C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

Basilique de Notre Dame de la Garde, aka La Bonne Mère (Marseille).

Don’t be distrait by all of the cathédrales, basiliques, and churches in France because, these days, the French aren’t really that religieux.

Laïcité = the séparation between church and state.

I grew up in the ways of a typical Américaine stéréotypé: Every Sunday churchgoer. Eventhough the number of churchgoers in the U.S. is nowhere near as small as that in France, nowadays, the réalité of this stéréotype is on the decline. When mon chéri and I were stateside in Juin, we attended two church services with ma mère; I couldn’t believe how small the congrégation had become.

As an Américaine who grew up going to church every Sunday, I was thrown off guard upon my first arrivée in the south of France. France: A country where the cathédrales go centuries back.

A portion of what was once a beautiful work of art still existe inside Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur (Aix-en-Provence).

I was never really adamant about attending weekly church services (it was really my parents who were adamant); however, that never changed my beliefs. As a result, moving to France didn’t change much for me, either, because I could still prie and worship in my own way…And, I have a great appréciation for centuries-old architecture.

Eglise de Saint Jean de Malte (Aix-en-Provence).

At the same time, I found myself combing the edges of Montagne Sainte-Victoire – seeking clarté religieux.

At the summit of Montagne Sainte-Victoire.

I wanted to know why France was loosing its aspect religieux. In 2012, I took a course on éducation in France. Over the course of several leçons, we compared éducation in France to éducation in various countries around the world. What we discovered was incroyable: France has a very stricte policy on laïcité, the séparation of church and state. It is for this very raison (this is not the only raison) that Christianisme, in général, is on the decline. Once you entre a public place (school, courtroom, townhall, etc…), according to law, you must leave your religious values and beliefs at the door. For exemple, in 2012, there was a huge debate: The Headscarf Debate. In short, this debate stemmed from the fact that hijabs and other voiles (in addition to crosses, turbans, pendants…) for religious purposes are not allowed in écoles publiques, or public schools. On the one hand, this promotes égalité among everyone. The religious judging and discrimination that appears between U.S. primary and secondary students in U.S. écoles publiques is almost non-existent in French schools (obviously, it existe at some level). On the other hand, it tells you that you can’t be “you” when you entre school. So, it plays on an individual’s identité and value.

The debate didn’t end end in 2012, in fact, it heightened in 2013, when one mother, Youssra, wanted to be a parent-helper on a school field-trip. Ultimately, she could only join the students on the trip if she left her religious paraphernalia (in this case, the hijab) at home. While the hijab might have nothing to do with the decline of Christianisme, through this story, we can see why Christianisme is on the decline: If religious paraphernalia such as head scarves, turbans, crosses, and pendants are not allowed in écoles publiques, then what’s really the point of identifying with a certain religious belief? I can see how, over time, this laïcité affects an individual’s beliefs. Think abou it: For X amount of hours everyday of every week, you’re not identifying with X religion. After time, you’re bound to seek identification through other outlets (think of Freud, Erikson, and Piaget, for exemple, there comes a point when we “need” that identification-with-others aspect in our lives)…And, it may be possible that these other outlets takeover what was once the religious one.

One important thing to note: After working a year in the French public school system (at the primaire level), I have seen that all of the students know each other’s backgrounds, including religious beliefs, despite this leave-your-religion-at-the-door business. Also, this “Head Scarf Debate” continues even today in 2015.

Even though religion is to be kept out of the gouvernement/public sectors, the French still keep the religious fériés, or gouvernement holidays, alive. This concept can be confusing to the expat: You can’t flash your religion in public, but you can participate in religious fériés…Say, what? But, let’s face it: The French love their fériés…And who can blame them? I love them, too (getting paid for a well-deserved (I bust my butt daily for my students) day off is something I can’t disagree with).

The last time I was inside a church in France, about 80% of the congrégation were touristes. Maybe I went at the wrong time? I don’t think so, though.

More than 50% of the French population have never stepped foot inside a church (to participate in a religious service).

According to the Europe Commission’s Biotechnology Report, in 2010, 44% of France’s population considered themselves Christian. In 2007, the pourcentage was at 54%. In fact, in 2007, Le Monde des Religions noticed this decline when it conducted a survey that showed: France was “no longer Catholique,” as the pourcentage of Catholiques declined from 81% to 51%. Three years after this survey, the Europe Commission’s report proved that Le Monde des Religions was correcte.

It’s now 2015, and Christianisme in France has only further declined. But, what does this mean for expats? Well, ça dépend, or that depends, on your religious beliefs and/or on how much you appreciate centuries-old architecture.

A beautiful stained glass window at Cathédrale Saint Gatien (Tours).

For now, tourisme has kept most of France’s cathédrales, basiliques, and churches alive, so, if you’re Christian, then you’re sure to find that Sunday service available in most religious établissements.

Chapelle des Oblats (Aix-en-Provence).

Also, there’s still that small pourcentage of Français who attend church. So, for now, there’s nothing for the expat churchgoer, touriste, and/or architecture-appreciator to worry about. ♦

This is part of a blogging challenge: Topics ranging from A-Z. You can follow my challenge by clicking on the links below:

A: Adulthood: The Age of Absolute Ambiguïté 

B: Bilingue: La Vie is Better Being Bilingual

C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

D: Death: Dealing with the Décès of My Dad

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

F: Food: Fancy or Faulty in France?

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

H: Home: My Heart Has Two Harbors

I: Interests: Intelligent, Insightful, Incredible!

J: Joy: La Jalousie is Overcome by La Joie

K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

M: Musique: The Many Musicians Making Love on the Streets of Aix

N: Naughty or Nice?: Not Only Noticing the Différences, But Also the Similarités Between France and the U.S.

O: Obéi: Only Open to Obeying the Rules of the Road in…

P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Q: Questions: A Queen’s Quest for Clarté

R: Raisons: Riding on the Pony of Real Reasons (to Take the A-Z Challenge)

S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

T: Travel: Time to Hit the Trail!

U: Under the Influence: An Ugly Upward Climb Until Reaching the Summit

V: Vulgarité: Venturing out into the Vast and Voluptuous World of Cultural Différences

W: Walking: The Wise and Watchful Médiéval Wanderer

X: Xenial: A Xenodochial but not Xenophobic Host in France

25 thoughts on “C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

  1. Ah, I hate laïcité. I used to think it was a good idea but now I see how it targets minority religions more than others, and I think it’s just an excuse for racism. Don’t get me wrong, I equally hate the bible thumping US and how we are virtually incapable of keeping religion out of politics … I just wish there was a happy medium…

    Nice Job on summarizing though! I feel like we could go on and on about this topic!


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