Martin Luther vs. David Oakerhater

"It's not fair!" We sometimes hear such complaints about Lent Madness. And..of course it's not fair. Which is why we call this little devotion Lent MADNESS and not Lent FAIRNESS. Thus, we end up with matchups such as today's that pit a well-known Reformer of the Middle Ages against a lesser known late 19th, early 20th century Native-American convert to Christianity. So while all may be fair in love and war, all is decidedly not fair in Lent Madness.

Yesterday, to further illustrate this point, was the Battle of the Augustines aka Augustine Anarchy. Going into this matchup one thing was crystal clear: Augustine would emerge victorious. In this case Augustine of Canterbury bested Augustine of Hippo 57% to 43% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen.

And if you missed yesterday's epic edition of Monday Madness, you can watch it here. Tim and Scott discuss the week ahead and answer some very pertinent viewer mail.

Martin Luther

Just before the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Arts & Entertainment Network (A&E) compiled a list of the 100 most influential people of the millennium. A sixteenth-century former monk from a small town in Germany would have been very surprised to find himself ranked number three on this list!

Born in 1483, Luther’s parents encouraged him to study law. But in 1505, he was caught in a terrible thunderstorm while returning to the university from a trip home. Fearing for his life, Luther pledged to become a monk if his life were spared. He survived the stormy night and honored his commitment.

Luther served as a monk, university professor, and parish priest. As he studied, taught, and preached, he became increasingly distressed by what he saw as pernicious failures of the Roman Catholic Church. Among the most troubling were the selling of indulgences (paying to receive pardons for sins), a focus on vocation as being under the sole purview of those called to religious life, the insistence upon clerical celibacy, and the crippling lack of faith formation among the common people.

The posting of his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517, is commonly regarded as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Five hundred years later, we can clearly see his legacy. He was intent on making worship the center of the life of the Church, including excellent preaching and music, and focused his teaching and preaching on God’s grace. He admonished priests to teach parents how to make their homes the center of childhood faith formation by using his Small Catechism. Luther called for an end to corruption in the Church, especially through the sale of indulgences, and translated the Bible into the German vernacular, allowing common, literate people to read the word of God in their mother tongue.

His marriage to former nun Katarina von Bora and the lively home they created together offered a space for Luther and other scholars to debate around the kitchen table while enjoying Katarina’s generous hospitality. Martin Luther died in 1546, but his influence continues to echo mightily across new generations, as they discover his theology of a grace-filled God.

Collect for Martin Luther 
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

— Beth Lewis

David Oakerhater

Making Medicine (O-kuh-ha-tuh), also known as David Pendleton Oakerhater, was born into the Cheyenne nation (Oklahoma Territory) around 1847. He participated in his first war party at a young age, and over time, he gained a reputation among the Cheyenne as a skilled warrior.

Making Medicine first came into conflict with the United States after a retaliatory raid on poaching settlers. The US government responded to the Cheyenne with a war of attrition to deprive the Cheyenne and other affiliated tribes of food and supplies. By 1875, Making Medicine and several fellow warriors surrendered to the United States at Fort Sill. A group of seventy-four of those who surrendered were arrested, detained without trial, and moved to Saint Augustine, Florida. Making Medicine and his fellow captives were forced to assimilate into American society. At Fort Marion, he and his fellow captives learned English, taught art and archery lessons, and had their first encounters with Christian missionaries. By 1877 Episcopal deaconness Mary Douglass Burnham made arrangements to sponsor the remaining Cheyenne prisoners for positions of service in the church.

Making Medicine was sponsored by Alice and George H. Pendleton and brought to Paris Hill, New York, where he became affiliated with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Under the guidance of the parish priest, he was educated in the scriptures and baptized in 1878, taking the name David from the Bible and Pendleton in honor of his sponsors. His theological formation continued, and in 1881 he was confirmed and ordained as a deacon.

Not long after, Oakerhater returned to Oklahoma as a missionary and took part in the founding of schools and missions, including those in Bridgeport and Whirlwind. He continued serving his people until his death in 1931. Upon his return to Oklahoma, he told the Cheyenne, “You all know me. You remember when I led you out to war I went first, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all he tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace.”

Collect for David Oakerhater
O God of unsearchable wisdom and infinite mercy, you chose a captive warrior, David Oakerhater, to be your servant, and sent him to be a missionary to his own people, and to exercise the office of a deacon among them: Liberate us, who commemorate him today, from bondage to self, and empower us for service to you and to the neighbors you have given us; through Jesus Christ, the captain of our salvation; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— David Sibley

[poll id="181"]

Martin Luther—Lucas Cranach the Elder, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
David Oakerhater—By A.B. Gardner, Utica, NY, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


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269 comments on “Martin Luther vs. David Oakerhater”

  1. I too wanted to vote for both "saints". However, I believe that Luther was instrumental in guiding reform of Christianity and thus had more far reaching influence in modern times. Loved Oakerhater's story though!

  2. As a 19-year veteran of the diaconate, it pained me to vote for Luther, but, for perhaps the second time in their existence, A&E was right.

  3. This is like Duke playing the High School Champs from North Carolina. It's not fair- but Making Medicine is putting up a good fight.

  4. As wonderful as Luther was to stand up to Rome even when he had to hide for fear he would be killed, I cannot vote for him due to his stance on the Jews. I think when he posted his theses he expected to start an academic discussion and did not realize what a structural change would come.

  5. I thought I would vote for Making Medicine, because he was an American and an Episcopalian, but I was charmed by the thought of Katarina and Martin's dinner parties. Plus I have bobbleheads of Martin & Katarina, so ... Anyone know where I can get a David Oakerhater bobblehead?

    1. David Oakerhater bobblehead sounds like something for Saintly Kitsch, if he gets that far, or at least the Lentorium.

      Whaddya say, SEC?

  6. I was inclined at first to vote for Martin Luther. But I just can't agree with the central point of his theology: that faith alone, without works, is sufficient for salvation. I'm of the "faith without works is dead " school. As James asserted in his second epistle, even devils believe in the One God (and tremble).

    1. Luther called James a "straw epistle". Your salvation was gained by Grace alone. Your works and care of others is a response to that incredible gift.

      1. What Lither actually said is that, compared to what Paul wrote, the Epistle of James is straw. That said, our Gospel readings during the weeks leading up to Lent would indicate that Jesus tended more toward James than he did Paul.

      2. Emotionally, I was inclined to vote for Oakerhater, but instead I chose Luther, because he reminded the church that grace alone, through faith, gives us salvation. And as you wrote, Margaret, our works are the fruit of that salvation. Actually, if James is read carefully, we see that he agrees with this. In his epistle he wrote "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith." Faith that doesn't produce works is dead.

  7. As a Deacon for 23 years, my heart is with Oakerhater for many reasons, but my head is with Luther - not least because I recently served as an interim pastor in a Lutheran congregation.

  8. I voted for Oakerhater in 2015 and was quite upset when he didn't go further. Of course the Saints are sinners - we all are! Isn't that the point of Easter?

  9. This is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and I am a cradle member of the Lutheran Church, so while David Oakerhater is impressive and I voted for him in 2015, not this year. Come on all you Lutheran Lent Madness players, let's GOTV.

  10. I had Luther going up against Augustine (Hippo) just for the fun of it. Hippo lost to Canterbury, but I'm still sticking with ML. He had his grave faults, to be sure, but getting to the Lent Madness finals would be a nice way for him to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the 95 Thesis.

  11. You create such complicated choices... however, it is David once again that I support... there are way too many saints already from Europe..... and David's ministry to First Nations Peoples cannot be overstated.

  12. Larry got me with his rally cry to fellow Okies.... but reflection on the two lives gives me a respect for a man who was taken away from his home a warrior but returned there a changed man, modeling peace and a new way of living in the world. Go, David!

  13. Yes, a very tough choice. Luther, like all of us had his faults. Show me one “Saint” who does not. And I'm sure David had his faults, as do I. If it had not been Luther, it would have been some other monk or religious person who finally challenged the church of his day. Luther was not the first, just the one who succeeded without losing his life. In my mind, the most important thing that Luther restored to the church was the incredible Grace that God bestows on all of us, regardless of the magnitude of our sins and failures. I have failed many times in life, but by God’s Grace working through others, I have always been able to get back up. Because of Luther’s unswerving committment to God’s Grace and the crucified Christ, I will vote for Luther today.

  14. Luther had his shortcomings - which of us doesn't? His understanding that we are justified by faith and of God's grace empower us sinners to get up each morning and do what needs to be done even. He also had courage to speak truth to power. Recall his statement at the Diet of Augsburg: "Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders! Gott helfe mir, Amen!"

  15. I would like to have voted for both of these guys. Both did amazing things for the Church. And both men were seriously flawed just like you and me. I voted for Martin. I'm appalled by his anti-semitism but admire his challenging the Pope and the prevailing belief that one is saved by works rather than faith.

  16. This was a tough one! I wanted to vote for David, but voted for Martin Luther because David's conversion was forced upon him and my granddaughter is named Katarina.

    1. good reason, Oliver. I voted for David Oakenhater because he is the obvious underdog in this match-up. And because he has a cool name.

  17. Very touched by David's conversion and his returning to share his new faith with his people, I voted for him.

  18. Luther is one of the "100 most influential people of the millennium."
    All the more reason to lift up O-kuh-ha-tuh. While "forced to assimilate into American society" - interesting that once again "American society" is used as the descriptor of WHITE CHRISTIAN (male) society - O-kuh-ha-tuh returned to his people.
    "You all know me. You remember when I led you out to war I went first, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader... I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace.” Reminds me of the writings of St Paul.
    Voting for O-kuh-ha-tuh.
    (Syracuse and the rest of thc Diocese of CNY, where are you? Get your votes in.)

    1. I would love to see Oakerhater in his American Indian regalia and not in his uptight and conformist "uniform" which seems to deny his heritage. I do not hold this against him, but against the reformist notions of the church. No more speaking your native tongue, dancing in celebration of life, and on. My heart goes out to this man who managed to endure and to find God's grace. My hat goes off to the faithful and non-dogmatist Christians who could feel and share his suffering.

    2. Another one of us here! I voted for Luther but also have mixed feelings
      given his anti-Semitism.

      Hope all of you in the storm area are safe!

      Syracuse, NY

  19. I have voted for Luther, although I might not have done if I had read the comments first. I find his bravery in standing up to the established church inspiring, but that cannot be balanced against his anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic views. Ungood. And, whilst I deeply admire David Oakerhater and all that he experienced, I cannot vote for someone who symbolises all that is worst about Imperialism masquerading as Spirit. Religion has a lot to answer for when it comes to indigenous cultures. You make it all sound lovely and positive, and I honour your positivity, but behind that is a lot of pain for a great many people. Lent, it seems to me, would be a very good time to repent for the terrible things that have been done in the name of religion.

  20. Voting for the upset here. Nothing against Martin Luther and his amazing work, but Making Medicine's story is hitting me in all the right places.

  21. After reading about Making Medicine in LM 2015, we visited his grave in Watonga and saw the still active church that remains as part of his legacy. His art is also stirring, as are the ledger artists who also recorded their experiences. I vote for the lesssr known saint this time.

  22. Although I'm now an Episcopalian, my roots as a practicing Christian go back to those years (!) of confirmation classes at Faith Lutheran in Arlington, Va and St. Paul's in Orlando. We had to memorize Luther's Small Catechism (after walking three miles through the snow). Well, not in Orlando. Shoutout to Pastor Klein!
    "Which is the Fifth Commandment?"
    "Thou shalt not kill."
    "What does this mean?"
    "We should fear and love God so we do our neighbor no bodily harm nor cause him any suffering, but help and befriend him in every need."
    Good basic instructions for 12-15 year olds. We didn't learn about Luther's antisemitism, obviously.

  23. I cast my vote for Martin Luther fully expecting to be able to vote for David Oakerhater in the next round and was shocked to see the votes cast. I first encountered David Oakerhater in a previous round and greatly admire him. I was amused by the account of the generous hospitality of Martin and Katerina Luther. In a popular UK children's programme, Horrible Histories, Martin is depicted greeting guests whilst seated in his toilet.

  24. I had my reservations about both of them, but ultimately I voted for Oakerhater. Being a member of one of the historic peace churches, I like the story of how he turned from nonviolence to peace, but I wonder at one cost. While I certainly don't think he had any ill intentions for his people, I am concerned by the quote above, as it seems to me a justification for ending resistance against the way white settlers treated the Native Americans. I don't think that was his intent, but the problem remains. That said, I'm excited to learn more about him.

  25. Yesterday was two two guys i'm not particularly over fond of, now two great guys. You couldn't have cut the bracket differently? Ah well, will ponder through the day... what it's all about?!

  26. My Lutheran Church History professor, Don Armentrout of blessed memory, would haunt me if I didn't vote for Martin.