Starting to have slightly longer and more meaningful conversations and interactions with people (at work and with the couple I’m staying with, albeit only for 2 more days >.<), which is great! Something that was simultaneously (sort of) encouraging and disconcerting—my brief conversation with Tristan (one of my colleagues at the festival, 25 yrs old) about religion: He was asking me about the couple that I’m staying with, and thought it was funny that I went with them to mass on Sunday. I told him that I went willingly because I was Christian, and he found that even more amusing because apparently, “young people never say things like that in France.” “Things like that” as in, I’m a Christian. He told me that he is actually Christian too, a Protestant, but that he doesn’t believe in la culte de christianisme [this was a little confusing for me because I’m still trying to understand what the word culte actually means… after hearing this other girl talk about la culte Protestante (vs. Catholicisme), I wasn’t sure if I should be offended, so I looked it up in the dictionnaire and found out that it actually means something like ‘the tradition of worship/church service’]—that most young people nowadays don’t like priests, or churches, and that belief is more or less private, i.e. the church is non-essential.
I am a little bit confused about exactly what he believes in, but I couldn’t ask too many more questions because 1) we were talking in the middle of a concert (a loud concert, but still), 2) I was worried about offending him by asking too many questions and seeming/being judgmental, and because my French prof had told us that it’s pretty personal/intrusive to talk openly about people’s religions here, and 3) it was hard to think of how and/or what to ask specifically, especially because I find it kind of difficult to understand Tristan 70% of the time (he’s one of the only people who doesn’t try too hard to speak in simpler French for me, which is simultaneously a good and bad thing).
A little bit later, he apologized for laughing at me for going to church, and then for some reason we ended up talking about families and marriage in France, and I was surprised again to hear him express a complete lack of faith in marriage, just like our other coworker Margot (23ish) had done a few weeks ago. He confirmed with this other girl (she joined the team recently and is my age or 1-2 years younger, not sure), Manon, that neither of them were interested in getting married because they believe that marriage has lost its meaning. There are so many familles récomposées in France, so many people who have gotten divorced and remarried, or divorced and not remarried but living with someone new (and having kids together, this surprised me), and so many problems with this sacred, traditional image of family—the main one being that it doesn’t really exist (in their opinion)—that it’s better to just toss the idea out the window entirely. M & T both told me that their families were the same, broken or ‘recomposed’, and that that was the norm in France. “I think it’s useless to talk about mariage pour tous (marriage for all, the French movement for homosexual marriage) because I don’t think anyone needs to get married at all, it’s just not necessary!” [Tristan]
There is a cynicism about love, marriage, fidelity, etc. (especially among younger people) that I find very disconcerting, especially when this view is shared among young Christians (obviously this is just a small sample of people and I shouldn’t generalize, and I haven’t met any other young Christians here so I don’t really know, still this is my current impression). It’s difficult to talk about, but I hope the subject comes up again, and that I have more opportunities to understand how people here think and feel about important issues. I pray that God will especially continue to open doors for me to learn about Christianity in France, as it seems to be very different from what I’ve seen in China or the US, and that he will grant me wisdom (and language ability) in my conversations!