The Burning of Notre Dame

April 24, 2019 Updated: September 26, 2019


The burning of Notre Dame on April 15 was an awful loss, not only for the people of Paris, but for all of France. Indeed, a stunned world’s heart dropped in unison, and in real-time, with the dropping of that great spire, downward, out of sight into the flaming belly of the ancient Cathedral, as if into a great stone oven.

Just as suddenly, all eyes turned from the gaping tear in Paris’ skyline, to those majestic twin-towers, just as all thoughts, in horror, reminisced about another set of twin-towers; would they fall next, would they fall, too?

Thankfully, they didn’t fall, and firefighters were able to save most of the 850 -year-old structure, aside from its timber roof and spire; and much of its priceless treasure and sacred objects.

And, even before the last of the flames had been extinguished, before all the smoke had lifted, French President Emmanuel Macron was pledging to request private donations for the Cathedral’s rebuilding and restoring it to its former grandeur; that of only hours before.

And, the people, if only by some unconscious desire, were driven in droves to come up from underground out of the subways, and down out of their houses, and places of business, to mourn what was lost, and to be together. And, to pray, to give thanks, that no life was lost; and, that what was lost was not more.

It’s too early to say for certain whether the fire that destroyed Notre Dame was accidental or a deliberate act of arson, but at this point in the investigation it appears to have been accidental.

It was a deeply moving spectacle to watch; and, the more remarkable, for a nation where freedom of religion is enshrined in its constitution but is largely free of religion; and for a people who have not only largely abandoned church attendance, but also a belief in God.

How amazing that the burning down of one very old building should cause so much of a stir; and, should stir the hearts of so many people the world over to wish to console the French people with their thoughts, and prayers, and dollars. To be sure, Notre Dame is an architectural treasure, a national landmark; more importantly, a tourist destination for approximately 13 million visitors every year.

But, really, all this outpouring of sorrow, all this outcry and world-wide attention over a single place of worship where relatively few people even worship anymore; in a country, and on a continent, of thousands of other Cathedrals of similar or even greater beauty?

Or, to state it another way, proper perspective should tell us, it’s just one church destroyed, among many, many, more unharmed. A shifting of perspective is sometimes all that’s necessary for restoring a distorted one. So, let us shift ours from west to east, from France to China.

Just as in France, freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China. Also, like France, China is largely free of religion, church attendance is low, and relatively few people admit to holding religious beliefs, at least openly.

But, unlike what we saw in France this week, the destruction of a single Chinese church, even a very large one, for the most part receives little coverage; comparatively, the international media coverage given is certainly nowhere near to the extent to which the world was informed of the burning of Notre Dame.

This is true even when the Church’s destruction is deliberate, even when it’s the Chinese regime that is responsible for destroying it, and even when the regime ordered the elimination of not only of a single church, but of dozens; and when it closed many others, and removed or toppled the crosses from steeples and spires on approximately 1,500 churches in China’s Zhejiang Province alone.

Not surprisingly, few Chinese people would dare come out in public to gather and mourn the destruction or closing of their churches.

And, in the end, that the world’s attention is more focused on what seems the accidental loss of a single renown church, Notre Dame de Paris, than on the deliberate elimination of countless more little-known churches in China, is not so hard to understand, by post-modern standards.

Still, the public’s attention over Notre Dame’s fire will soon fade away. And, in a short time, all the charred rubble and debris will have been gathered up and hauled away, and it’ll be fully restored to its former marvel, for a faithless nation not to worship in.

And, finally, even if all the churches were to one day disappear from China, so that the millions of Chinese faithful no longer have any place to worship in, and the rest of the world never even noticed, they’ll still never likely be deterred from believing. And, to them, almost certainly, will go the greater consolation.

Paul C. Binotto is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh. He makes observations generally on society and culture, politics and jurisprudence, natural law, and natural rights.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Paul C. Binotto
Paul C. Binotto