The Untaming

Learning to build missional community in secular France

What our neighbour thinks

2 Comments

First thanks to Richard for allowing me to post on this blog. I’ll take some time to explain who we are in another post, but for the moment it’s enough to know that we’re a family on mission in France. I hope you find this first content useful.

We recently spent an evening in discussion (mostly listening) with a normal French woman regarding her views on Christianity, scripture and spirituality in general. Here is a brief report of what was shared. There may be no original ideas in all this, but I thought it could be a good to circulate further as my feeling is that these views are quite representative of a large part of the French population. I should clearly write this up in French too, and I hope to get round to that one day but it would take me too long right at this moment.

What is scripture for you? Where did these books come from?
 – Well Jesus was a great moral teacher with a influential way of life. Various texts were written about him, and the ones we have today as ‘scripture’ were selected by some central authority with an agenda to get people to believe what they wanted them to.

Regarding spirituality…
 – I pray every night. In fact I spend about 15 – 20 minutes in prayer every night praying for protection and for family. I don’t believe in God – I mean I don’t imagine some human type figure sitting there listening to me – but I believe that my prayers are listened to all the same.

Regarding Christianity….
 – Religion seems to be men in authority trying to get other men to believe their ideas, and using violence, oppression, or other dubious methods to achieve it.
 – Authority, in general, is a big problem in France, as we are taught not to question it, not to challenge it. The expert is always right and we, simple children sitting at his feet, are taught to nod and smile. For example, genuine questions asked during childhood catechism lessons were simply ignored.
 – The historical Church [in France] was a mechanism for getting people to behave in a certain way.
 – The christian church in France just seems to be all about judgement. “You’re a sinner”, or “your values are not right”. There are people in the next town, Christians, who display their [anti-homosexual marriage] banner in the window.  What about love and tolerance?

So in summary, the main reasons that this person says they aren’t a Christian, and considers that they can’t participate in such a faith, are :
i) The Church (whether manipulating scripture in the 2nd century or ignoring questions at catechism in the 20th)
ii) Christians (specifically those active in society trying to push a specific moral position to the detriment of those who hold a different moral position)
iii) Men in authority (all of them apparently!)

I thank God that she doesn’t identify us with any of the above, which means that we could start this conversation in the first place. Now where to take the conversation from here?

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2 thoughts on “What our neighbour thinks

  1. Encourage you brother to strike up further conversations and listen carefully. This post truely does not represent the general picture. Don’t forget the filter you are listening through is probably ‘anglephone’ !

  2. Hi marc, taken me a while to answer this. The conversation with this person has actually been going on for a few years, but I made these notes after one particularly interesting day of exchanging thoughts.
    I find the general picture in France very mixed, but the view shared in this post I think does represent a sizeable part of the population. Typically they have rejected a catholic upbringing, or have been brought in a very atheist family, and then have read things in Le Point about Jesus and Christianity usually inspired by Da Vinci Code style populism, and then they associate Christian activism with ‘les cathos’ and the anti-gay marriage agenda. I’ve been working mainly with French people in Paris for about 13 years now and I’ve encountered this basic position quite frequently.
    However I should have said that I was very encouraged by the discussion as I believe the gospel can reval, both incarnationally in community and through scripture, that Christ in not into a patriarchal male dominated society, he’s not about controling people at all, he’s not a bloke with a beard in the sky and his view of the church is massively inclusive. The Kingdom is good news for this person, and God is revealing himself to her a little bit more each day.

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