Notre Dame Burns - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Notre Dame Burns
Photo: CNN screenshot

UPDATE: My dear editor asked me to add some context to this post.

First, the imagery of the beautiful sky, billowing smoke, shocked faces, and deep sadness feels like 9/11. It feels bigger than the loss of lives and two buildings, or, in this case, a church. It feels like it’s shifting history in real time.

The aforementioned feelings were there before I went and performed a web search of “churches burning in France.” I was stunned to read that there had been multiple desecrations of churches over the last couple of weeks. Had you heard about it? I hadn’t.

Second, I’m not saying that the cause of the Notre Dame fire is terrorism. It’s too soon to know that sort of thing and I wasn’t attempting to imply such. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me, but then I read about other church desecrations and it felt possible, which is terrible.

At the heart of the grief is this: As we approach Passover and Easter and consider how far Christendom has fallen, how few people believe, how secularized the world has become, the burning of the church feels portentous. A visual symbol of the rot. The Church and Christianity is under attack from without and from within. Christianity is viewed as bigoted, closed-minded, and mean. But Christianity is not that. It has been the catalyst for the most beautiful production of art and encouraged the freeness to pursue science. Christianity is self-sacrifice and charity and love toward God and man.

Christianity gives one the structure to lead a whole, happy life and a foundation to weather the worst personal storms. And yet it’s being maligned and true adherents are viewed with suspicion. In France, Jews and Christians, both, endure increased persecution.

And this progressive march to Judeo-Christian annihilation has resulted in nihilistic secularism that substitutes empty sex for love, selfishness for family, addiction for community, consumerism for peace, loneliness for connection. For knowing so much, our generation is woefully ignorant about what matters most and has little frame within which to build a meaningful life. That’s why sad substitutes like climate alarmism, veganism, abortion, and the rest are treated as sacraments. In a post-modern world, they are.

That’s what was going through my mind while watching Notre Dame burn. People are sad and I’m not sure they can even pinpoint why. Somewhere, there’s an echo of what we’ve lost in the West. It’s in the soul of the people, but the memory of it is ephemeral. It’s a feeling of something that was important but can’t be brought to the mind and it’s blowing in the breeze over Paris.

The church can be rebuilt. I’ve read that there are detailed laser plans for it that an art historian took. The antiquities within the church may have been saved and put aside because the church was being renovated. That’s encouraging. But what is more difficult to salvage is the hardened heart, the rotted spiritual corpse.

Western Civilization’s symbols are just that: physical representations that reflect the spirit of man. The church burning is indicative of a much greater loss and that’s what grieves me.


The images from the burning of Notre Dame provoke the same sort of heart-heavy dread as the 9/11 images. The beauty of the sun-shiny day contrasting with the conflagration; the feeling that the world has irrevocably changed for the worse. Loss, sadness.

It feels like we’re witnessing the end of Christianity and Western Civilization. Notre Dame is irreplaceable. No tower can be built in its stead. There will only be a time before and after Notre Dame.

Perhaps this sentiment seems melodramatic. I don’t think so. Look at how the world has changed after 9/11. Look at the civil liberties we’ve lost. We can’t travel without being molested. We worry in the back of our minds at every large gathering. Unthinkable violence is now thinkable, and even routine. We’re more callous to it and tired of it. Terrorism is a part of life in the West. The consequences of terrorism, have shaped all thoughts. Every bad thing that happens, we hope it’s not terrorism. Too often, it is.

How to convey Notre Dame’s cultural impact? It’s the heart of France. It’s a religious and artistic monument. It’s a place of worship. It’s iconic. And it’s gone.

The symbolism can’t be denied. This is the first day of Holy Week. If this fire was purposefully set, the arsonist couldn’t have picked a more perfect time.

As a measure of how little news this made, upon a bit of digging, I found that churches across France have been desecrated in the previous weeks. From Voice of Europe:

Since the beginning of 2019, France has seen a torrent of attacks which have included arson, vandalism, and desecration of a number of its historic Catholic churches.

The defacers have torn down crosses, knocked down tabernacles, smashed statues, and have destroyed the Eucharist, igniting fears of a rise in widespread anti-Catholic sentiment across the country.

On Sunday the 17th of March, just following midday mass, the historic Church of St. Sulpice in Paris was set ablaze, Newsweek reported. Although nobody was injured, French authorities are currently still looking into the attack, which firefighters have attributed to arson.

Did you know about this? I didn’t. More from Breitbart:

In Lavaur, in the southern department of the Tarn, the village church was assaulted by young men, who twisted one arm of a representation of the crucified Christ to make it appear that he was making an obscene gesture.

In the peripheries of Paris, in the department of Yvelines, several churches have suffered profanations of varying importance, in Maisons-Laffitte and in Houilles.

Although commentators have been reluctant to attach a particular religious or cultural origin to the profanations, they all share an evident anti-Christian character.

In recent months, anti-Semitic gangs have desecrated Jewish cemeteries, signing their actions with swastikas. In the case of the desecration of Catholic churches, the vandalism has spoken for itself: ridicule of the figure of Christ on the cross and desecration of major altars.

The Catholic hierarchy has kept silent about the episodes, limited themselves to highlighting that anti-Christian threat and expressing hope that politicians and police will get to the bottom of the crimes.

Reports indicate that 80 percent of the desecration of places of worship in France concerns Christian churches and in the year 2018 this meant the profanation of an average of two Christian churches per day in France, even though these actions rarely make the headlines.

In 2018, the Ministry of the Interior recorded 541 anti-Semitic acts, 100 anti-Muslim acts, and 1063 anti-Christian acts.

It seems that Notre Dame being purposefully burned would not be out of the question. France is troubled and the church and political leaders seem to be in denial.

The cause of the fire will be found later. The results will be long-lasting and devastating.

Melissa Mackenzie
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Melissa Mackenzie is Publisher of The American Spectator. Melissa commentates for the BBC and has appeared on Fox. Her work has been featured at The Guardian, PJ Media, and was a front page contributor to RedState. Melissa commutes from Houston, Texas to Alexandria, VA. She lives in Houston with her two sons, one daughter, and two diva rescue cats. You can follow Ms. Mackenzie on Twitter: @MelissaTweets.
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