walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Published on: May 14, 2014
A Setback for Kemalists
May One Pray While One Smokes?

The recent Supreme Court ruling about prayer before town meetings is a setback for militant Kemalists in the United States.

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  • Boritz

    “The Obama administration trying to force nuns to buy contraceptives for
    employees of Catholic hospitals, while both objectionable and stupid,
    hardly falls into the same category.”

    It’s true that the nuns can solve the problem by leaving their chosen field or by caving on their beliefs with the accompanying personal question of whether they are eternally judged for doing so. In neither case will they be imprisoned or killed. Yeah, I guess you’re right. Not persecution.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    “On land, at sea, at home, abroad, I smoke my pipe and worship God” — Johann Sebastian Bach

    EXCERPT FROM THE WEBSITE: THE WITTENBERG TRAIL – The Online Community for People Exploring and Confessing the Lutheran Faith

    Comment by Wesley Tetsuji Kan on March 28, 2012 at 6:27am

    It has been said that the Baroque era Lutheran composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, was so wedded to his tobacco that on one occasion when he appeared in the house without his pipe in his mouth, one of his many children failed to recognize him and burst into tears. To date, I have been unable to find any documentation for this story, but the very fact that the story is still circulating nearly three centuries after his death indicates that at the very least the musical titan was fond of his pipe.

    Bach presented to his second wife two notebooks that are known by their title page dates of 1722 and 1725. The title “Anna Magdalena notebook” usually refers to the latter. The primary difference between the two collections is that the 1722 notebook contains works composed exclusively by Johann Sebastian Bach (including most of the French Suites), while the 1725 notebook is a compilation of compositions by a handful of composers of the era beside Johann Sebastian, most notably his successful son, Carl Phillip Emanuel. The Notebook provides a nearly unparalleled glimpse into the incidental music of the 18th century and the musical tastes of the Bach family.

    The aria, “Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker,” is from the 1725 Notebook. In it Bach drew parallels between his clay pipe and his mortal frame fashioned from the dust of the earth. Notice how Bach, a staunch confessional Lutheran and arguably the world’s best composer, transformed the mundane activity of smoking his pipe into an allegory of life and death, of soteriology (theology of salvation).

    The libretto appears below:

    The aria ends with the words most often quoted by Christian pipe smokers:

    Zu Land, zu Wasser und zu Haus, Mein Pfeifchen stets in Andacht aus.
    (On land, at sea, at home, abroad, I smoke my pipe and worship God.)

    Whene’er I take my pipe and stuff it
    And smoke to pass the time away
    My thoughts, as I sit there and puff it,
    Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
    It teaches me that very like
    Am I myself unto my pipe.
     
    Like me this pipe, so fragrant burning,
    Is made of naught but earthen clay;
    To earth I too shall be returning,
    And cannot halt my slow decay.
     
    My well used pipe, now cracked and broken,
    Of mortal life is but a token.
    No stain, the pipe’s hue yet doth darken;
    It remains white. Thus do I know

    That when to death’s call I must harken
    My body, too, all pale will grow.
    To black beneath the sod ‘twill turn,
    Likewise the pipe, if oft it burn.

    Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
    Behold then instantaneously,
    The smoke off into thin air going,
    ‘Til naught but ash is left to see.

    Man’s fame likewise away will burn
    And unto dust his body turn.
    How oft it happens when one’s smoking,
    The tamper’s missing from it’s shelf,

    And one goes with one’s finger poking
    Into the bowl and burns oneself.
    If in the pipe such pain doth dwell
    How hot must be the pains of Hell!

    Thus o’er my pipe in contemplation
    Of such things – I can constantly
    Indulge in fruitful meditation,
    And so, puffing contentedly,
    On land, at sea, at home, abroad,
    I smoke my pipe and worship God.

  • amoose1960

    Wake up readers! Berger is not a scholar but a Frankfurt School disciple. He is a social marxist to the bone. He is intent on squashing all religions especially Christianity. His style as l have pointed out many times is predictable and he does not fail us in this piece.

    • gipper11

      Berger a Frankfurt school disciple? I don’t think so. He did go to the New School but that wasn’t in vogue at the time. He is a unique kind of liberal Protestant– probably disconcerting to evangelicals and conservative Catholics who have valued his work.

  • Fred

    I agree that “persecution” is too strong a word, at the moment, for what Christians face in America, especially in comparison to places like Saudi Arabia and North Korea. However, I would make two points: 1) The slippery slope may be a fallacy in formal logic, but it is all too often a reality in politics, where successful power grabs tend to breed further power grabs. Today nuns are forced to provide contraception and religious business owners to serve gay weddings. Tomorrow? 2) America should be held to a higher standard vis a vis religious freedom than fanatical savages like the Saudis or evil totalitarians like the North Koreans.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Not only do local governments allow prayer before town council meetings, in my community when a controversial issue arises the city council often holds public meetings in various churches first instead of at city hall. Mayors and city councilpersons often are the targets of verbal attacks and protesters when a contentious issue is heard at city hall. Such meetings often become media spectacles and outlets for emotional catharsis about everyone’s gripe with life.

    But when held in a church the verbal attacks become more civilized and the protesters less likely to try and carry out some stunt to get media attention.

    Local governments often need religious institutions to serve as the “mediating structure” (Berger’s term) between government and the people. I don’t think city officials will be beating down the doors of the meeting halls of Atheists United or Socialists International or the Occupy Movement any too soon to hold their meetings in.

    • Wayne Lusvardi

      I should have added that typically such city council or city planning and zoning meetings are not held in the upscale and ultra-liberal Episcopal church but in either conservative Protestant churches (Baptist, Assemblies of God, or Non-denominational Bible churches) or in Orthodox Christian churches (Orthodox Greek or Armenian churches). Now why would you guess the “city fathers” prefer the more conservative churches?

      (And, oh, parenthetically, no smoking in church).

  • ShadrachSmith

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”

    It sounds so straightforward and simple. Anybody can pray to anything whenever they want. What sort of Sophistical contortions do you have to do to make those words mean,…”Nobody can pray if anybody objects.”?

    The Constitutional instructions are clear. Let ’em pray.

  • gipper11

    “We have some data now about who these people are. The number of atheists or agnostics is very small. Mostly these are people who haven’t found a church or religious community they are comfortable with. In other words, the growth of the “nones” is evidence of the combination of religious pluralism in the society and the protection of religious freedom by the state.” What is this data? All I have seen shows the nones to be teetering toward nonreligion or spiritual but not religious.

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