Wednesday, 11 June 2008

A dedicated follower of fashion?

I should have known better than to go to France by train in May. But Paris is not the worst place in the world to be stranded by a general strike and at least I could pretend to be a real Frenchwoman who reads French women’s magazines (which are actually much more interesting and intelligently written than English ones). And in Elle, I found, to my surprise, that according to one article (of which I have transcribed chunks for your benefit as it seems unavailable online), I am among the fashionable:

"Ils sont enfants de soixante-huitards et retrouvent le chemain de l’Eglise. Que recherchent ses adultes qui se font baptiser, tout en gardant leur sens critique?”
(These are the children of the 1968 protesters and they’ve rediscovered the path of the Church. What are these adults, who get baptized while keeping a sense of critical analysis, searching for?)

Admittedly, my parents were a year too young to be actual soixante-huitards and as an Anglo-Catholic, I haven’t returned to exactly the same path as that of my mostly Roman Catholic extended family. But, as a newly baptised adult I did read with attention, if only to find out what I am supposed to be searching for! The article includes many contributions from sociologists about the young feeling a desire for community, order and serenity, or wanting to challenge parental authority, or wanting to display their religion publicly to those of other faiths. Though I can’t speak for all British or French youth or any sociologists, rather than any of these theories, I identified more with the personal testimonies, especially a woman who said:

“For a long time, I forbade myself to be a Catholic but then I suddenly understood....because I realised that I’d believed in God forever”.

Because, I did believe in God for a long time before I sought to be baptised but I lacked the courage to do anything about it until relatively recently. But eventually, what made me take that step isn't anything I can link to those sociological theories but an overwhelming sense that I had to be, and wanted to be, a Christian.

However, a few parts of this article do make me slightly cross (and, if you want, please feel free to mock me for expecting too much from glossy magazines). The quote about keeping “un sens critique” above seems to imply that everyone else has entirely given up their capacity for independent thought at the moment of baptism. Also, possibly unsurprisingly given the publication I was reading, the tone of the article seems to suggest at times that this is more of a fashion statement with lists of Christian celebrities, baptismal crosses custom made to match engagement rings and the phrase Ça fait presque fun de se faire baptiser”! What I found more worrying though, is that the article calls this resurgence of faith “la religion self-service” and that the women mentioned seem to have in some cases entirely disconnected catholic teaching from their personal lives, picking and choosing which aspects of the church’s teaching they want to live by. There can't be anyone who hasn't, at some point, done something that they shouldn't, but not even intending to try seems to me the wrong approach.

Despite all my quibbles, it was cheering to see something positive about Christianity in the press, especially as every British newspaper seems to have been predicting its imminent demise recently. And this especially, that young French people "ont l'envie d'assumer leur foi sans inhibition ni honte" (want to display their faith without shame or inhibition) makes me hope that young British people feel the same. And I hope that I'll always be able to show my faith without shame or inhibition but sometimes I fear that I'm too much of a coward. So, go and find me some examples of young catholics proudly displaying their faith and put them in the comments to encourage this neophyte.

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