As we look to yet another rentrée, the beginning of the school year, along with new terms in just about every domain of life in France, it might be well to listen to what the journalists and commentators are saying about the state of the union. Morosité is a commonly heard expression. Literally, “moroseness” is a state of mind that describes a nearly universal sense of malaise around France.
Those of us who love this country have to wonder what the problem really is. Such beauty, such earthy wisdom, fine-looking roads and buildings, advanced medical arts, strong families... What is wrong? Is it the unemployment? Certainly the rate is high, the euro zone is not helping, and increasing dependency on a strong Germany does not sit well with most French people. Yet the ennui goes deeper, and farther back.
Here is what I think. French people need to protect themselves. They do not want to be naïve, nor optimistic. Because there is a chance there may be nothing to believe in. As Roger Cohen once put it about the French mentality, “far better to be morose than a fool.” We should have great sympathies with this view. Though profoundly un-American, it is an echo of Ecclesiastes, and maybe even of Job. Yet there is something self-defeating about such a protectionist mentality. Anyone who is that consistently guarded knows there might be something else out there besides folly. There might be... hope. If you scratch deep enough you will find that French people do have some of it. They talk of l’exception française, the French difference. They want universal truth or no truth at all. They do believe!
But there are deeper reasons to crack moroseness. The gospel brings hope, but not fool’s hope. Indeed, this hope comes at a high price: the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. And though it’s free to anyone who asks, believers too must suffer. That is the message delivered at the Faculté Jean Calvin in Aix-en- Provence, which is also celebrating its rentrée. Perhaps French people aren’t morose enough. Sin is far more oppressive than ennui. The gospel is a far better liberator than optimism. What a great time to spread this message in France!
Very Truly Yours,
William Edgar, President