I recently heard a pastor refer to France as a spiritual wasteland, and this wasn’t the first time I had heard this.
Twenty-one of our students went to France this past spring break and I asked them if they found this to be true. They agreed that French culture is very secular. Very few people in France go to church, and they don’t really talk, or even think, about God. They have beautiful churches, but the students observed large gift shops in two of the most beautiful churches they visited, Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur.
But, they also saw evidence that perhaps the French aren’t as spiritually dry as we might think, and that they are, in some ways, expressing some aspects of honouring the Creator better than we do.
French Food: Celebration of God’s Good Gifts
The most obvious example for the students was the French approach to food. The French value food, so when they eat, they take their time. A meal is not a mere biological necessity between work and an evening Bible study. The meal is one of the most important events of the day. The students said, “Even their fast food is slow.”
And meals aren’t just about the food. They are very much about the conversation that takes place over the meal. The French enjoy nothing more than great food with good friends. Here, restaurants try to maximize the number of seatings in an evening by carefully moving diners from the appetizer to the bill as quickly as possible without them feeling rushed. In France, you and your friends are expected to enjoy each other’s company for hours. If you want a bill, you have to ask for it. If you have a table, you have it for the night.
Rather than serving groceries in the same store that also sells underwear and motor oil, the French have rows of small, independently owned specialty stores. Each only sells one thing–cheese, meat, pastry, bread, fish, vegetables. The idea is that if you specialize, you can better ensure the quality of your wares, and the resultant meals will be a lot more enjoyable.
The French don’t believe in God, hence the appellation “godless,” but they treat many of his gifts with the utmost respect. They take the good gifts of God and treat them as the treasures they are.
Our culture conceived of Kraft Dinner which sells for $1.27 a box and takes less than 10 minutes to make and even less to consume even if we include the time it takes to offer a prayer acknowledging God’s gustatory providence.
I will not choose which approach is better, to love the gift but ignore the giver, or to love the giver, but disparage the gift. It seems to me that loving both would be the ideal.
This post was previously published at http://insideout.abbotsfordchristian.com/