It’s safe to say that in the last 10 years the world has rapidly become a much, much smaller place. People will accept that. Technology, travel and migration have brought most of this about. But what the last 10 years have also done is set everything prior to the technological revolution of the 2000’s in stone. There is little, to no evidence left of any existing Western thinking preceding 1999. Interestingly, people are less willing to accept that. Many respecters of Europe’s traditional ‘Judeo-Christian’ values insist they have not expired but are a perpetuum. This is even in the midst of a multi-religious society which loudly declares the values of ‘variety’ to be the dominant thinking of this age. In an age where the atheist, the agnostic and the skeptic are unwilling spectators to various explosive declarations of faith and religion, where is the ‘normal’ ground in Europe anymore?
Acknowledging the past is one thing. Declaring that your past as present is quite another. In this case, you’ve got to hand it to the French. As they bounded forward into the 21st century as a fully secular society, many Christians have protested that France’s zero-tolerance on all religion is an outrageous betrayal of it’s Christian roots. This is not necessarily so. The French have done what few Western countries can boast: create a society where the law makes favour and exception to no other belief system, in the interests of enforcing blanket equality and a standard of normalcy for all. In turn what this has done is to largely drive all religious belief systems underground; Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Christian and all. Sociologists have observed in many societies that once a thought system is driven out of public view and underground, rather than disperse, the participating community take on a covert existence. As a result, the religion that is found in France is increasingly less inactive and non-participant. This is one possible commonality which covert French Muslims, Christians and Jews share over their other European counterparts.
By strange paradox, this has kept France’s reverence for the Christian thinking of the previous age, intact and personal. In a nation which does not enforce religious thought (as did the Edwardians and Victorians), people are more inclined to choose their beliefs based on personal conviction. A belief system becomes more tangible when it costs something; those who practice a religion or faith in France now, do so as more of a sacrifice and at their own risk. As a result the French Christian church of today, are possibly far more passionate about their faith than those of the pre-secular age. Considering that Biblical teaching discourages against apathy and indifference, France have actually done their religious history a favour by offering it a second wind, a second chance to be everything it could never be. One could even argue that this kind of church would identify far closer with the ‘true’ church of Jesus’ day. Rather than declare their historical Judeo-Christian values a perpetuum, by driving the church underground the French have kept it alive. Equally so, all other faiths and religions have benefitted from this rule also. In a surprising counter-balance, it would seem that France have covered all the angles in a way that Britain and America have struggled to.
For the rest who choose not to participate in any such religion or faith, the peace is theirs to know that French law prohibits displays of extremism in the best interests of neutrality. And therein lies the formula; to have the freedom to believe anything one wishes to, anything within the law; for the law is the final word for every man, woman and child. If it’s democracy people are looking for, isn’t this an even pathway to some kind of normalcy in Europe?