In an article headed France: A Decomposing Civilization Italian journalist Giulio Meotti (1) describes what many consider is the gradual disintegration of France. Meotti’s summarises: “France’s authorities and elites are tearing up, piece by piece, the country’s historical, religious and cultural legacy so that nothing remains. A nation dispossessed of its identity will see its inner strength broken. Samuel Pruvot, a journalist for Famille Chrétienne [“Christian Family”], recently claimed that Christianity in France will be soon found in ‘museums’ ”.
The country’s leaders are watching this destructive process “without claiming to fight and overthrow it, as if it were unavoidable”.
He cites many symptoms such as “The safety of ordinary French people is no longer guaranteed. Islamist violence can arise anywhere to strike those who wear a uniform and those who do not. All French citizens are now targets in a war.” However the French president, Emmanuel Macron, “refuses to talk about Islam and appears to accept the permanent capitulation to the state of fear and emergency. Meanwhile, in the last ten years, 40,000 Jews have fled France.”
“In France’s parliament, “Islamo-Leftist” voices are becoming increasingly bold. The political class distracts itself with “inclusive writing” at school; in vitro fertilization for singles and gays and on-the-spot fines for “sexist” harassers. No French terrorist who went to cut off heads in Syria lost his citizenship. The magazine Charlie Hebdo is receiving new death threats.”
Furthermore, many French people, including public figures have been punished for expressing their concerns about Muslim extremists and Muslim atrocities. The killing of priest Jacques Hamel at the hands of Islamists has been forgotten.
French police officials have evidence that there are “no go zones” where they cannot apply the law safely because of the strength of criminals. The French governments denies it; to admit it would acknowledge it is an indication of a failed state.
With such a drastic assessment of the situation one wonders: what is really going on?
To answer this important question we need to go back in history. The Christian religion came to France, and indeed much of Europe, after the fall of the (Western part of the) Roman Empire in 476 AD. As the Gospel was accepted and people worshipped and obeyed God, the early European nations were blessed and many positive changes resulted. Consequently Europe was an intellectual international powerhouse for many centuries; the social, economic and cultural conditions of European nations improved beyond recognition. In a word, submission to God and the Bible was richly blessed.
Several times Europe and Christianity were threatened by Muslim invasions, but the God defended Europe and the Christian faith. The famous battle of Tours in 732 AD in central France was an example of the defeat of Muslim armies.
During the Middle Ages many people drifted away from the faith. Many churches, too, no longer upheld the Bible’s teachings. This triggered the Great Reformation was very important for Europe. This movement, which began around 1500 AD, aimed to bring the church back to the true teachings of the Bible and restore faithfulness to the Bible in private, church and public life.
While the Reformation gained foothold in many parts of Europe, the Roman church and central government in France opposed it vehemently. Many reformers, like John Calvin, were persecuted and forced to flee the country. Those who remained were cruelly persecuted. Many prominent Protestants were arrested and killed. In 1572 there was a terrible slaughter known as the St. Bartholomew massacre in which thousands Reformed believers (also known as Huguenots) were killed in a single incident. In its wake some 200,000 Huguenots left the country. This was a great loss to France not only in a theological sense, but also in terms of other knowledge and expertise, particularly in industry and commerce.
With the vehement rejection of the Reformation by France the light of God’s Word became even dimmer than before and its impact on public life was further reduced. The consequences were very serious.
Just how serious is illustrated, for example, by the French revolution of 1789. The Revolution was built on the principles of the Enlightenment. God’s word was increasingly pushed aside and replaced with human wisdom. This was warmly embraced by intellectuals and leaders throughout Europe. France was a leader in the field. The good influence of the church was diminished and the Bible was no longer used to address social, economic and political issues. The Christian belief that ultimate authority resides with God and that rulers are God’s vice regents were replaced by democracy where the “will of the people” reigned supreme. This came to a head in France when the monarchy was overthrown by the public beheading of the king and queen.
The new government set a new course for France; the Bible was replaced by atheism as the nation’s foundation for public life. The new revolutionary government conducted a bloody rule of terror in which many people died. The initial revolution ended with the authoritarian rule of Napoleon.
The new atheism grew deep roots in the French nation. Centuries tried-and-tested laws reflecting the influence of the Christian faith were changed. For example, shortly after the French Revolution, the penal code was amended to decriminalize homosexual acts.
A 2007 survey in revealed that between 63-66% of the French population claimed they were “Christian”. However only 5% of these regularly attend church (2). The number of atheists has risen sharply to around 31%. In 2013 France’s president has signed into law a bill to legalise gay marriage.
When people, or a nation, turn their backs to God and live contrary to His Holy Word the Lord calls them to repentance. One of His main instruments for this is the church. But if the church is also unfaithful God will use other means such as natural disasters, social or economic calamities. Peace and stability are replaced by violence, terrorism and fear. Today France is feeling the hand of God through various crises such as those mentioned above. Not only is France in crisis; the situation in some other European and western countries is similar.
What can be done to address the crisis? The most fundamental and necessary change is repentance. People individually, churches and nations need to return to the Christian foundations which were so kindly bestowed upon them so long ago. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah says it in just a few words: “Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16). Refusal to heed this wisdom will only make matters worse. It is necessary to pray for another reformation.