On the other side of the planet, in this China that marries without complex communism and capitalism, the new upper urban classes start to celebrate Christmas, with strong garlands and gift packages. A planetary communion in the new "Christmas spirit", at a time when the West is gradually adopting, with careful caution, the term "end-of-year celebrations", so as not to offend anyone. Humanity gathers together, not in the forgotten symbol of a God incarnating in the fragility of a child, but in the effervescence of the festive consumerism. This 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 was responding this week to the weekly Life. He confessed to having been baptized at his request at the age of tenhe explained that he was no longer a believer but "respect those who believe" and cultivate "a true reverence for the sacred" whose humanity "can not be completely divested". So many half-hearted reflections, without the smallest sketch of analysis of these issues that nevertheless arise in schools or town halls, around a statue or in a street transformed into a prayer room, and that make public debate a minefield. But the most striking thing is this insistence, which he shares with the Head of State, to approach 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 society only as a sum of individuals whose diverging interests are regulated by law and the market, without any definition of shared values or even shared memory, leads to the public power totally helpless against 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 manifestations of these beliefs within the school, where students refuse certain teachings. The Minister of National Education, of course, has provided "secular units", supposed to remind the teachers in escheat their role of representative of the institution. But voices were immediately raised to warn against the risks of "stigmatization" and "Islamophobia". This should encourage our benevolent Prime Minister to think a little more acutely about the complex relationship between respect for individuals and the role of the Republican school.
The sociologist Gérald Bronner recalled it in an excellent text published in Point, it is American campuses that use the "trigger warning", a warning to the students to signify that the contents of some courses could shock them. American-style liberal democracy, by setting "respect for individuals" as a supreme value, makes impossible any peaceful transmission of universal knowledge. The school can only be a development of the skills of students, emptied of any content able to get out of their possible obscurantism. It is this evolution that the French school has been experiencing for a few decades, from which universal knowledge and reason have gradually been evaded, to cultivate only the capacities to express themselves and personal fulfillment.
The Prime Minister is in favor of religious education at school. It's called a history class. A course that can explain to students that the nature of Christianity changed when it became 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 is therefore an interpretation. A course which makes understand what could be a West in which religion impregnated each life, and weighed on the destinies. A course that tells how man has gradually learned to think 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 spoiled in festive consumerism and "respect due to individuals". No one remembers this incredible moment of truce that was Christmas, as a symbol of hope. But no one understands either that the French Republic has placed its hope in man, drawn from obscurantism by knowledge and curiosity to the world.