In his excellent article “Thy Kingdom Come,” Gary Potter explains an important distinction in French society of the nineteenth century:
What we need to grasp is that all during the years of which we speak, and to a very real extent even today, there were virtually two countries within the national territory of France. Toward the end of the nineteenth century they would be given names by the royalist intellectual leader and man of letters Charles Maurras. There was the pays legal (legal country), the one produced by the Revolution, and there was the pays reel (real country), the one that remained Catholic and, therefore, was mainly royalist in its politics. Division between the two countries could not be sharper.
The question I have is what is the contemporary American pays reel? The pays legal is, I believe, the increasingly irreligious socialist republic that gives us noxious oxymorons like ObamaCare and “Same-Sex marriage.” At the same time, it is a nonstop war machine that breaks the back of a struggling middle class to fund a military-industrial complex that has turned our armed forces into a global RoboCop for socialist democracy — and gorges itself, as it does its military personnel, on a multi-billion-dollar porn industry while it incrementally mainstreams pornography thanks to directors like Martin Scorsese.
Is the pays reel represented by the “91 million evangelical Christians in America” to whom a market savvy Hollywood is marketing a new spate of Bible flicks? But that is just over 34% of our current population. Not enough for a real pays reel, I think.
If the Evangelicals and “socially conservative” Catholics are combined into a vague “conservative Christian” category — the sort of coalition that might stand behind Phil Robertson’s crudely worded but morally sound words on sodomy, for instance — could they represent the pays reel?
My fear is that, if there actually is an American pays reel, its religiosity is nothing better than a complacent “mere Christianity,” with an emphasis on the mere. For this reason, because of its very mere-ness, it is powerless against the onslaught of the myriad anti-Christian social phenomena that are institutionalized in the pays legal.
Where’s the good news in all this?
That’s easy. God is God, His grace is real, and people can convert.
If anyone else has informed opinions on what constitutes the American pays reel and pays legal, please leave a comment. I would rather be accused of obsessing about all that concerns the conversion of America to the true Faith than about other matters.