Book Review: Christian Pipe Smoking An Introduction to Holy Incense by Uri Brito & Joffre Swait
It is an interesting thing providence. My family was out for a couple days in advance of me for a much needed vacation (a longer one scheduled in November). One of my early stops after their departure was to the local liquor store for vodka and Djarum Blacks. Almost the same day this little book(let) entitled Christian Pipe Smoking, from Uri Brito and Joffre Swait, pronounced to my inbox its arrival pleading to "simply smell what we smoke and then make up your mind" (4, "Acknowledgements"). Since I have given up of even casual smoking with the birth of my second child, this seemed a valuable coinciding of thoughts, teaching, and behavior. After an initial reading, I stepped out of my house to strike matches more often than I had previously done the rest of the year while considering the concept of "holy incense."
Despite the book's short length, I was engrossed by the provocative application of Plato's "three-fold division" to smoking (7-9). Once a regular smoker of cigars, I now only find myself smoking on rare occasions. For me it has never fit my schedule. Perhaps too closely, I reflect the archetype of a cigarette smoker (7-8), seeking the instant gratification of smoking. Christian Pipe Smoking invited me to think about smoking and particularly pipe smoking once again. The insight that "the pipe—can endure for decades" (10) unabashedly caused evaluation of my postmillennial paradigms. Quite seriously, I am persuaded that this earth has a long time to go (think 10k to 100k years). So, I should live in a way that reflects this truth in every facet of my life. Potentially, it has not entered many minds how these paradigms might apply to pipe smoking. Yet Christian Pipe Smoking presents both an eschatological and theological world in which the distinct differences between pipe smoking and all other forms of smoking are clearly articulated. Not all smoke is created equal.
In conclusion, that "not everyone should smoke a pipe, but everyone should be encouraged to appreciate a pipe-smoker" (11) is successfully communicated via Christian Pipe Smoking. Smokers and non-smokers alike will enjoy this brief reflection on smoking, theology and liturgy. Many will be challenged by the simplistic thoughtfulness of the authors. I sat taking a drag of an eventually formless Djarum Black listening to the echo of words portraying a resounding rhythm of pipe smoking (12-17). Perhaps some will even "discover that pipe smoking, for all intents and purposes, is a form of prayer" (17).