I got an email asking: “What occurred during the reformation that removed Mary and the Saints from worship and why? Or was it even part of the reformation?”
Here is my answer:
Throughout history there have always been Inconoclasms. One prominent one you may know from the Bible is the Golden Calf. The problem is that every now and then God’s people start taking pieces of art too seriously and make them Gods which is not helpful. That’s where the commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol” comes from. Making pictures of God is perfectly fine and we do that all the time in our thoughts and/or actions. Now, limiting the creator of heaven and earth to one tangible object does not cut it.
There have always been Reformation movements to counter those developments and the Reformation iconoclasms were certainly big ones. Let me give you both the good and the bad about it:
– Now, the bad is obvious – barbarians destroyed beautiful pieces of art and priceless religious artifacts. What a shame!
– On a positive note: Reformation theology was opposed to the Roman Catholic view of Communion of the Saints at the time: “In Catholic terminology, the communion of saints is thus said to comprise the church militant (those alive on earth), the church penitent (those undergoing purification in purgatory in preparation for heaven), and the church triumphant (those already in heaven).”
Instead the Reformation stressed the Priesthood of all believers, which basically means that there are no saints that are more saintly than any other saint. Short: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…”
Some felt compelled to act on that idea and “as a result, individuals attacked statues and images, and others were lost during unauthorised iconoclastic riots. However, in most cases, civil authorities removed images in an orderly manner in the newly reformed Protestant cities and territories of Europe. […] Protestant Christianity was not uniformly hostile to the use of religious images. Martin Luther, initially hostile, came round to the view that Christians should be free to use religious images as long as they did not worship them in place of God.”
Do you remember how the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan a half year prior to 9/11?