CHRONICLE – The “Christmas spirit” of today's world no longer has anything to do with the symbol of hope that it was originally. Secularism, conceived today from a liberal angle, is sinking into festive consumerism and the “respect due to individuals”.
On the other side of the planet, in this China which unashamedly combines communism and capitalism, the new urban upper classes are starting to celebrate Christmas, with lots of garlands and gift packages. A planetary communion in the new “Christmas spirit”, at a time when the West is gradually adopting, with stuffy caution, the term “end-of-year celebrations”, so as not to offend anyone. Humanity comes together, not in the forgotten symbol of a God incarnating in the fragility of a child, but in the effervescence of festive consumerism. Such is the new transcendence, the only one, it is believed, to be able to abolish divisions and hatreds: that of the divine market.
The Prime Minister responded this week to the weekly La Vie. He confided that he was baptized at his request at the age of ten, he explained that he was no longer a believer but "respected those who believe" and cultivated "a true reverence for the sacred" which humanity "cannot completely depart from". So many half-hearted reflections, without the smallest draft of analysis of these issues which nevertheless arise in schools or town halls, around a statue or in a street transformed into a prayer room, and which make public debate a minefield. But the most striking thing is in this insistence, which he shares with the Head of State, on approaching secularism only from the angle of freedom, regulated by a rule of law, the law of separation of the Churches and of State. A law that “allows individual freedom to flourish”.
Such a creed ignores one of the most obvious consequences of liberalism as developed by contemporary societies. Liberal anthropology, which conceives of society only as a sum of individuals whose possible divergent interests are regulated by law and the market, outside of any definition of common values or even of a shared memory, results in leaving the public power totally helpless in the face of these believers who claim the freedom to manifest their faith even in its most sectarian dimension, in the name of respect for their individual rights.
The best example is in the demonstrations of these beliefs within the school, where pupils refuse certain teachings. The Minister of National Education, of course, has provided for “secularism units”, supposed to remind teachers in disinheritance of their role as representatives of the institution. But voices were immediately raised to warn against the risks of "stigma" and "Islamophobia". This should encourage our benevolent Prime Minister to reflect a little more acutely on the complex relationship between respect for individuals and the role of the republican school.
The sociologist Gérald Bronner reminded us of this in an excellent text published in The Point, there are American campuses that use the "trigger warning", a warning to students to let them know that the content of certain courses could shock them. American-style liberal democracy, by setting up “respect for individuals” as a supreme value, makes any peaceful transmission of universal knowledge impossible. The school can therefore only be a development of the students' skills, emptied of any content capable of taking them out of their possible obscurantism. It is this evolution that the French school has been experiencing for several decades, from which we have gradually evacuated universal knowledge and reason, to cultivate only the ability to express oneself and personal fulfilment.
The Prime Minister says he is in favor of teaching religion in schools. It's called a history lesson. A course that can explain to students that the nature of Christianity changed when it became the official religion of the Roman Empire, that the Koran is not uncreated but that it took two centuries of exegesis to establish the text precise, which therefore depends on an interpretation. A lesson that makes you understand what a West could have been in which religion permeated every life, and weighed on destinies. A course that tells how man has gradually learned to think of himself outside the categories of the divine, and how humanism and the Enlightenment have gradually drawn the possibility of a faith in man and in reason. , as an instrument of individual and collective emancipation.
Secularism is now sinking into festive consumerism and the “respect due to individuals”. No one remembers this incredible moment of truce that was Christmas, as a symbol of hope. But no one any longer understands either that the French Republic has placed its hope in man, drawn from obscurantism by knowledge and curiosity in the world.
Source: © Natacha Polony: "Christmas, and peace in the Republic"