Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Family Home Morning in Paris

I mentioned here that one benefit to living in London is low-cost airlines.  Another is Eurostar advanced purchase fares to Paris.  Take the Piccadilly line from Green Park up to Kings Cross/St Pancreas, and you can be in Paris three hours later.

We took advantage of a rare requirement for my husband to go to Paris and booked me a Eurostar ticket-for-the day, too.  We left rather early and he worked on the train so we could enjoy a Family Home Morning by touring the French Pantheon for an hour or so.  (See previous post on Family Home Evenings and LDS doctrine.)

There we "visited" some of my all-time favorite people in the underbelly of the once-church: Joan of Arch (via the murals dedicated to her - she was burned and her ashes scattered in the Seine), Voltaire, Rosseau, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie.

The site was originally dedicated to house the remains of Sainte-Genevieve, the patron saint of France.  In the mid 1700s, Louis XV, after being cured from an illness by praying to Genevieve, commissioned architect Soufflot to build a church to rival St. Paul's in London and St. Peter's in Rome.  It does.  Immediately upon completion, however, the church was taken over by the Republic in 1791.  It was converted back to a church twice and reverted back for secular purposes twice.  Foucault first demonstrated the earth's rotation with his pendulum there in 1851 (a replica is on BYU campus, my alma mater).

The changing use of the Pantheon and the central role it played in the discussion and debate over the role of church and state in France reminded me a bit about the American First Amendment.  There, a delicate balance was struck between free exercise of religion - both by individuals and the collective nation, and not "establishing" religion, or the state paying for or endorsing a religious sect or practice.

The First Amendment has often been contentious, but it has, for the most part, consistently allowed public life to engage in the religious without causing extreme political upheaval (notable exceptions include treatment of Baptists and Mormons before the amendment was applied to the states).

That we share the tensions between the two principles - free exercise and governmental neutrality - that other countries do underlies almost the fundamental nature of man: part spiritual, part temporal.  How do the two elements co-exist harmoniously?

A question for much more thought and meditation, and, hopefully, several more trips to Paris...

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