Prussia was the preeminent illiberal Protestant state.
Frederick William I, the Great Elector, was the stern Calvinist ruler of Brandenburg-Prussia. I’ve been reading about the relationship he developed with the Lutheran Pietist August Hermann Francke and how he endorsed the Halle Pietists and how the two began the long tradition of providing Christian military chaplains for the Prussian army.
“FW: What do you think of war?
AHF: Your majesty is obliged to defend the country, but I am called to preach that God blesses the peaceful.
FW: This is certainly good. But does He not forbid His people from taking part in war?
AHF: Students of theology are suited, as your majesty knows, to fill positions in church and school.
FW: But does He not tell His people that if they become soldiers they will become the devil’s prey?
AHF: I know many Christian soldiers. I have more supporters among soldiers than among the clergy.”
The following excerpt comes from Eric W. Gritsch’s book A History of Lutheranism:
“Halle pursued the conversion of pagans and Jews. But the whole missionary and ecumenical program was hampered by the strong political link to the Prussian kings. They viewed Pietism as an ideology used to enhance Prussian military nationalism. Their large military orphanage in Potsdam as well as the military academy in Berlin became the Prussian version of Pietism. Pious edification was used in military handbooks to create “Christian soldiers,” exemplified by the treatise, printed in Halle and distributed in the army, “The Pious Soldier, That is, a Thorough Instruction for the True, Blessed and Christian Men of War.”
Frederick I had been a pious Calvinist monarch in a Lutheran country.
Frederick the Great, however, was an aesthete who fell under the spell of the Enlightenment. He was a friend of Voltaire. He was rumored to be a homosexual. Still though, he continued the work of his father in expanding Prussian military strength and power. I’m going to chill this evening and watch this documentary on the contest between Frederick the Great of Prussia and Maria Theresa and the Habsburgs of Austria over supremacy over the German world.