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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Heresy and Inebriation by John von Daler

                 If you visit a little German town called Müllheim close to the French border, a picturesque village with winding streets and several churches, and you happen to wander into the little Markgräfler museum, then have a look at the two paintings on each side of the middle door on the second floor. One painting depicts a local innkeeper from the 18th century and the other is his father-in-law, my ancestor, Philipp Jacob Daler, born at the end of the seventeenth century.
                 The juxtaposition of these two portraits could and probably should be seen as anything but accidental. P. J. Daler was the pastor of the Margrethe church in Müllheim. As if having the responsibility for the souls of this town were not enough, he also functioned as superintendent for all the Lutherens in the domain of the Marquise of Durlach, a large area with many churches. And many inns.
                I might as well admit it at once; old Philipp was a hothead. And a radical. And a diligent theologist. He also planned a school reform for Müllheim and initiated the first school tax so that all the parish children could receive an education. He had written his doctor's thesis at the university in Rostock and had then returned home to help change this part of the country into something better. But he did like a glass or two.
                Philipp probably got invited to all kinds of functions. And when there were no weddings or funerals he could visit his son-in-law at the inn. Wherever he was, though, he often voiced his opinions on religion.
                Scripture does not have to be interpreted for ordinary people. They can understand it without any help!
                The Devil was not created by God. He was invented by human beings and he does not exist.
                Evidently some theologists from Switzerland came to a wedding in his parish and having heard some of his opinions immediately accused him of heresy. He was put on trial. It is told that he defended himself vehemently and that his parishers supported him staunchly. He was acquitted.
                The acquittal was not quite enough for the presiding judge, though. He made a little speech for Superintendent Daler in which he suggested that it would be wise to hold back on the drinking. After all, he did have eight children of his own and a whole countryside of churches to watch over.
                As his descendent I cannot confirm that the Daler family from then on became a sober stock. But I can assure you that we still make our little forays into heresy.
                So when you walk into the beautiful little salon in which civil marriage cermonies once were conducted on the second floor of what now is the Markgräfler Museum, notice the refined irony in the placement of the two pictures: the innkeeper and the pastor, arm in arm, as it were, for the ages.

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