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 François 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!”
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.
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.