Tag Archives: Christian

Jesus in France: Le Figaro ventures into the Bible Belt

As I sat on the faux lawn of the Hotel de Ville in Paris, trying to get through a very mediocre and slightly off-tune performance by R&B group “Bams,” I was reading and furiously circling sections of an old July article from Le Figaro. The place? The United States. The topic? Those crazy Christians and their fight for the fetus.

As if it isn’t bad enough that we Americans are already ashamed of these hyper-religious, gun-toting, anti-abortion walking contradictions, now we have the Frogs taking a crack at us.

Yet, I do agree with writer Fran├žois Hauter, who made no outside comments and let the content speak for itself in the following passage:

“In 35 years, the anti-abortion, pro-life advocates have killed four medical specialists in the United States.”

Hell, I’d laugh at us too.

Later in the piece, pro-life organizer and the article’s token “decent guy” Troy Newman, says that his group, Operation Rescue, is diametrically opposed to such violence. “We have always defended our cause in a peaceful manner. The act of killing is against everything we stand for – the sacrifice of life!”

Well, duh.

Yet, it still didn’t help save Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor who often performed late-term abortions for women in special circumstances in Wichita, Kansas, from being shot in the head by 51-year-old Scott Roeder while praying in his local Lutheren church.

Christian Defense Coalition Rallies In Washington

A sign during a rally and prayer vigil against abortion, held by the Christian Defense Council, outside Trinity University January 3, 2007 in Washington, DC.

Just when I think Obama has saved our international reputation, Le Figaro busts us on, as my friend Will used to say, “The Christ-ees.” I think it’s safe to assume that Roeder’s killing streak was not a one-shot deal but was instead astutely planned and morally backed (in his head, at least) by What Jesus Would Do.

It doesn’t help that Hauter goes on in the article to pronounce all but the very few Americans who have turned to ancient Asian practicies as unstoppably church-bound:

“For the most part, people [in the U.S.] are actively engaged in their religion. Certain cities, like Seattle, are more detached from traditional Christianity and have turned slowly to Oriental practices. But only 16% of Americans say they are Atheist. Among the 8% of citizens who were raised ‘without religion’, half subsequently found a church that worked for them. Religious practice, in the United States, is a part of daily life.”

Where to start. First of all, those “few” Americans who have discovered eastern religions are not only located in patchouli-scented hippie communities on the West Coast. And I would guess that 16% is low, considering how many Asians are actually living in America. Did Hauter interview them too, or only the rich, white people who had decided to convert as part of their mid-life crises?

Then there is the issue of percentages. I find it very hard to believe, in an enormous country such as the U.S., with a beautiful blend of nationalities in all four corners and in between, that only 8% of people can say that they grew up with no religion. I think that in my friend group alone I can push that number to at least 20%.

And from personal experience – I mean, as a life-long American and not a one-stop shopping French journalist – I can say that religion does not enter into the daily lives of most, if any, of the people I know or have known growing up, regardless of age.

But maybe it’s just because when you’ve got nothing, something seems like a lot. For the French, religion has become a sort of gros mot and not something they easily associate themselves with. Hauter says that in France’s secularized country, only one in ten people practice a religion regularly. Traditional faith in France has been replaced by a set of non-religious morals that don’t include God. The space between social ethics and faith has grown so wide that most French people feel sufficiently separated from the religion debate going on in America today.

On this one, Hauter got it right. I’ve been living in France for several years and I can safely say that I know approximately one French person who attends church or believes in Jesus. I’m sure there are more, but they must be hiding.

France’s churches are mostly empty and religious life has all but vanished, unless you count the nationwide calls for the construction of Islamic Mosques to accommodate the increasing population of religious Arabs immigrating here.

Near the end of the article, Hauter says that he will soon be visiting ghost towns on the outskirts of Wichita, in the infamous Bible Belt region of the United States. He says he can’t possibly imagine what awaits him.

I’d say, he’d better find himself some religion if he expects to make it out alive.

French, Muslim and Patriotic? It’s all possible, says Alain Soral

On Saturday night in Bordeaux, sociologist and ex-Front National member Alain Soral joined Moroccan imam Tareq Oubrou for a discussion entitled, “French, Muslim and Patriotic.” After the two experts discussed their points of view on what it means to be Muslim and French in today’s society, the debate opened up to the nearly 200 people in the audience.

As perhaps the only American in attendance, I felt like I was watching the discussion from the sidelines: not 100% affected by what was being discussed and not 100% understanding where either side was coming from.

It’s hard to discuss immigration with French people as an American. Coming from a land created by immigration, how can I reproach a people (such as the Maghrebin) for setting their sights on a new life in a new land? Living most of my life in a country with virtually no single culture to preserve, how can I fight for one religion or culture to prevail here in France?

For these reasons, I usually choose to extricate myself from any conversation regarding immigration, unless I am directly asked about it. But even then, I try to hold my tongue. I’ve never had a French person much appreciate my responses.

While Saturday’s debate discussed whether or not French culture and religion can survive alongside or in spite of Islam, it forgot to touch on one major point that would clarify much of the immigration problems facing France: What does it mean to be “French” today?

Mohammed Ali Mosque

With France's growing Muslim population, some say the construction of new and larger mosques are the answer

Soral kept talking about how his views were not his own, but those of the “typical French white male” or as he put it, “the average French person.” This is where Soral – and much of French politicians – have gone wrong in the past few years. As one audience member asked during the discussion, “why are we still discussing whether the Muslim community can survive in France? We’re into the 5th or 6th generation Muslim in France these days… the issue is tired.”

The average French person no longer fits into the white Christian mold. Just look in any number of France’s chapels to see that most of them are in a constant state of emptiness. While Bordeaux is in the midst of a political cock fight against the possible construction of an enormous mosque in town, most “typically-French” people I know are “non-croyant” and haven’t been to church in years. While the Muslim headscarf has been deemed “ostentatious” by the French administration and an affront to their precious Christianity, the only remnants of “French Christian religion” are a few pictures of Santa Claus in public schools around Christmastime. When it comes to France’s culture and religion, I don’t necessarily see what the French think they are at risk of losing.

To me, France is not little old white ladies walking around with rosaries hanging from their necks (that would be Italy) – it’s great cheese, wine and pastries. It’s beautiful palaces, museums and castles, green countryside and stone houses. Living in France means less hours at the office and more time to spend with family. France is loved by so many because it still has that old world, European charm even in the 21st century.

However, that charm is often to its detriment. As the Soral-Oubrou discussion demonstrated, France is a little too old-world when it comes to current events. Immigration is not exactly a new issue. Ever since the war with Algeria from 1954-1962, France has tried ineffectively to integrate the Muslim population into French culture. Looking around today, even in France’s smallest towns, there are Vietnemese, Moroccan, Senegalese, Chinese and Cameroonese children, adults and grandparents. Immigration is here and it’s here to stay.

So before we drop our jaws at the prospect of being both French, Muslim and Patriotic all at the same time, let’s remember that – despite what the French political scene may look like – being French in 2009 does not necessarily mean being white and Christian. Until the “new French” person has been nationally established, then we can really start talking about immigration and what it means to be patriotic.