One took on the establishment, utilized a blossoming medium to speak directly to disenfranchised people, often used language deemed uncouth, didn’t like to admit he might be wrong and frequently lashed out at rivals.
The other – more of the same.
When Pastor Paul F. Swartz, who lives in Carmel, began working on a book about Martin Luther, the 16th-century German priest, theologian and author who butted heads with the Roman Catholic Church and became the seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation, the story sounded familiar. He began drawing comparisons between Luther and Donald Trump, the 45th U.S. President and a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election.
Swartz wrote about the similarities, first in an article for a theological journal and now a book: “Twin Populist Reform Warriors 500 Years Apart: Martin Luther & Donald Trump – Astonishing Similarities.” Published by Gatekeeper Press, the 648-page book is available from Amazon and other online vendors as well as select bookstores. It is Swartz’ first published book. He spent five years researching it and has included 1,374 footnotes to support his findings.
The book hits the market as Trump is the frontrunner among Republican presidential candidates but also faces multiple indictments. Swartz hopes the book helps people understand “how God not only chooses but uses His children as He wills and to recognize as human beings that Caesar does not need to be a saint.”
“(Luther and Trump) come with sharp tongues and at times foul mouths, which are part and parcel of who they are, and quite honestly, I am not sure they would have been as effective without those ingredients that have contributed to their personas and work,” Swartz said.
Luther used the developing printing press to spread his beliefs, often speaking through illustrations to reach a largely uneducated population. When he refused to renounce his writings (the basis of Lutheranism), he was excommunicated by Pope Leo X. During his presidency, Trump utilized Twitter to bypass the mainstream media and had his account suspended.
Swartz draws other comparisons, including the fortitude to “drain the swamp” (for Luther the Catholic Church, for Trump the Washington bureaucracy).
“Many leaders do not possess what it takes to set themselves against a ruling class or the establishment the way Luther and Trump have done,” Swartz said.
Swartz, 80, is a retired Lutheran pastor. He and his wife, Betty, have been married 58 years and have lived in Carmel since 1999. They are the parents of two children (a daughter and deceased son) and have two grandchildren.