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"Ad Fontes": The Question of Rebellion and Moral Tradition on the Use of Force

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 27.4 (Winter 2013)

Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572). By Francois Dubois.

By James Turner Johnson

"Stab, smite, slay!" These are not the words of Bashar al-Assad telling his forces how they should deal with the Syrian rebel movement, or indeed those of any other contemporary political leader, but rather the words of Martin Luther exhorting the German nobility to a harsh response to the peasants’ rebellion of 1524–1525. His writings show that he sympathized with many of the peasants' grievances so long as these did not issue in rebellion, but when they turned to force of arms, he responded sternly. This was not a peculiarity of Luther.

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