Lesson Title: The Reformers: Martin Luther and César E. Chávez Grade Level

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Lesson Title:

The Reformers: Martin Luther and César E. Chávez

Grade Level:

Grade Seven Lesson 5

History-Social Science Standard:

7.7.2 Students study the roles of people in each society, including class structures, family life, warfare, religious beliefs and practices, and slavery.

7.9 Students analyze the historical developments of the Reformation.
Correlation to K-8 California Adopted Textbooks:

Houghton Mifflin. Across The Centuries. Unit 6, Chapter 13

Setting the Context:

The era of reformation is connected to our modern world through the theme of risk takers moved by a spiritual strength. The power of God’s spirit enables many to be risk takers and visionaries who work to create a better world. In the sixteenth century, a group of dedicated people spoke out against the practices of the medieval church, believing that many abused the common people. For example, these reformers challenged the church’s practice of selling indulgences to raise money. Martin Luther (1483-1546) was one of those reformers whose leadership led to a revolution in the Christian Church. He believed that God freely grants forgiveness for sins through Jesus Christ’s death; people don’t earn forgiveness or buy forgiveness through the sale of indulgences. Thus, he was banned as a political enemy and went into hiding. There he wrote essays, songs, and sermons about his beliefs. He proposed reforms that lead to the movement in history called the Protestant Reformation.

Focus Questions:

What is the Reformation? Why is it important to understand? What makes people willing to lead movements that reform the status quo?

Expected Learning Outcomes:

Students will see the similarities in any movement of reformation that changes a society.

Key Concepts:

  1. Martin Luther’s movement of reforming the Christian Church brought far-flung changes to western civilization.

  1. César E. Chávez’s movement of reforming the farm labor system has brought changes to the way of life for the Mexican American community.

Essential Vocabulary:




indulgences: selling forgiveness for sins

celibacy: not marrying

translation: putting the Bible into the language of the local people
Primary Sources:

A Mighty Fortress song by Martin Luther

The Mexican American and the Church by César E. Chávez

Pictures of Martin Luther (Copyright ArtToday.com) and César E. Chávez



What causes change? Individual vs. self or individual vs. society? Martin Luther struggles with self (conscience) and struggles to reform the laws of the church. What have you struggled with in your life? What changes have you liked? What changes have you not liked?

Making Connections:

We are inseparable from the history of religion. The roots of reform run deep. St. Frances chose to create his own order within the Catholic Church while Luther gave birth to the Protestant Reformation because of the need for reform and change. Fairness, peace, and compassion come from the religious roots. Chávez’s favorite Saint was St. Frances. He felt strongly about how the church should support the farm laborers (see article below).

“El Grito, Summer 1968 “The Mexican American and the Church” by César E. Chávez

The following is an excerpt of an article prepared by Mr. Chávez during his 25-day spiritual fast and was presented to a meeting on Mexican Americans and the Church at the Second Annual Mexican Conference in Sacramento, California on March 8-10, 1968.
The place to begin is with our own experience with the Church in the strike that has gone on for thirty-one months in Delano. For in Delano the church has been involved with the poor in a unique way that should stand as a symbol to other communities. Of course, when we refer to the Church we should define the word a little. We mean the whole Church, the Church as an ecumenical body spread around the world, and not just its particular form in a parish in a local community. The Church we are talking about is a tremendously powerful institution in our society, and in the world. That Church is one form of the Presence of God on Earth, and so naturally it is powerful. It is powerful by definition. It is a powerful moral and spiritual force which cannot be ignored by any movement. Furthermore, it is an organization with tremendous wealth. Since the Church is to be servant to the poor, it is our fault if that wealth is not channeled to help the poor in our world. In a small way we have been able, in the Delano strike, to work together with the Church in such a way as to bring some of its moral and economic power to bear on those who want to maintain the status quo, keeping farm workers in virtual enslavement. In brief, here is what happened in Delano. Some years ago, when some of us were working with the Community Service Organization, we began to realize the powerful effect which the Church can have on the conscience of the opposition. In scattered instances, in San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles and other places, priests would speak out loudly and clearly against specific instances of oppression, and in some cases, stand with the people who were being hurt. Furthermore, a small group of priests, Frs. McDonald, McCollough, Duggan and others, began to pinpoint attention on the terrible situation of the farm workers in our state. At about that same time, we began to run into the California Migrant Ministry in the camps and field. They were about the only ones there, and a lot of us were very suspicious, since we were Catholics and they were Protestants. However, they had developed a very clear conception of the Church. It was called to serve, to be at the mercy of the poor, and not to try to use them. After a while this made a lot of sense to us, and we began to find ourselves working side by side with them. In fact, it forced us to raise the question why OUR Church was not doing the same. We would ask, ‘Why do the Protestants come out here and help the people, demand nothing, and give all their time to serving farm workers, while our own parish priests stay in their churches, where only a few people come, and usually feel uncomfortable?’ It was not until some of us moved to Delano and began working to build the National Farm Workers Association that we really saw how far removed from the people the parish Church was. In fact, we could not get any help at all from the priests of Delano. When the strike began, they told us we could not even use the Church’s auditorium for the meetings. The farm worker’s money helped build that auditorium! But the Protestants were there again, in the form of the California Migrant Ministry, and they began to help in little ways, here and there. When the strike started in 1965, most of our ‘friends’ forsook us for a while. They ran or were just too busy to help. But the California Migrant Ministry held a meeting with its staff and decided that the strike was a matter of life or death for farm workers everywhere, and that even if it meant the end of the Migrant Ministry they would turn over their resources to the strikers. The political pressure on the Protestant Churches was tremendous and the Migrant Ministry lost a lot of money. But they stuck it out, and they began to point the way to the rest of the Church. In fact, when 30 of the strikers were arrested for shouting ‘Huelga,’ 11 ministers went to jail with them. They were in Delano that day at the request of Chris Hartmire, director of the California Migrant Ministry. Then the workers began to raise the question: ‘Why ministers? Why not priests? What does the Bishop say?’ But the Bishop said nothing. But slowly the pressure of the people grew and grew, until finally we have in Delano a priest sent by the new Bishop, Timothy Manning, who is there to help minister to the needs of farm workers. … Finally, in a nutshell, what do we want the Church to do? We don’t ask for more cathedrals. We don’t ask for bigger churches or fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the Church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice, and for love of brother. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don’t ask for paternalism. We ask for servants.”
Vocabulary Activities:

Vocabulary picture boxes

Guided Instruction:

Use textbook and Chávez biography to complete the attached comparative chart.

Integrating Language:

Use the lyrics from A Mighty Fortress. Is this a song that César E. Chávez would have sung? What would he have liked about the verses? What would he have agreed with Martin Luther about where you get your strength?

A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our god,

A bulwark never failing;

Our helper He amid the Flood

Of mortal ills prevailing;

For still our ancient foe doth seek

To work us woe,

His craft and power are great,

And armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,

Our striving would be losing;

Were not the right man on our side,

The man of God’s own choosing;

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabbath His Name,

From age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.
And through this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us;

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us;

The prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for Him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! His doom is sure,

Our little word will fell Him.

Use the attached conflict resolution activity chart.


Write a comparative essay about what Martin Luther and César E. Chávez thought the role of the Church should be in society. Who should the Church serve? What should the Church represent?

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