frank_davis (frank_davis) wrote,
frank_davis
frank_davis

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Pat Nurse today:

I have been interested in the debate taking place over at David Milibland's site for leader and the comment below terrified me.

Asif Khan says:
August 2, 2010 at 11:02 pm
As a British Muslim, I feel offended that pubs still exist. The fact that many are closing is a message that Allah has spoken. Islam is rising in the UK and alcohol will soon be history.

It's crass remarks like this that deeply offend me. They tend to make me a tad anti-Islamic. If that's their attitude, they should be sent packing. I don't mind if Muslims have their mosques. But it's none of their business to tell British people how they should live. I wouldn't go to an Islamic country and tell them how they should live: I'd offer them choice.

But I bet that David Miliband has been taking note of Asif Khan in ways he does not pay attention to this country's 15 million smokers. But then Miliband's Russian or something, isn't he?

All of which reminds me that I've been meaning to mention the Church Mouse's recent post on Christian attitudes to smoking. The following bit was from a Calvinist:

First, in order to affirm the social utility of tobacco. As Wendell Berry writes, “Tobacco is fragrant, and smoking at its best is convivial or ceremonious and pleasant.” Smoke and drink are conversation stimulants and together they suggest the relaxed and engaging atmosphere that we want to establish for the arguments and topics you will find here. We also want to suggest that the kind of conversation that accompanies the moderate use of tobacco and alcohol is very important for sustaining us on our pilgrimage this side of glory. It may even be a foretaste of the fellowship we will enjoy when our Lord returns.

I didn't know Calvinists liked a jar or two and a smoke! I thought they were all really strict and grim. And the idea that an evening in a pub might be a foretaste of divine fellowship is rather delightful:

Jesus: 'What're you having, Frank?'

Frank: 'A pint of Beck's, if I may, J. And could I have a packet of Bacon Fries too?'

Jesus: 'Won't be a tick. Anything else?'

Frank: 'And could you stick "Halo" by Texas on the jukebox? And, erm, "Running Scared" by Roy Orbison too?'

Jesus: 'I'll put it on after "Like a Prayer" by Madonna.'

Anyway, there's also a poem in praise of tobacco by the Reverend Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) of the Dunfermline Church of Scotland, of which the first stanza goes:

WAS this small plant for thee cut down!
So was the Plant of great renown;
Which mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Along the same lines, here are a few links posted by Rose on Taking Liberties last week. It seems the churches did not like the smoking ban.

Church no smoking signs condemned
Heritage entrances
"Mr Slee claimed one church had been threatened with closure by the council if it failed to comply.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he said: "All Deans have received a very formal letter and been instructed that it's mandatory to put up these signs, even on wonderful Grade I listed heritage entrances"
[1]

Holy smoke: Tongue-in-cheek blessing for ‘unsightly’ sign
"A VICAR blessed his church's new No Smoking sign in a "protest against excessive bureaucracy".
Canon Garlick says the blessing with incense and holy water was made to mock the law and because all new items in churches must be blessed.
He said: "There was an irony in doing the blessing with smoke on a No Smoking sign but we think the ban allows incense."

"The Bishop of Fulham describes the new rules as "stark, staring mad," and the Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev Colin Slee, says the legislation is "daft".
[2]

"A vicar who lit his pipe in a Kent police station as a protest against the smoking ban has failed in his attempt to get himself arrested.
The Reverend Anthony Carr, of East Peckham, walked into the station in Tonbridge, asked to report a crime and then started smoking.

He said he flouted the ban to protest against the erosion of civil liberties.
[3]

Church leaders take a stand over barmy bureaucracy
"Places of worship are not exempt from the ban on smoking in public places, which comes into force today, (Sunday July 1) so churches have been warned by councils that they must put up the signs or face fines of up to £1,000."
[4]

I remember reading about that vicar in the police station at the time, and feeling glad that at least one of them made a stand.

And while I'm mentioning Rose, I must also mention Rose's Garden on Forces.org. Rose is not only an avid gardener, but also an avid digger-up of obscure tobacco-related links on the internet. Rose's Garden is a collection of hundreds of these links, many of which started life on Michael Siegel's blog comments, from where I helped transplant quite a few a couple of years ago. Rose's Garden has sections on Sir Richard Doll and Sir Ronald Fisher and George Godber as well as on nicotine, solanesol, formaldehyde, arsenic, lead, and much more.

And it reminds me once again that I used to treat pubs like they were churches. They were places to go and have a pint of beer and a couple of smokes, and to gaze reflectively into space. I'd come out an hour later feeling that I'd set the world to rights a little bit. And that wasn't the effect of the beer or the tobacco.

It's one reason why I so profoundly hate the smoking ban: it evicted me from my church.

And the River, oddly enough, had various bits of church furniture in it, including a lectern upon which, for a long time, there lay open a Book of Common Prayer. One almost felt, on a quiet afternoon, that a vicar in a cassock might at any moment step up to this lectern, and read a lesson from it to the assembled drinkers, to their surprise.

I sometimes wonder if, long ago, churches actually were just like pubs, with music and food and alcohol and conversation, and going to church was as much fun as, well,.. going to a pub. And people would stroll in and out. And the vicar would be much like a pub landlord, only with a bit more wisdom than most pub landlords. It's just that it's all got a bit stilted now, after centuries of killjoys have been at work. The early Christian Agape love-festivals occasionally got a bit drunken and riotous, it seems. And the word Mass relates to the Latin "missa" or meal or mess. And "religion" is derived from the Latin "religio", which means "to bind together again". Which is what used to happen in pubs, when you met up with your friends.

If churches were like pubs once were, I'd go to church like a shot. But if I treat pubs like churches, I'd probably treat such churches like pubs.
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