robe, then came marriage, then after a whole lot of fooling around, there was the baby carriage. Not only was Luther the father of a new religious movement, he was soon a father of four. He loved being a father. He believed there was a sacredness in childbearing, stating, “Without Eve and her breasts, no institutions would come to be, especially, more women with breasts.”

Up until this point, Luther had been all talk. With a growing family, he needed a way to support them. He tried his hand at woodworking and gardening, but soon discovered that he was better at making babies.

Like most women married to academics, Katherine ended picking up the slack. She raised the kids, bred pigs, attended to the bookkeeping, grew vegetables and brewed beer. (Luther was smart enough not to comment on the quality of the libation.)

Since Katherine effectively ran the household, Luther returned to what he was really good at: reading, writing and talking. He invited influential friends over for dinner and discussions, which he labeled and eventually turned to a book, “Table Talk.” Topics ranged from Luther’s belief in public education to how good music was for the soul. Mostly, the dialogue revolved around the two crosscurrents of a changing society: religion and politics. Even though he was a free-flowing, fresh-thinking leader of a new religious movement, there was one part of his Catholic tradition he could not chuck to the curb – marriage. Luther was a big fan of marriage and he felt it was better for someone to have an affair, visit a prostitute, keep a mistress or secure a concubine than to enter into a divorce.

King looking for a divorce.

There were many on the scene, like King Henry the Eighth, that beseeched Luther to find favor and publicly support their divorce, but Luther refused. Even when his good friend, Phillip of Hesse, kept whining that he wanted to ditch his wife because she was surly and stank, Luther suggested that Phillip should instead secretly marry again and make up some ridiculous lie when people ask why he was wearing two wedding rings.

To Luther being a lying bigamist was better than a divorcee. But when the public found out that Luther was giving questionable advice, they grew angry. Luther tried to quell their protests by making a feeble response that it is sometimes better to offer ambiguous advice that went against the norm in order to protect the norm. (This is the kind of double-talk that would have made Luther a great U.S. president.)

Nobody bought the babble and when Luther felt the ground of public support shifting from him, he did what any savvy politician would do. He backtracked and denounced Phillip for following his advice, stating, “Anyone who takes more than one wife and thinks this is right, the devil will prepare him a bath in the depths of hell. And I can guaranty there will be no bubbles.”

Luther soon found he did not like the intersection of politics and religion. It was a perilous exercise to practice compromise. He needed to stick to basics and become more strident.

Martin Luther Part One: Rebel Rebel

Martin Luther Part Two: Wanted Dead or Alive

Martin Luther Part Three: Sex Machine

Martin Luther Part Four: Heart of Glass

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