St. Martin’s Day

November 10, 2006 | 33 comments
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Or, Notes from a modern theocracy

Continuing the periodic series on Holiday Envy, November 11 is St. Martin’s Day. Martin was a fourth-century convert to Christianity who is best known for splitting his own coat in two and giving half to a beggar who had none. In Germany, St. Martin’s is a children’s holiday celebrated in the evening by kindergartens and elementary schools. The pattern for celebrating St. Martin’s Day seems to be: Tell the story of St. Martin and sing Martin’s Day songs, hang paper lanterns on sticks, light the candles inside, and then (after a quick pater noster and benediction) let a couple hundred kids march down the street and back with their candle lanterns while their parents eat braided yeast rolls and drink spiced wine back at school. A good time was had by all. It also looked like a good Family Home Evening activity, except for the spiced wine part. No one takes the exact date too seriously here; I saw lanterns yesterday evening, but some schools won’t get around to it until next week, so you don’t have to feel inauthentic if you wait until Monday.

On the way home tonight, we tried to count the ways that the school’s St. Martin’s celebration could never work in the United States: Selling wine at an elementary school. Entrusting 6-10 year old children with paper candle lanterns. Celebrating a saint’s feast day. The pater noster. The benediction. (In addition, crosses hang at the front of every classroom, and there is regular cooperation with the nearby Lutheran congregation.) In the United States, the first amendment lawyers would eat these people for lunch, and the liability lawyers would strip the bones. And that is as it should be.

On the separation of church and state in school, I am an absolutist. The idea of school prayer has appalled me ever since I heard about it in the third grade. Call me childish, but I am still viscerally opposed to beginning each day with a teacher-directed prayer or even a moment of silence.

If I enjoy St. Martin’s Day, should I change my mind about school prayer? Maybe so. As a guest in a foreign country, I’m more willing to accept local conditions on their own terms; maybe I should open my mind to an expanded religious sphere in American schools, too. As much as Americans like to treat Europe as the epitome of post-Christian godlessness, the truth is not so simple. For all its problems, the church as institution plays a greater role in European society than in the United States, and it is far more present in public discourse. If a little theocracy works well in Bavaria, couldn’t it work in Michigan, too?

Ultimately, I don’t think it could, and I don’t think it should. The relationship between church and state is different in the US because the American state is different. We draw different boundaries between those things that should be determined by social norms, and what should be controlled by legal liability. Maybe the lanterns and the pater noster are connected: if you’ve known the other kids in your child’s class since they started Kindergarten together at three, you have a better sense of who can be trusted with a flame-lit lantern, and who can’t (and which of their parents really should stop after the second cup of spiced wine); perhaps that gives you more tolerance to listen to a benediction from your neighbor’s clergyman without complaint than you would have in a crowd of strangers.

The relationship of church and state in the US is also different because the American church is different. The identification of region and religion has not existed in the US outside of Deseret for a long time, and even there it is laden with anxiety. Our religious geography is too new, and too diverse, and too contentious. If I’m trying to convert my neighbor from his misguided ways, and he thinks I’m going to hell for mine, any expression of religion in the public sphere becomes charged with tension (and thus a bad occasion for a cup or two of spiced wine).

Finally, Viva la difference! The United States should not adopt European-style religion, and Bavaria should not strip the crosses from its schools. Each system exists for a reason, and they work well in their particular contexts. But I would guess that my sons’ school-wide St. Martin’s celebration is not so very different from what my parents experienced in rural southern Idaho fifty years ago. Sometimes it’s nice to pay a visit.

33 Responses to St. Martin’s Day

  1. john f. on November 10, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Count me in as one who is thankful for the present interpretation of the First Amendment in the United States forbidding school-led prayer as an unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religion.

  2. john f. on November 10, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    I’m not so enthusiastic about the continued existence of crucifixes in Bavaria’s classrooms. Even in Bavaria, not everyone subscribes to the same religion, and I am as indignant to the effect of a crucifix in a Bavarian (state school) classroom (private school is a completely different story) on a Muslim student as I am to a Lutheran school teacher in a mandatory religion class teaching a J.W. child at school that J.W.s are a brainwashed, dangerous cult as I am to a Baptist teacher telling a Latter-day Saint child in a history class that Joseph Smith was a fraud or any other state endorsement or official establishment of religion. I am all in favor of Bavarians being devout Catholics; I am not in favor of their treading on the beliefs of others. That is why the American system is an improvement, and indeed was inspired by the centuries of warfare in Europe that were caused by religious persecution and for religious pretexts.

  3. Russell Arben Fox on November 10, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    Jonathan,

    “If I enjoy St. Martin’s Day, should I change my mind about school prayer? Maybe so….If a little theocracy works well in Bavaria, couldn’t it work in Michigan, too? Ultimately, I don’t think it could, and I don’t think it should. The relationship between church and state is different in the US because the American state is different. We draw different boundaries between those things that should be determined by social norms, and what should be controlled by legal liability….The identification of region and religion has not existed in the US outside of Deseret for a long time, and even there it is laden with anxiety. Our religious geography is too new, and too diverse, and too contentious….I would guess that my sons’ school-wide St. Martin’s celebration is not so very different from what my parents experienced in rural southern Idaho fifty years ago. Sometimes it’s nice to pay a visit.”

    I was going to make a long response to this post, Jonathan, but as the above comments show–the realization that “theocracy” can provide certain civic goods; the problems created for the pursuit of those goods by living in a highly mobile, diverse, and disconnected society; the contemporary intrusion of the law into areas of life once governed by social norms and the side effects of that; the fact that such civic goods were nonetheless at one time widely available in rural American communities–you’ve already covered all the bases. (Though you should be more mournful about it.) Good work.

  4. Ardis Parshall on November 10, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    I like cultural celebrations apart from purely religious or patriotic holidays. The greatest is Thanksgiving, which although generally religious isn’t limited by sectarianism. Memorial Day got better after it was broadened to remember all the dead, not just war dead. And what’s not to like about the silly little cultural rituals of Groundhogs Day and April Fool’s Day — even April 15, with its mocking sympathy of taxpayers mailing returns at midnight — or the earnest observances of Arbor Day and Columbus Day, or the honor-in-the-breach observance of Labor Day.

    It sounds like St. Martin’s Day — from my vast understanding of its implications, based entirely on Jonathan’s post — is only a cultural celebration, with religious origins, true, and retaining some religious trappings, but without any real sense of worship. Sounds more like St. Patrick’s Day or St. Valentine’s Day than like Easter. Sounds fun. Sounds like Jonathan has been eyeing that spiced wine very closely.

  5. Chad too on November 10, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    I can tell you that the German-immersion students at my son’s public school celebrated Martinstag (did I spell that right?) yesterday. No candles, but paper lanterns and a parade. The presentation was more of a “this-is-an-important-festival-day” that celebration of a religious holiday. No spiced wine to speak of, but lots of braided breads. No prayers that I remember.

    All the different languages (German, Chinese, Japanese and Fremch) recognize the various holidays important to the culture their language comes from. I suppose the difference is approaching them from the perspective of culture rather than religious significance. I don’t ever remember their being any problems.

    And I too, believe that the best way to keep religion free is to keep the government out of it and, the best way to keep government free is to keep religion out of it.

  6. Melanie on November 10, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    I agree with Ardis. I think more cultural holidays (or actually observing them) in America would do us a lot of good– can you imagine the happy, kum-bay-a feelings of walking down the street with little children?

    As an aside, my expatriate mother won’t stop bragging about how she’s sooo excited to go to her village’s celebrations and drink spiced wine while she shows off her two mini daschunds. I need a vacation…

  7. jaysedai6 on November 11, 2006 at 12:25 am

    I remember prayer and Bible reading in school, and it was not a pretty sight. Home room in jr. high, 35 sleepy, bored and clueless 7th graders, the oldest teacher in the world would read a few words from the Bible, if we had a test on this, all of us would have failed . A boy asked her, which Church do you go to. With a fake smile and a wispy voice, I am a friend to all the Churches…It turned me off religion until I was an adult.

  8. Herodotus on November 11, 2006 at 1:56 am

    First of all, I appreciate the explanation of the lanterns. We live near a kindergarten and were wondering what that was all about. My wife and I thought it was some kind of delayed Halloween celebration and we briefly discussed dressing the kids up and taking them door to door.

    I do want to say that I’m not certain that prayer in German schools and prayer in American schools are eventually comparable. (I think you agree with this.)

    I agree that religious observance in Western Europe and the U.S. differ in ways more significant than the characterization of Europe as being “godless.� I would suggest that while Americans tend to view religion from the lens of our personal faith, Europeans (and Western Europeans in particular) view it as a cultural identifier. I don’t want to single out any single religion for discussion, but let me say that while I know many people here in Germany who affiliate themselves with a religion, I know few who do this for religious reasons; they do it because it defines them as a cultural group. In my opinion this is why initiatives to ban the hijab have been so widely tolerated in Europe. It isn’t seen as an attack on faith because in many cases people have ceased to associate religion with faith. They see it instead as a cultural identifier and a failure to integrate, which during the current clash of societies can sometimes be more frightening.

    (I recognize that I just made several generalizations about the faith of an entire continent. If people want to take issue with them I won’t mind.)

  9. Wilfried on November 11, 2006 at 2:13 am

    Jonathan, always appreciate your “American voice from Europe”. For this topic, however, let’s be careful not to generalize local German traditions to the whole of Europe when it comes to relation between Church and State. Every European country is different in this. Take France and it’s strict position on the separation between Church and State. The strict “non-confessional” state school system there was instituted to break the influence of the Catholic church. Belgium has a provision (“the school pact”) allowing for Catholic schools, but in state schools you will never see a cross or a religious symbol. Look at Italy, Spain, the UK, Denmark… All different.

    When you say “The church as institution plays a greater role in European society than in the United States”, we would need to nuance that in many shades according to each country. When you mention that in the U.S. “any expression of religion in the public sphere becomes charged with tension”, I can agree, but it seems to me that U.S. politicians referring to God in speeches (“God bless America”) is quite normal. Unthinkable that a French, Belgian, Dutch… politician would say that in reference to his/her country. Interesting stuff for sociolinguists…

  10. JWL on November 11, 2006 at 3:28 am

    When mentioning religious holidays which are observed publicly in the US (St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patirick’s Day) let us not forget All Hallows Eve and Mardi Gras, which are officially observed much more than Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day. Does their hedonistic aspect excuse them from strict church-state separation analysis even though they are inextricably linked to the holy days which they precede?

  11. Ronan on November 11, 2006 at 5:21 am

    As I’ve said before, I went to Anglican schools. Every morning we said the Lord’s prayer, sang a kum-bay-ya song, and were given a little devotional. Every morning from 4-18. We went to church every now and again and had an Anglican chaplain. Every week we had “religious education.”

    Never did I find any of this to encroach on my Mormonism. As I began to understand religion, I saw it as a refreshing “second voice.” It was a very benign experience. As Herodotus says, it was cultural rather than sectarian. No-one expected you to believe, and other faiths were never denigrated. (There is some argument in England right now as to whether Islamic faith schools are quite so relaxed.)

    If any of you find yourself in England, do not hesitate to send your kids to a C of E sponsored school. I’m one of those that believes that Europe must preserve its Christian cultural roots. I don’t care whether you’re religious or not, or even which religion, but if you live in Europe, you need to know something about the Church and its traditions. And St. Martin too. (Although this is one holiday Austrians don’t bother with. Vive la difference!)

  12. Jonathan Green on November 11, 2006 at 6:07 am

    Ardis, I’m not sure there wasn’t an element of worship. Part of the celebration was a story about a modern boy trying to be just like St. Martin at school. Once you add the song, the pater noster, and the benediction, you’re pretty close to a fireside for primary children, if there were such a thing. There was probably as much an element of worship as there is at your average primary Pioneer Day primary event.

    Herodotus, I think you make some good points. While there are certainly a lot of devout Europeans, devotion plays a different role in a lot of cases.

    Wilfried, of course you’re right that it’s impossible to generalize about Europe. Often enough, things are entirely different not just across national borders, but in the next town over. That’s an interesting comparison with politicians as well. In the US, politicians can talk about God, but teachers can’t, while in (many parts of) Europe the opposite seems to be the case. Which one of us is godlier than the other?

  13. Adam Greenwood on November 11, 2006 at 7:31 am

    Jonathan Green,

    You act as if the the lack of school prayer in our schools is something that just happened, some kind of natural expression in our society. But the truth is that school prayer used to be ubiquitous until one day the Supreme Court decided to ban it. You’re not saying vive le difference, you’re saying vive le diktat.

  14. Jonathan Green on November 11, 2006 at 9:37 am

    Adam, I guess I don’t see how the articulation of a society’s ideals through its constitutionally established judicial system should not be considered a legitimate expression of our society, particularly when the cooperation of all branches of government and the broad assent of the people are required to maintain and implement those decisions, nor am I willing to equate judicial decisions with dictatorial decrees.

  15. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2006 at 11:25 am

    Ardis,

    “I like cultural celebrations apart from purely religious or patriotic holidays. The greatest is Thanksgiving, which although generally religious isn’t limited by sectarianism….It sounds like St. Martin’s Day — from my vast understanding of its implications, based entirely on Jonathan’s post — is only a cultural celebration, with religious origins, true, and retaining some religious trappings, but without any real sense of worship. Sounds more like St. Patrick’s Day or St. Valentine’s Day than like Easter. Sounds fun.”

    The problem with what you’re saying here is that it is by no means clear that any of the holidays you like–Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, etc.–would had ever emerged in the first place if there had not been a very sectarian impulse behind them, and a sectarian structure supporting them, in the first place. Sometimes that sectarianism was expressed via a historical event–God’s salvation of the Puritans and Pilgrims during those difficult early years–and sometimes it was expressed via a contemporaneous event–the survival of Irish Catholic culture outside of the homeland–but either way, if it wasn’t for pious Congregationalists like Sarah Hale quoting scripture to presidents in her urging that Thanksgiving be nationalized, or the Ancient Order of Hiberians working in the local parishes of New York City, neither Thanksgiving nor St. Patrick’s Day, with all their non-sectarian trappings would exist today.

    The civic goods which we enjoy–like holidays–don’t appear spontaneously; they have to be cultivated, built up, and that usually means appealing to the fundamental affections of the people, rather than just invoking some fun and/or noble civic concept out of the blue. (Consider just how deeply and seriously most people take Labor Day or Martin Luther King’s Day if you want an example of a holiday whose origin was obligatory rather genuine.) That doesn’t mean you can’t have wholly civic creations, like Memorial Day, but in all likelihood those will have their roots in similarly deep, affective events, like mourning for one’s war dead. So, while there’s certainly nothing wrong preferring non-religious holidays (who knows how many parents of the students which Jonathan described think the whole St. Martin’s thing is pointless?), I think it best to keep in mind that a wholly non-sectarian society is going to, at the very least, probably incapable of ever creating new holidays, at least not any that will actually be “fun,” as you describe, as opposed to just another marketing scheme for retailers. (“Memorial Day means savings!!”)

  16. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2006 at 11:33 am

    Herodotus,

    “I would suggest that while Americans tend to view religion from the lens of our personal faith, Europeans (and Western Europeans in particular) view it as a cultural identifier.”

    This is a very important point, and–with a nod to Wilfried–it seems to well describe European societies ranging from heavily Catholic Bavaria to supposedly wholly secular Scandanavia (whose resistance to Muslim immigrants nonetheless suggests that some sort of post-sectarian-but-still-Christian cultural assumptions continue to control or at least greatly influence these nations). From the point of view of the Mormon missionary, the thoroughly personalized approach to faith is a boon: after all, it means that if you meet someone whose religion isn’t working very well for him or her, they may be open to changing it. But politically, there’s something to be said for the cultural approach of many Europeans–when religion (in whatever sense) forms a normative baseline for what happens in the schools and in society as a whole, the need to check up on the faith of any given public figure fades; faith becomes less of a test for political office, less of a tool that a political party could employ, and thus is less likely to succumb to the kind of narrow and even authoritarian tendencies that the religious right in the U.S. has too often suffered from.

  17. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2006 at 11:53 am

    Jonathan,

    “I guess I don’t see how the articulation of a society’s ideals through its constitutionally established judicial system should not be considered a legitimate expression of our society, particularly when the cooperation of all branches of government and the broad assent of the people are required to maintain and implement those decisions, nor am I willing to equate judicial decisions with dictatorial decrees.”

    I’m not willing to call Engel v. Vitale, Abington v. Schempp, Brown v. Board of Education, or even Roe v. Wade and all the rest “dictatorial decrees,” either; interventionary judges have their place. However, I believe there is a large difference, arguably a huge difference, between something being accepted as “non-dictatorial,” and the decisions of our “constitutionally established judicial system” being considered “a legitimate expression of our society.” Ours is a very impressive constitutional system, but a strongly democratic one, in which the popular feelings of society as a whole are regularly taken into consideration, it most surely is not.

    Would you be willing to say that Dred Scott v. Sandford, or Korematsu v. U.S. were also legitimate expressions of our society? I suppose one could argue that, yes, the Supreme Court’s denial of all rights to African-Americans, or its justification of the internment of all Japanese-Americans, was at the time the decision was made a legitimate expression of the needs and wants and suspicions of the people, and that when later on public opinion changed, the law changed. But if that’s how we want to argue about these things, then there’s nothing at all wrong with Adam and his sympathizers democratically working to challenge laws, replace Supreme Court justices, alter the temperament of law schools, and so forth, all as a part of changing public opinion. In which case, a little high invective about a “dictatorial” Supreme Court strikes me as legitimate too.

    (Regarding school prayer in particular, I am doubtful that these decisions have ever had “the cooperation of all branches of government and the broad assent of the people,” given that, on the basis of the legal record at least, they are probably the single most frequently challenged of all Supreme Court decisions, as well as, at least on the basis of the students I’ve taught, perhaps the single most frequently violated as well.)

  18. Wilfried on November 11, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    Excellent analysis, Russell (16). Overall the European context frowns upon changing one’s religion, unless within the vested, major religions. A Catholic becoming an Anglican, a Lutheran becoming a Catholic, it is rare, but can still be accepted as a “to be respected” step. Moving to “outsiders” — Mormons, JW’s, Adventists — is difficult to accept culturally. Definitely a challenge for our missionary work, which explains our relative success with those who are already outsiders – immigrants.

    At the same time, as you remarked, what the individual does within a major religion is not a problem. Royals, politicians, even priests, can sidestep: it will seldom or never be judged on religious grounds or in relation to faith. Just fodder for pulp magazines. Hence some incomprehension in Europe as to “moral indignation” in the U.S. towards individuals who sidestep in area’s which most Europeans would consider the private sphere. When it became known our present Belgian king (Catholic) had a child out of wedlock, and the news started buzzing, the King cut is short with a statement: This is private. Period.

  19. Bill on November 11, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    One doesn’t have to be a believer to cherish the rich traditions and history of the church. Just look at the leader of this project. However, in order to have any but the most superficial appreciation of art, music, literature, philosophy, etc., a profound knowledge of the church(es) throughout history is essential.

  20. Jonathan Green on November 11, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    Russell, your third paragraph is in fact very close to what I was thinking. The Dred Scott decision reflected where the country was at the time. And no, there’s nothing wrong with Adam agitating to restore prayer to the public schools. I disagree with that objective, but if Adam and likeminded people win enough elections to change the makeup of the courts and alter relevant laws in order to reinstitute school prayer, I would be the first to agree that the new institution was a legitimate expression of public will for the nation as a whole. Of course there are places that still see the loss of school prayer as an imposition from the outside, just as a statewide or national prayer requirement would strike a lot of people as invasive meddling by outsiders. But for the nation as a whole, neither the current status quo nor a hypothetical reinstatement through legislation can be considered a tyrannous imposition on an unwilling populace.

  21. Jonathan Green on November 11, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    Bill, that’s an interesting story. Of course, copying a Bible or other illustrated book by committee isn’t that hard; they had well-designed systems and workshops that did that very thing in the 15th century.

  22. Bill on November 11, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    Yes, and it didn’t cost $4.5 million — no minimum wage in those days.

  23. Bill on November 11, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    My last comment was a little flippant. It may have left the impression of a dark ages of oppression and exploitation which would be a misleading caricature. Here’s just one example that shows that the work of artisans was valued:

    In 1420 the Parish Church of St Martin in Vitré (diocese of Rennes) contracted with Raoul de Cerisay, a priest, to produce within eighteen months a missal and a psalter on good vellum, featuring a dozen large letters with flourishing and numerous smaller coloured initials in azure and vermilion. As a model, the parish church lent him ‘le viel messel’ to use as an ‘exemplaire a escripre’ for the new one. In payment, Raoul de Cerisay would receive 80 livres, half in advance and half on delivery, as well as 30 sous for bread and wine.1 The missal and psalter that he promised to write and illuminate have yet to be identified, but the contract is important for a fuller understanding of the historical bibliography of illuminated manuscripts by testifying to a critical facet of production: the legal and economic expectations that existed between artisans as makers and patrons as buyers.

    from Booton, Diane E. “Notes on Manuscript Production and Valuation in Late Medieval Brittany”
    The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society – Volume 7, Number 2, June 2006, pp. 127-153

    All right, sorry for the detour. Back to church/state relations.

  24. Sarah on November 11, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    Jonathan, re your comment #20 — I’m not sure your final sentence jives with the typical rhetoric of all social change. Wasn’t the whole point of civil rights campaigns which bussed college students into the South to register voters pretty much exactly that something going on in just part of the country was an offense against the whole country? Didn’t the Civil War more or less come about at the point in which everyone decided that either pronouncements from on high, or the lack thereof, regarding a practice taking place in only a few states, was going to take over the country as a whole? I’m not sure of any precedent where we’ve said “eh, the stuff that some people choose to do/are prevented from doing in X part of the country doesn’t have anything to do what’s going on with us.” In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I saw a film on this sort of subject (particularly on the Revolution) the only guys saying things like “eh, if people in Massachusetts are getting squished, it’s no skin off Maryland’s nose” were presented as either hopelessly naive or actually evil.

    In any case, I think you need to make a bit more of an argument for that position — if most people in Texas want to have prayer in their schools, and the people in Massachusetts want to (I don’t know, pick something they’d do in MA — anything other than gay marriage, please) and then the Supreme Court stops them, that’s pretty decisively an “imposition on an unwilling populace.” And in general I think Americans like to say that most such imposition is intolerable, even when it doesn’t impact them (because they live, in, say, Montana.)

  25. Mark B. on November 11, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    Completely off topic, but why couldn’t you (or better yet, Ronan) reminded us two weeks back of St. Crispin’s day, and then we could have celebrated the thrashing of the French at Agincourt on that day back in 1415 or whenever it was. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find some glorious victory or utter debacle to celebrate/mourn (can anyone say Balaclava–the charge of the light brigade occured on the same day in 1854).

  26. Jim F on November 12, 2006 at 12:49 am

    Completely irrelvant factoid about St. Martin’s Day: it was the day when animals were butchered so they wouldn’t have to be fed over the winter and, so, a huge feast day.

  27. Hellmut on November 15, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Americans do have St. Martin’s Day, Jonathan. It is commonly known as Thanksgiving.

    The difference of the date is due to the late adoption of the Gregorian calendar by the British. The puritan pilgrims could not well retain the name St. Martin’s Day and rechristened the feast.

    If you think about it, the name Thanksgiving makes no sense because the harvest has been completed months before November.

    St. Martin’s Day is the date when the fattened geese are butchered. St. Martin is the saint of the geese because he wanted to escape his election to the bishopric of Tours by hiding in the goose stable. The chattering animals gave him away.

    Replace geese with turkeys, voila, you have Thanksgiving.

    All you need to do is make lanterns with your kids and donate money to the poor and you have the real deal.

  28. Hellmut on November 15, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    Russell, having been born in Bavaria, I don’t know many Bavarians that attend Church anymore. Bavaria is much closer to Scandinavia than people like to admit.

    And for those among us who think it appropriate that the government teach Bavarian children the proper way to pray, let me remind you of the fate of the Protestants in the Bavarian diocese Salzburg. They were forced off their property and had to leave the country. Thank heavens, Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia forced the Archbishop to compensate the refugees.

    Religion is a matter of conscience. That trumps the claims of cultural relativists. School prayer is never a good idea.

    PS: Before anyone faults me for referring to Salzburg as Bavarian let me point out that I am aware that the city belongs politcally to Austria. However, Freising and Salzburg are the tradtional Bavarian dioceses. After secularization, the Kingdom of Bavaria annexed Salzburg. In 1813, Salzburg became Austrian.

    The essential thing to remember in the context of this argument is that Salzburgers are ethnically Bavarians.

  29. Bill on November 15, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    Hellmut, that reminds me of a lied by Orlandus Lassus from his four-language print of 1573:

    Audite nova!
    Der Bau’r von Eselskirchen,
    der hat ein feiste ga-ga-
    Gans das gyri-gyri-gaga
    Gans!
    Die hat ein langen, feisten,
    dicken, weidelichen
    Hals.
    Bring her die Gans.
    hab dir’s, mein trauter Hans!
    Rupf sie, Zupf sie, sied sie, brat
    sie, z’reiss sie, friss sie!
    Das is Sanct Martin’s
    Voegelein,
    dem koennen wir nit feind
    sein!
    Knecht Heinz,
    bringt her ein guter Wein und
    schenkt uns tapfer ein,
    lass umher gahn,
    im Gottes nam’ trinken wir gut
    Wein und Bier auf die
    g’sotten Gans,
    auf die braten Gans,
    auf die junge Gans,
    das sie uns nit schaden mag.

    Audite nova!
    The jackass of a farmer, he has
    a hefty g-g-goose.
    It has a longish, plumpish,
    thickish, very fetching
    neck.
    The goose, who wants?
    Bring here, my trusty Hans!
    Pluck it, draw it, boil it, roast it,
    hack it, devour it.
    It is Saint Martin’s own birdie,
    who[m] we know as no enemy!
    Serf Heinz,
    Bring here some wine
    promptly, and serve it
    out bravely,
    we all proclaim,
    in God’s own name, let us
    cheer good wine and
    beer, to the boiled
    Goose,
    to the roasted goose,
    to the tender goose,
    which has done no harm to us.

  30. Hellmut on November 15, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing the song, Bill. I wish I could hear it sometimes.

  31. Wilf Voge on November 18, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    My wife and I have the opportunity to spend some time in Upper Bavaria each year; in fact, we just returned from there this Thursday. One of the highlights of our stay was the commemoration of St. Martin’s Day in Garmisch. The pictures of the children with their lanterns made the front page of the local paper. It was all quite colorful and charming, but I don’t think that anyone was thinking about religion. References to Catholic Bavaria can only be considered as historical, I believe. Any signs of prayer and devotion to God are considered as cultural remnants of a past, practiced by less sophicated ancestors. Today, most people we know in Bavaria do not know enough about matters relating to God to carry on an intelligent conversation. A few years ago, Germans were only indifferent toward religion; today the majority of the population feels that religion in any form can be detrimental to the welfare of a modern society. It is true that practicing religionists are really on the fringes of society, not matter was brand they happen to practice. This is perhaps why our missionaries are having a tough time in German.

    I don’t know what this discussion has to do with school prayer in the US, but I will take the opportunity to weigh in on this topic as well. Personally, I am for prayer in any context, expressed by anyone, regardless of religious or cultural background. Furthermore, I don’t think prayer in school or anywhere else has anything to do with the separation of church and state, which modern legal thinkers in the US get so hung up on. From my limited understanding of the history of the separation of church and state in the US, it has been my impression that the founding fathers did not want the state to be aligned with one particular religion. Today, by not allowing public expressions of faith in school, many children may get the impression that faith and prayer are not a desirable part of modern life.

  32. Quintanius on December 6, 2006 at 8:04 pm

    I\’m an a german immigrant – in a land that was founded by religion, swears in its governors and presidents by the holy bible, yet flaunts its athiest spirit with abondone, when each and every one of you will pray to god when calamnity appears on your doorstep – yet you are all too cowardly to admit this in public. See the death of your chield, and not cry to god why he let this happen – I dare you to gainsay me.

    Therefore, instead of believing that the status quo must be as it is, and never change, then look to your history books. One time or another, you would have burned at the stake for suggesting any of these thoughts you have. Lucky you, we dont live in age. But then again, you would burn anyone who suggested to bring back a time when religion mattered in peoples lives. If you follow history, and think for yourselves rather than listen folks that believe in the current state of affairs in this country, where more people die to violence by their own fellow country man then ever before in history – then, ask yourself if the people who do these deeds may have been different IF they had a better couselor and sheppard in their young lives.

    As for St. Martin – I remember the festivals with such good and glorious delight, that I simply cannot make heathens like you comprehend what it feels like to be a part of something greater than yourself!…and that is the problem with america. You all wish to think for yourself, instead of the good of all…

    As for prayers and religion in shool – instead of seeing a priest with your troubles, you take bread from your chieldrens mouths and feed it to lawyers and psychologists. think for a moment – many of your troubles can be brought before the eyes of god. Who else to help you in your troubled times than a servant of his? But instead, you believe in the cold heart of analysts and pschichologists that number and categorize you – instead of seeing to the salvation of your soul. And on you suffer…in darkness. And then you blame those of faith and the church that guides them. think on that, my american friends….

    Quintanius

  33. Jonathan Green on December 7, 2006 at 3:34 am

    Thanks for your thoughts, Quintanius. However, I must request that in future comments you refrain from calling people heathens (it’s not in keeping with the T&S comments policies about not questioning people’s commitment to the Church) and from invoking the future deaths of their children to make your point (it’s in poor taste, and a number of posters and regular commenters already know better than anyone ever should what it’s like to lose a child).