Every time I go to Paris, 50 kms from my home in L’Isle-Adam, I think of Hitler’s question : “Is Paris burning ?” “Paris meurtri, mais Paris libéré !” proclaimed General de Gaulle, when the City of Light finally emerged from the Occupation, in spite of the Führer’s threat, damaged but its monuments intact.
One of its treasures, the destruction of which would have been an indescribable loss to mankind, is the Sainte Chapelle. Close to Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cité, the capital’s historic center, tourists flock to marvel at this mini-Cathedral built to house the Crown of Thorns, the crown-jewel of Christian relics, purchased for the equivalent of a king’s ransom by King, Saint, Louis IX. The edifice, the largest reliquary in the world, is unique because of its fabulously beautiful stained-glass windows that practically serve as its walls. One has the impression of standing in an enormous jewel-box. No one visits the Sainte Chapelle without being overwhelmed, awed, by this house of glass.
Having visited it frequently over the last fifty years since I first saw it in 1964, it occurs to me that beyond everything else that it is, one could see it as a symbol of the Catholic Church, of Christianity, itself. Many of us, Christian believers and ex-believers, are extremely critical of Islam. Is it exaggerated to suggest that people who live, or at least worship, in glass houses like the Sainte Chapelle, should not throw stones ?
Readers of this blog and of my book will not misunderstand me to the point of thinking that I am trying to defend Islam. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, like all religions, I identify as promoters of blindfaithblindfolly, all of them the fruit of ignorance, fear and wishful thinking. But, to pursue my metaphor, before they reject or ridicule the silly beliefs, rules and rituals of Islam, Christians should take a hard look at their own.
There is no need here, after some 230 Reflections in my book and over 250 in this blog, including one of the most recent, “Muslims and Catholics : Irreconcilable Cousins in Faith’, to catalogue or to compare the ridiculous beliefs and practices of Catholics and Muslims. But in this time of the ISIS crisis, Christians should be conscious of the superstitions and myths of their own religion, before attacking those of Islam. The Catholic Church has had its own jihadists, its own Holy Wars, its own murderous fanaticism, enough to temper any temptation to identify itself as “holier than thou”. It may be a pipe-dream, but I dare even to hope that the ISIS threat will lead at least some Christians to examine their own credulity, before metaphorically throwing stones at Muslims who literally stone to death violators of their Charia.