We’re back from our France trip and now I continue to reflect on all we saw and experienced. Travel is amazing for clearing the senses and resetting your perspective.
We had the opportunity to tour the Palace of Versailles, which is hard to wrap your mind around. It was bizarre to try and imagine life in the time of King Louis XIV. This king is beloved now, but I suspect he had to be a monster in real life. Taxing his people with huge burdens to build a shrine to his power and wealth. Instead of making life better for the French people, he built Versailles to show off his power and prestige. Evidently, this is what you do when you can do whatever you want.
While that tour was a bit depressing, so was another palace we visited. Only this one isn’t actually a palace, it’s a church. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre is the second most visited monument in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. That this is toured more than Versailles should tell you something. It’s got a stunning view of the city of Paris and the building is also impressive to behold.
Yet touring this church shortly after touring Versailles, I couldn’t help but notice a few connections. Versailles is a testament to a king who had the wrong priorities. But then this church felt a lot like that. Except this church was supposedly about a different kind of king who actually did have all power and authority but chose to use it the exact opposite way that Louis XIV did.
But you wouldn’t realize that when looking at the church building. One could easily assume that the Christian God is quite a bit like this famous French king.
Especially when you learn the controversial history of the location of this church. It was put in a “sinful” part of town to make a point about returning to the morals of Christianity. Rather than serve those in the community and model the life of Jesus, the church decided to build a massive building on top of the area to make the point forcefully.
It was even worse when I went inside. Not to miss an opportunity to make money, the church had numerous financial kiosks to donate or pay for the chance to light a candle. I was overwhelmed by the sense of how easily Christians completely miss the point of what it means to follow Jesus.
Before I left, I stared up at the image of Jesus on the ceiling and asked these words: “Why do you allow this?”
I don’t have a great answer to that question. But watching all of the Christians bemoan student debt forgiveness in the U.S. this week has reminded me that we’re still missing the point of following Jesus today.
It’s time to reread:
- the parable of the prodigal son and the older brother who misses the point (Luke 15)
- the parable of the vineyard workers who are mad at God’s generosity (Matthew 20)
- the way Jesus focuses on forgiving and being forgiven in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6)
- the person who misunderstands debt relief in Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matthew 18)
- the overwhelming amounts of criticisms against predatory lending (all throughout the Bible)
- and the fact that following Jesus is literally accepting forgiveness for the ultimate debt we could not pay
As Father Robert Hendrickson recently said, “If you’re Christian and mad about debt relief for the undeserving then you may want to skip celebrating Easter.”
The church that looks like the world has nothing to offer the world. If the church looks like Versailles, Jesus starts to look like Louis XIV.The church that looks like the world has nothing to offer the world. If the church looks like Versailles, Jesus starts to look like Louis XIV. Click To Tweet