There’s something going on here, and it is useless to say it doesn’t have meaning. Back at Easter, when churches full of celebrating Christians were attacked in Sri Lanka, we were treated to hours of coverage and numerous near-identical statements from public figures in which the Christians celebrating Easter were referred to generically as “Easter worshipers.”
In a bizarre touch, several of America’s most prominent Democrats — including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — used virtually the same wording and spelled the word the same way, with two p’s (“worshippers”). I have nothing against the archaic spelling (in fact, I prefer it; if I wanted to write like a soulless machine, I’d plug myself in to the wall). But it’s odd to encounter it in the same way, down to the old-fashioned spelling, from a list of people in the same category, under a particular set of circumstances.
Leaving that aside, however, we jump forward to the Mass held on Saturday, 15 June at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the first one since the devastating fire in April 2019. There are photos of priests at the altar in hard hats; there’s footage of the immediate aftermath of the fire juxtaposed with the area now cleared and able to host a service again, if only for a few people. (About 30 were in personal attendance.) There are numerous images of people following video of the service via their cell phones, some with tears and some with smiles of joy. There are priests and a bishop or two giving interviews; several recycled soundbites coursing across the news coverage.
What there don’t seem to be, if we go by the news reports, are any Christians involved. It’s really becoming weird, how news organizations will not use the word on these prominent occasions when it would make sense to. Notre Dame is a cathedral. It was built for Christian worship; indeed, we can and should specify that it was built by Catholics, and has been a spiritual center of the Catholic Christian faith for more than 800 years. It’s a Christian edifice, built by Christians, used by Christians, beloved of Christians — and the people who have worshiped there for centuries, and worship there still, are Christians.
If you had recourse to this report, you would at least know that Notre Dame has something to do with a thing called “Christendom.” That’s not because the reporter writing the story uses the word, of course. The story includes a quote about Christendom from someone else.
And if you checked out this report, you’d hear from the Archbishop of Paris that the cathedral “is born of Christian hope,” which is as close as you’re going to get to hearing that the people who assemble for Mass there are … Christians.
The point is not actually to be upset about this. God has His purposes. But Matthew 11:15 is always apropos: “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Also found in Mark 4:9 and 4:23.) This waypoint of civilization has something to tell us.