The New French Terror
20th century French intellectuals have a lot of blood on their hands.
Their theories about the necessity of violence in order to establish a society characterized by the ideals of egalité, liberté, and fraternité were once debated in civilized and abstract terms in the comfortable armchairs of academia and civilized salons of Paris.
A lifelong supporter of violence and tyranny, Jean-Paul Sartre repeatedly called for the violent overthrow of bourgeois society. He supported Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and the killing of civilian Europeans by Algeria’s FLN. It would be the philosophy of Sartre that fed the violence of Pol Pot, who exterminated about one third of Cambodia’s populace. Abstract ideas discussed and taught in civilized France became realities writ in blood by third-world dictators.
The Iranian Islamist revolution also found its intellectual origins in France, where the Ayatollah Khomeini was granted exile. Infused with rage by radical intellectuals, Khomeini plotted the Islamist takeover of Iran, eventually returning there in 1979, from whence America and the world would see blindfolded hostages paraded on television.
In short, revolutions encouraged by French and other European intellectuals were actualized but mostly watched safely from afar.
But now those abstract ideas about the necessity of revolutions that spill blood are coming back to bite as radical Islamists believing in the killing of their enemies strike at Paris and France itself; most recently in the form of violence against eighty-five-year-old parish priest Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit by a jihadist as the frail old man was performing the sacrament of the Mass.
The jihadist attempt to symbolically behead Christianity by slitting the throat of a pious Catholic priest should come as no surprise to France, whose leaders profess themselves to be shocked and outraged at the recent incident, and who are warning about a religious war between Muslims and Christians.
But the war in France is not being and will not be fostered by Christians, whose presence and influence in France and most of Europe is subterranean and largely pacifist -- by design. They have been subdued as a cultural influence in France, which was once a profoundly Christian nation.
No, the real war is between the ruling secularist class of France and Islamists. Christians are merely a convenient and usual target of Islamists.
The intellectual descendants of the radical thinkers who were so fond of decapitating the Church and the aristocracy must not be surprised to find those Islamists who embrace their tenets for violent revolution now call for their beheading. They should not be surprised to find their own necks under the guillotine.
Those same modern-day philosophes also should not indulge themselves in intellectual chicanery, seeking to turn the present grisly narrative into a fairy tale of renewed religious warfare -- while the now thoroughly bourgeois and established secularists stand by as neutral innocents who deplore both religions for violence.
No, it was and still is French intellectuals, the modern secularist replacement for priests, who implicitly allowed this bloodbath by targeting Christianity for destruction. Father Hamel is dead because France has seen no overwhelming reason to protect Christianity.
The fact of the matter is that secularist France has long been opposed and still is opposed to Christianity, having waged war against it for over two hundred years. The French Revolution itself was the culmination of decades of anti-Christian polemics by French philosophes. Anti-Christian sentiment erupted into violence against the Catholic Church, which was effectively guillotined and replaced by a civil religion.
The radical ideas of the philosophes of the so-called Enlightenment were discussed in aristocratic French salons long before the Revolution of 1789 exploded in bloodshed and carnage worthy of ISIS savagery. Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s “Operation Parricide: Sade, Robespierre & the French Revolution” gives a succinct account of some of the horrors visited on France by the revolutionists. Jihadists can only admire and imitate. As Kuehnelt-Leddihn notes:
“General Westerman reported to the welfare committee:
‘There is no more Vendee, my republican fellow citizens! …According to your orders, the children were trampled to death beneath the hoofs of our horses; their women were slaughtered so that they couldn’t bring any more soldiers into the world. The streets are full of corpses; in many places they form entire pyramids. In Savenay we had to make use of massive firing squads because their troops are still surrendering. We take no prisoners. One has to give them the bread of freedom; however, mercy has nothing to do with the spirit of the revolution.”
“Westerman, however, soon met his nemesis; he was guillotined a short time later with his friend Danton.
“LeMans was the scene of further brutality; women, the aged, and children hiding in the houses of this large city were discovered… women and girls were raped, and since there weren’t enough living females for the ‘boys in blue,’ the corpses were violated as well… the mob quickly decapitated another group of prisoners, among whom was a saintly, 82-year-old abbess.”
No, mercy was not a characteristic of the French Revolution. Nor is it a virtue of the intellectuals’ militant secularist faith pervading France.
Those horrors of the Revolution, as have twentieth-century horrors, had their intellectual genesis in ideas discussed in eighteenth century salons, one of the more famous of which was that of Madame de Pompadour, who famously said, “After us, the deluge. I care not what happens when I am dead and gone.” Madame de Pompadour supported Diderot’s Encyclopedia, the heralded gateway to the Enlightenment -- the same Diderot who wrote, “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”
Diderot’s prophetic comment about kings and priests provides a summary of the thinking behind the Terror, which did indeed kill the nation’s king and very nearly the aristocracy; and which also very nearly killed the Catholic Church of France in an effort to exterminate Christianity from France.
Some of the aristocratic talking heads who were habitués of the salons and who advocated the death of the system of government and religion that had characterized France for centuries -- and that could have perhaps been reformed rather than destroyed utterly -- would later be sliced off under the blade of the guillotine. Ideas once genteelly debated among intellectuals and wannabe revolutionaries became reality as the blood of both members of the intelligentsia and of the aristocracy mingled while the Parisian mob looked on and cheered their demise.
Now we find a new French Revolution rising in Paris and beyond, one in which the death of innocent civilians was openly encouraged by Sartre in Algeria. Now we find jihadist revolutionaries, in France by the invitation of France, crying out for the heads of State and Church. The Terror has once again arrived in France. The tyranny of the idea of violent revolution in order to achieve a “just” and “equal” society, so long cherished by French intellectuals now threatens France (and indeed Europe) itself.
For decades after decade, led by French atheists and secularists, the governmental machinery of France has insisted the no religion is allowed in public matters. In fact, any citizen who wishes to be considered a good citizen almost certainly must a-religious. The consequence of the exorcism of Christianity from public life and the quarantining of the Christian spirit behind church doors has been a complete erosion of Christian influence in French culture.
If secularist France wishes to avoid more massacres by Islamist jihadists bent on destroying both secularists and Christians, it would do well to take the governmental boot off the neck of Christianity, whose foundational influence on French culture, though badly eroded and weakened, should be recognized.
It is glaringly apparent that it is not Christians like the martyred Father Jacques Hamel and his flock who are perpetrating violence in France. It is not Christians who are attacking Jewish delis and crowded theaters where helpless unarmed civilians were mutilated and tortured. It was not a Christian who mowed down dozens of innocents on Bastille Day.
Christianity is not the enemy of France, but a spiritual friend and guide still intrinsic to her cultural makeup. It should not only be recognized and unchained, but cultivated in order it be salt in a rotting culture. Secularist France should take note of the ways the most militant strains of Islam are determined to shape French culture in ways that will make France unrecognizable within a very short time if they prevail.
The atheistic/secularist worldview that characterized the Enlightenment, which became the impetus for the French Revolution and the Terror, which has informed the top intellects of France for so long; and which is as least partly responsible for the new Terror visited on France, has proved a systematic failure in France and abroad.
It is time to admit the secularist and leftist worldview that has been promulgated and exported by French and European intellectuals for centuries, and which has been so instrumental in spreading violence and chaos throughout the world, should repent of its heresies and to return to the roots that once made France great and can make her great again.
It is time for France to release from secularist bondage and to actively cultivate the Spirit of Christianity, which while its followers too often transgressed against the Spirit of mercy, love and grace characterizing Christ, at least that Spirit has been held up as the soul of orthodox Christianity.
That Spirit once thoroughly informed French culture, a Spirit that created a nation filled with monuments to Age of Faith. It is time to once again look at and grant complete freedom of expression to the faith that built Notre Dame and Chartres.
Let’s hope and pray it isn’t too late to do so.
Fay Voshell holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, which awarded her its prize in systematic theology. Her thoughts have appeared in many online magazines, including American Thinker, National Review, CNS, Fox News, RealClearReligion and Russia Insider. She may be reached at email@example.com