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Martin Luther Sounds Off On Square Dancing

Martin Luther (1483-1546), the German religious reformer who helped bring about the Protestant Reformation, is also known for his translation of the Bible, for his two catechisms that gave instructions on the Christian faith, and for his hymns. Lesser known is what he had to say about square dancing.

In the biography of Luther, “Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther,” author Roland H. Bainton quotes Luther’s views of music. The following quotation is lengthy, but if you read to the end, you will discover Luther’s interesting connection between music as a gift from God and square dancing.

Luther wrote: “Music is to be praised as second only to the Word of God because by her are all the emotions swayed. Nothing on earth is more mighty to make the sad gay and the gay sad, to hearten the downcast, mellow the overweening, temper the exuberant, or mollify the vengeful. The Holy Spirit himself pays tribute to music when he records that the evil spirit of Saul was exorcised as David played upon his harp.

“The fathers desired that music should always abide in the Church. That is why there are so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been bestowed on men alone to remind them that they are created to praise and magnify the Lord.

“But when natural music is sharpened and polished by art, then one begins to see with amazement the great and perfect wisdom of God in his wonderful work of music, where one voice takes a simple part and around it sing three, four, or five other voices, leaping, springing round about, marvelously gracing the simple part, like a square dance in heaven with friendly bows, embracings, and hearty swinging of the partners. He who does not find this an inexpressible miracle of the Lord is truly a clod and is not worthy to be considered a man.” (page 343, “Here I Stand.”)

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