History Book – Martin Luther, Father’s Day, and Jaws

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, June 15th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD History Book. 

Today, a fish tale becomes the first true “Summer Blockbuster Movie.” Plus, 90 years ago this week, the start of Father’s Day.

REICHARD: But first, today marks the 500th anniversary of a decree by the pope. The decree threatening Martin Luther with excommunication from the Roman Catholic church. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: After many attempts to get Martin Luther to disavow his reformation ideas, on this day in 1520, Pope Leo the Tenth issues a papal bull against him. It’s titled Exsurge Domine or “Arise, O Lord.” 

In it, he prays that God would rise up and protect the church from the attacks of Luther and other reformers—who the Pope compares to wild animals. Audio here from a Davenant Institute video:

EXSURGE DOMINE: Arise O Lord, and judge your own cause…Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen, seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod…The wild boar of the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.

In his decree, Leo the Tenth identifies 41 errors in Luther’s writings. The pope calls for the faithful across Europe to burn his books and pamphlets. Luther is given 60 days to recant—otherwise, face excommunication.

Luther boldly responds in widely distributed pamphlets. He then publicly burns a copy of the papal bull. The Exsurge Domine doesn’t have the effect the pope hopes for as it further fans the reformation flame. 

In fact, if Luther’s publication of the Ninety-five Theses in 1517 is the birth of the reformation, then the papal bull of 1520 and the subsequent excommunication edict six months later are what make it a protestant reformation instead of a Catholic one. The decrees mark Rome’s official rejection of Luther and his message of repentance and renewal. 

Next, we head to Spokane, Washington. 

Sonora Dodd is a young wife and mother. In the Spring on 1909, she attends a Mother’s Day service at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church. Mother’s Day is a new national holiday, and it gets her thinking…

RODDY: She then approached the minister after the service and said: “Well, I wholly support the idea of Mother’s Day, but what about Fathers? When do they get their day in the sun?”

Audio of Betsy Roddy, Sonora’s great grand-daughter, speaking to CBS’s Nikki Batiste.

RODDY: Mother’s Day was a much more easy concept I think. There was a sense of fathers being stoic, and not perhaps being used to being showered with affection.

So Dodd got to work, eventually appealing to the Spokane Ministerial Alliance to set aside a day for dads:

RODDY: She had hoped to get Father’s Day on June the 5th, that was her father’s birthday. 

Instead, the Ministerial Alliance chose the third Sunday of June. So on June 19th, 1910, churches in Spokane celebrated Father’s Day for the first time. 

Despite early supporters, Father’s Day didn’t catch on nationally for more than 50 years. In 1966 Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation marking the day—and six years later, President Richard Nixon made it a permanent national observance.

And finally, June 20th, 1975: 


Universal Pictures releases Steven Spielberg’s film about a killer shark.

MOVIE CLIP: Get them out! Get them out of the water!

Jaws is based on the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. The story of the man-eating shark is set off the coast of an Eastern sea-board summer resort town. 

MOVIE CLIP: Look we depend on the summer people here for our very lives…you’re not going to have a summer unless you [ARGUING]…

Novels like Melville’s Moby Dick, and Hemingways’ The Old Man and the Sea, clearly influence the film—as does the 1950’s Godzilla franchise. 

MOVIE CLIP: You know the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes…when he comes at you, he doesn’t seem to be living… 

Jaws was only Spielberg’s third film, and his inexperience quickly put the project behind schedule and over budget. But it was problems with the shark animatronics that almost derailed the film. Spielberg had to make a tough call: shoot most of the creature film without the creature. 

SPIELBERG: Instead of the shark, I played a lot of fear of people in water….it turned the movie into an exercise of suspense, instead of just a horror film. 

And it paid off. Before Jaws, summer was when studios released their second- and third-tier projects. But Jaws broke the trend. It set record ticket sales, making it what was then the highest grossing film of all time. The modern “summer block-buster” was born. 


The film’s success had a few unintended consequences. The most notable: an increased fear of the ocean. During the summer of 1975, many coastal areas, like Martha’s Vineyard where the film was shot, experienced a noticeable reduction in beach attendance. Many lay the blame for that on the film about the great white shark.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Universal Pictures)

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One comment on “History Book – Martin Luther, Father’s Day, and Jaws

  1. openbookskim says:

    Nice blog, I like reading history books related to Martin Luther.

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