mercredi 20 mai 2009

La France laïque

When Chirac welcomed Pope John Paul II to France all those years ago (1996?97?  I know, I should google this, right?) he bade him welcome to "secular France - la France laïque".

Things haven't changed since then, if anything the division between state and church is more reinforced than ever, with schoolgirls being sent home for wearing headscarves and all religious paraphernalia banned in the workplace.

In a modern society, this secularity is a good thing, it seems.  Religion is religion and the rest of the day-to-day is well, not religion.  Let's keep it that way.  Religion plays no part in affairs of state here in France.  Unlike in the UK, where the Queen is both Head of State and Defender of the Faith.

So with all of this "we are not a religious state" attitude, you'll be surprised to note that tomorrow is a national holiday.  Why?  It's Ascension of course.  The country will come to a standstill for the day in order to celebrate Jesus ascending to Heaven (that is what ascension is, right?).  

Government will not be sitting, civil servants will not be working.  For what is undoubtedly a religious holiday.  In a secular society.

You can do the maths yourself, I'm sure, but this doesn't add up to anything logical, does it?

Naturally, I felt the need to discuss this with Debbie today (I know how much you all love that girl.  I did this for you).  This is how the conversation went...

"So, celebrating Ascension in a secular country.  How does that work?"

"It is not a religious holiday.  It is part of our culture" she said, looking at me like I'm crazy to not understand.

"But it has to be a religious holiday.  It's celebrating Christ ascending to Heaven.  How is that not religious?"

"Because it is part of our culture.  We are a Catholic country, after all."

"Hmm.  Not really though.  You are a secular country, where the main religion is traditionally Catholic, but even so, only half of the nation claim to be Catholic" - I'd looked my facts up before starting the conversation - useful with Debbie. 

"Yes, and being secular is very important to the Republic.  It is a cornerstone of who we are"  she quite rightly replied, giving herself the benefit of being on both sides of the argument - therefore undeniably correct.

"I agree"  I said.  "The division between church and state is important here in France.  But I don't see why that doesn't extend to people getting days off to celebrate religious events."

And there's the crux of the argument for me - 'we'll be as secular as we like, until it affects our days off, then screw it'.

"You are just being difficult.  Why do you have to question everything?"  She seemed to be getting annoyed.  "Just accept things.  Enjoy the day off.  Maybe you should go to England and eat cucumber sandwiches."  

I wasn't sure where she got that one from, but as insults go, it didn't really work.

"Anyway, I don't care"  she said.  "I am not Catholic, but I will take as many of these Jesus days as they are willing to throw at us".

"Lucky that Pentecost is just around the corner then" I replied.

I ducked as the stapler went flying past my ear.

17 commentaires:

Feist a dit…

''Maybe you should go to England and eat cucumber sandwiches.''
She sounds like a hoot!

aims a dit…

Gotta love Debbie.

Jesus holidays.....hehehehe

Daryl a dit…

Oh Debbie, I would love to debate you on anything ... Jesus holidays, I am so LOL.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Feist, she's becoming more popular than me. That won't last long..."off with her head!"

Aims, it's such a funny concept, bless her.

D, you'd probably be the best person I know to debate with her - I've said before she has something of the new yorker about her....

12ontheinside a dit…

I'm with Debbie on this one. That's why I happily take the Queens Birthday long weekend off, but loudly proclaim we should be a republic and that I don't recognise the Queen as my head of state.

Peter a dit…

It's the same here in the Netherlands, only when muslims asked for days off on their religious holidays [or should that be holy-days] the answer was no. We're a Christian nation... blah, blah, blah.

The Mutant a dit…

What about easter, do you get easter?

I think you should declare your own religious holiday of the flying stapler!

The thing that I don't get, is that France tried to revolutionise the world to make it more logical, ie: the metric system - yet they defy logic with stuff like that?

Am I supposed to get it, or is it like an inside joke?

Rob Inukshuk a dit…

Yes, it seems each Nation has it's quirks, oddities and incongruence's. Some are endearing, some amusing and some down right infuriating!

If nothing else, it makes for good blog-fodder.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

12oti - you're as bad as Debbie...

Peter - exactly...it's a stupid concept.

Mutant, I fear that it's an inside joke, but that it's on me...

Rob, and most make no sense whatsoever....

Le observateur a dit…

"In a modern society, this secularity is a good thing, it seems. Religion is religion and the rest of the day-to-day is well, not religion. Let's keep it that way."

I come here for stories of Debbie, but I stay for the profundity of the insights. :/

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Le Observateur....I'm just going to say thanks and pretend not to notice the sarcastic undertone.

(btw, I love a sarcastic undertone...)

MyopicPsychotic a dit…

Is the cucumber sandwiches jibe not good for the fact that it is a sterotypical representation of high crust (yes, pun intended) English culture? ... In Ireland at the moment, there is major national coverage on abuse of children carried out my religious institutions. The report took ten years to compile and has sent revelations through society. Descriptions of the abuse would turn your stomach. ... Religion should only form a stakeholder of state policy, but not a corner stone ... Oh and yeah, I'd also like to keep the religious bank holidays.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

MP, we all want the holidays, but maybe less religious ones. How about 'cheese day'? or 'national ignore your neighbours' day (i'd like that one...)

The Pixy Princess a dit…

TBNIL, you'd better watch out. Debbie is one day going to explode onto the scene with her own "rival" blog. Classic example of sidekick/supporting character getting their own show. (Family Guy reference)

Re holidays. I live in North America and they are bloody stingy with days off... so, Jesus, Mary, Joseph or the Queen.... I'll take 'em all and say AMEN each time!

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Pixy - it'll be like Robin getting his own comic after all those years tugging at Batman's, erm, cape. hehe

Anthony a dit…

If there’s something that annoys me more than an atheist, it’s a hypocrite

travelling, but not in love a dit…

LaTanya, indeed...or one that wants both sides of the argument for themselves....