How The Notre Dame fire killed Christianity


Courtesy of Creative Commons

Casey McCabe


On April 15 2019 the historic Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire in Paris France.  This fire resulted in the collapse of the churches iconic steeple that was a mainstay of the Parisian skyline, as well as massive internal damage.  Like much of the worlds population I was shocked at the destruction of this historic landmark, but for me the connection to this event was slightly deeper.  This is due to the fact that I was lucky enough to visit Notre Dame on a trip to Paris in the 5th grade.  While I think the cathedral is spectacular especially after witnessing it myself, I do not understand the tremendous outpouring of funds that have been pledged to repair the church.

According to the Union of French Construction Economists the cathedral will cost in between $330 and $670 million dollars (not including tax) to repair.  Within the first week over $1 billion dollars of estimated funds had been donated to rebuilding Notre Dame, more than double the funding goal.  To put this in perspective according to a 2012 report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it would cost roughly $500 Million dollars a year to clean up “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,”  an island of floating plastic in the Pacific Ocean.  The amount of money donated to rebuild Notre Dame is more than enough to both rebuild the cathedral and start a Pacific clean up effort.  This is a prudent problem for France and the French culinary industry in particular due to an Association for Debris Free Oceans report which claims that toxins contained in some of these plastics may leech out and ultimately be consumed by humans, via seafood.

In my eyes it is simply irresponsible to spend this excess of money on a building when there are more serious issues to be addressed in our time.  Money is freedom and the rich of Paris can spend their wealth how they please, but they should be true to their word.  Salma Hayek, the wife of Francois-Henri Pinault a French luxury goods mogul, was quoted by the Washington Post defending her husbands $112 million dollar donation as a way to preserve the beauty of Paris for the world.

According to the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic studies (INSEE) roughly 463,000 Parisians live below the poverty line, 3,000 of these individuals reportedly sleep on the street.  If I wanted to preserve the magic I experienced while in Paris I would not throw my money at a burning building, but instead raise the quality of life of everyday citizens and eliminate the blight of homelessness.

Homelessness is not only a bad look for tourism, but is also dangerous for those experiencing it.  In a 2017 report the French activist group Morts de la Rue (dead from the street) found that 400 homeless people died across France.

This use of massive wealth to rebuild a symbol of Christianity to me epitomizes the hypocrisy of modern religion.  The relics and rituals of the catholic church have become more important than the teachings of Jesus himself who instructed his followers to discard all of their worldly possessions and give to the homeless.  In my very humble opinion Jesus would be very disappointed if he were among us today to see so much money being spent on a building that is ultimately meaningless when compared to a human life.  I never went to church much growing up but I was occasionally dragged along by my mother.  Although I was usually day dreaming about the pancakes to come after mass, my mother did teach me what being a good Christian truly means.  To me, a good Christian is a person who helps every day people without seeking recognition or reward.  A good Christian is someone who believes in random acts of kindness, not the sanctity of an 856-year old building.