walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Published on: December 19, 2012
Two Old Germans Drinking Coffee
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  • FrMichael

    The real question is whether the heavily tainted Roman catholic Church can in fact lead at all. Weighed down as it is in the mind of the secular public with the multitude of ignored sexual scandals, it may be unable to lead for some generations, and has certainly lost any authority it might have had. I would suggest that Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow, whose Church is now present right across western Europe and the UK, as head of the largest, most powerful part of the great Orthodox Church is in a much better position to lead Christians. He has no sexual taints, his Church is not the papacy and can deal better with Protestants.

  • Gary Novak

    What was it about the coffee-drinking of two old Germans that interested Berger? Recall that in “Invitation to Sociology,” Berger said that “the sociologist (that is, the one we would really like to invite to our game) is a person intensively, endlessly, shamelessly interested in the doings of men”– which include the interactions among “a group of little girls playing with their dolls.” So, it doesn’t take much to get him interested. The fact that the two old Germans are Pope Benedict XVI and the President of the Federal Republic of Germany would be reason enough for journalists to be interested— even those made seasick by the pope’s religious conservatism and political liberalism (the opposite of Berger’s religious liberalism and political conservatism, which also makes some people seasick). But, of course, no one— except the principals, Gott im Himmel, and the fly on the wall– knows what was said in this conspiracy of believers to re-evangelize Europe.

    But is that really what they talked about? And, if so, would their conversation still count as a curiosity? Isn’t the rediscovery of the supernatural in Europe too important an issue to be a mere curiosity? Or might we hope that our two old Germans in the course of their conversation invoked a third— long-concerned with the rediscovery of the supernatural– to make a point about the soteriological significance of Alice in Wonderland’s ability to see the world as “curiouser and curiouser”?

  • Walter Sobchak

    “the Thirty Years War, and later events such as the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the rebellion of the Netherlands against Spanish rule”

    The rebellion of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, against Habsburg rule began 50 years before the Thirty Years War began. And it was not fought as an integral part of that war, although strategic and tactical moves by the combatants deeply impacted and were also shaped by the fighting in Germany. But, it’s end was marked by one of the treaties that constituted the Peace of Westphalia.

    See Gerard ter Borch’s famous painting of the signing of the treaty:

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Westfaelischer_Friede_in_Muenster_%28Gerard_Terborch_1648%29.jpg

  • Felix Schweizer

    When two theologians meet they don’t talk about god. They talk about matters concerning power in the church and the state. They also converse about other theologians, i.e. how to ratched their reputation down a notch.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    In Peter Berger’s memoir “Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist” he tells a story of how two revolutionaries came all the way from Latin America to his office unannounced in New York City to ask him advice on behalf of their leader who was in hiding. It was one of the many accidental meetings he relates in his book.

    Unbeknownst to Berger, over the recent Christmas holiday he had an accidental meeting with one of the inner circle of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 in Iran. Or at least one of his books did. It just so happens that I accidentally met a self-described former Muslim in a coffee house I frequently hang out in. He is a in his 60’s in age and I will call him “Mo” (short for Mohammed but not his real name).

    Mo describes himself as one of the Islamic Revolution that deposed the Shah and replaced it with an Islamic government under Ayatollah Khomeini. Mo claims he is no longer Islamic and has no ties to a mosque in the U.S. He describes being Islamic as being a sort of mental illness or mind possession when he is in front of Americans. Mo relates a story that he went to Indonesia to establish an Islamic government there as part of the revolution. When he returned to Tehran Airport he saw a women being killed by Iranian officials for trying to leave the country wearing sheer women’s hosiery. He said he knew something was different when he returned to his country and that was Sharia law.

    Mo continues to read Iranian Marxist academics writing books and teaching in the U.S. He often comes up to me to help him define the dense intellectual vocabulary used by Neo-Marxist writers in books he reads.

    I asked Mo what he did for a living. He said he has a Persian rug store but there is never any business. He relates that he subsisted on helping build homes in Southern California during the Mortgage Bubble. I had always wondered what happened to Islamic revolutionaries. Now I now: they emigrated to the U.S. to take part in the great housing affordability revolution!!

    In any event, I ended up taking Mo to a Middle Eastern restaurant for Christmas, as he is unemployed. Seeing a possible gullible American, Mo proposed that I buy the Persian rugs in his store so that he can return to Iran and lead yet another revolution to overthrow the Mullahs that now run the country. I obviously declined the proposition but I gave Mo a Christmas present instead. It was Berger’s “Pyramids of Sacrifice: Political Ethics and Social Change” written in 1974. So Berger had an accidental meeting with a former Islamic Revolutionary over Christmas 2012 but he never knew it.

    My encounter with Mo reminds me of Sadanand Dhume’s book “My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a Radical Islamist.”

    Berger wonders what a planned meeting between two old Germans – Joseph Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI and former Lutheran Pastor and now President of the Federal Republic of Germany Joachim Gauck – might bring. In a similar vein I wonder what a chance encounter of a former Islamic Revolutionary and a book written by Peter Berger might bring. Berger states that conspiracies of believers may not be able to change European secularity. Neither is it likely that one of Berger’s book might change authoritarian Islamic rule in Iran. But as Berger points out: “stranger things have happened.”

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  • Gilligan

    “Paul Zulehner, an Austrian sociologist of religion, said that Estonia, the Czech Republic and the territory of the former German Democratic Republic are countries in which atheism has become the established religion.”

    Over the years I have had occasion to see the ID cards of several dozen Germans, both before and after reunion. All of them had “Atheist” in the block for religion.

    Maybe I have just met an unusual sampling but it makes me wonder who are these German Catholics that need to be reassured since reunification made them into a minority. It was my impression that religious people of any sort were a minority in Germany long before that.

  • Tom Perkins

    “I would suggest that Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow, whose Church is now present right across western Europe and the UK, as head of the largest, most powerful part of the great Orthodox Church is in a much better position to lead Christians.”

    Considering how he is in the pocket of Putin, I can think of no better a pro-totalitarian victory, than to give the Soviet Orthodox Church authority it should never have.

  • John Blake

    Fine article, on a meeting wholly ignored by slipshod U.S. media. Most excellent comments make one realize the depth of one’s own benighted philistinism.

  • matt

    Marxism is dead. It died in 1989 at the hands of John Paul II, Thatcher, Reagan, and its own massive failure to serve the needs of the people.

    I love hearing existentialists and sociologists and Marxists discuss faith because they really know nothing in the end. A lack of belief is, I believe, a barrier to comprehension.

    Faith in Germany, as elsewhere is in crisis. The churches are empty. Both the Pope and Hr. Gauck recognize this. This began long before the scandals. Existentialism, deconstruction, and Marxism have all undermined both reason and faith.

    Take your pick of root causes but the fact remains that the prevailing wisdom is not so very wise after all.

    Spending ones economy into bankruptcy whether in 1989 in the Soviet Union or in Western Europe in 2012 creates crisis and poverty and delegitimizes government. The failed social policies are evident in the banlieus and ghettos and yet the example of the Polish diaspora and national economic policies stand in clear contrast.

    Wishful thinking is not national policy, nor should it be a surprise that people of firm conviction and faith should have the strength to work together and have common outlooks.

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