What is the American ‘Pays Reel’?

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.

By comparison, there are only 78.2 million self-identified Catholics in the country — and they are terribly divided on “culture war” issues, aren’t they?

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.

  • John S

    An American ‘Pays Reel’ would be more God doing something than any well-organized group of Americans scheming. Consider the eleven million martyrs of the Roman persecutions as something a benevolent God ordained long beforehand. I think we can safely call such an assessment the habitual method of Divine Providence. For us it remains a task of pursuing a permanent inclination to be generous with God in an ultimate manner. Such is the stuff of which martyrs are made. God, never being outdone in generosity, grants these generous souls the ultimate gift, the grace of their own martyrdom.

  • GeneDe

    This is a BIG question. And there are probably some BIG answers, such as John S. gives. I agree with his assessment. But there is, I feel, another “answer”, and that is that in order for us Catholic Americans to convert those Americans on the “outside” to the one, true Faith, we must first clothe the naked and feed the hungry THEN evangelize the heck out of them. But what is the Pays Reel here in America? I think that it is now a conglomeration of Americans of all types and “religions” preparing for something, but just below the radar screen so as not to be detected. Lately, I can’t help but to think of the words of the Declaration of Independence and what they mean, especially in the coming years (days, maybe?). I sure don’t want to get into the politics of casting off the reign of George III, but I still think that THAT certain section of the D of I is quite pertinent today. If it plays out — and what other choice do we really have? I’m not sure the ballot box can give us much hope — it might just transform the American landscape to what it should or can be.