THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE
It was written by Daniel Henderson, Director of Development at
Publications Chrétiennes and who runs the “Revenir à l’Évangile” blog.
“Je me souviens” (I remember) is Québec’s national motto. The definition of each of these words is very simple, but the meaning of this sentence is complex and shadows Québec’s history and the collective memory of a people. They are a very complex people. “The majority of Quebecers come from a French culture, but live in an English society and have an American way of life. Essentially, Quebecers are a mix of modest French, cheerful English, and peaceful Americans. “1 In the collective memory of Quebecers, there are two great enemies: the English and the Church.
Quebec endured more than two centuries of domination; from the outside by the British Empire and from the inside by the Catholic Church and its allies. Moreover, Québec is a minority within Canada and therefore occupies an inferior position. How did this sentence, Je me souviens, become a high-strung memory for the vast majority of Quebecers, according to historian Gérard Bouchard?3
Quebecers will mourn forever. The constant reminder of this motto on license plates influences the way they interact with the world. They have lost sight of true Christianity. Years of suffering under a false Gospel has pushed them to reject everything. As long as Quebecers remember, it will remain difficult to accept the true Gospel.
“But don’t forget, Jacques, that the English burned our farms, they burned our houses. “4 In their collective memory, there is little regard for the “cursed English”. After the conquest by the English, or the abandonment of France for some, control under the English began well from Louisbourg in 1759. The English government aimed for the gradual conversion of the colony’s Catholics to Protestantism and, in the longer term, the outright assimilation of Canadians into English culture.5
On October 7, 1763, a royal proclamation set out the rules that would govern this former French colony. First, it was given a new name. Québec, which until then had only been the name of a city, became the name of a territory and its population. Secondly, the territory would be considerably cut back. Thirdly, the practice of the Catholic religion was to be monitored. This law almost completely limited Rome’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and facilitated the establishment of Anglican churches in order to gradually seduce French Canadians to adopt a Protestant religion. Finally, the last important change was the inauguration of an authoritarian power. Knowing that French Canadians represented a political majority, the English gave power to the governor and not to the elected assembly. This decision established an English justice system among French Canadians. In addition, to obtain an official position or office, a citizen in 1764 had to “take an oath in which it is stipulated that he renounces the worship of the saints, the power of the pope, and the authority of the Roman Church. “6 For a Catholic, this amounted to rejecting his religion; an action unthinkable at the time. This decision ensured that political power remained British. Though the situation improved years later, the memory of this desire to assimilate and lose the French language has subsisted in the Québec population.
The actions taken by the English strengthened the French Canadians’ Catholic identity. Choosing the Catholic religion become a political or nationalist decision. Criminal cases were governed by laws from British heritage, while civil, religious, educational, and other cultural sectors were administered by laws borrowed from French heritage. “The biggest exception is probably religion, where Québec followed neither Great Britain nor France. Québec law gave great authority to the Catholic Church, especially in the field of education. “7 Because of this, Canada’s school system, until the 1950s, was denominational, not cultural or linguistic,8 A Catholic family had to send its children to French-language schools, and a Protestant or atheist family had to send its children to English-language schools. Because of the political situation and education, Quebecers identified virtually 100% with the Catholic Church, often without faith. It was an identity choice.
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church used its power in the educational field to keep Quebecers ignorant and simple. It did its best to discourage people from learning English, and even limited the areas in which they could study. The curriculum was limited to offering “a solid Christian training. “9 “Instruction? Not too much! Our ancestors left us a legacy of poverty and ignorance, and it would be a betrayal to educate our own,” said Antoine Rivard, lawyer, Member of Parliament for the National Union and Solicitor General of Québec from 1950 to 1959. The problem is that it trained Christians without faith in Jesus. Because of this limited education, Quebecers became manual workers and the English, who were not limited by the Church, became owners, managers, etc. The English, although they were a minority, had power, and Quebecers were scorned at home even if they represented the majority.
From 1960 onwards, great changes occurred in Québec opening it up to the world; this period is called the Quiet Revolution. This revolution began with the publication of a book: Les insolences d’un frère untel. In this book, the author satirically described the many weaknesses of Québec’s education system. “The failure of our educational system reflects a failure, or at least a paralysis of thought itself. No one in French Canada dares to think. At least, no one dares to think out loud. The absence of any serious dialogue in the province stigmatizes us in the most reprehensible way. ». 10 His understanding of this problem was the Catholic Church’s involvement in children’s education. And so, over a ten-year period, Quebecers rejected the Catholic Church, created a secular education ministry, and stopped going to mass.
To make a long story short, today’s Quebecers associate any form of Christianity with the oppression experienced under the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, while they distance themselves from the Church, they retain a certain attachment to it; for example, a crucifix adorns the wall of the National Assembly. Paradoxically, they largely consider themselves as believers, more so than anywhere in Canada, but are the least religious.11 Considering all this, how can Québec remember by forgetting, and forget by remembering?
Paradoxically, they largely consider themselves as believers, more so than anywhere in Canada, but are the least religious.
The Québec people have rejected God because politics depicted a more inspirational story than the Catholic Church. Politics promised power, success, and deliverance from the chains of religion. Catholicism was the main cause of oppression, abuse, poverty, etc. Exposed to two contradictory stories, they chose the most convincing one. The faith they abandoned was worth giving up.
But by rejecting faith and the Church, they also rejected God and, in doing so, created a meaningless sphere of existence. Québec has “a French culture, the fruit of a Christian heritage or marked by a Christian heritage. “12 A culture derived from a godless Christian culture is like cut flowers in a vase or amounts to”… throwing the baby out with the bath water, when we could have kept some aspects of our culture. “13 We are therefore faced with a very serious problem since “refusing the inheritance is, in the end, mortgaging the future. There is no future without a past. »14
Since Christianity is very present in daily Québec life, we have many opportunities to explain faith and witness in a relevant and timely way. According to Guy Durand, “the reminder of these Christian aspects in our culture can trigger moments to pause and reflect on the meaning of life. “15 But it was not only Québec culture that threw the baby out with the bath water. Evangelicals are guilty of the same. In the ecclesial calendar, several sacred days are set aside on which Quebecers try to reach the transcendent, that is, find God: Christmas, New Year’s Day, Epiphany, Good Thursday, Good Friday, Saint Jean Baptiste, and Thanksgiving. During these holidays, Quebecers recount a godless story and leave out Jesus’ wonderful work. However, the Church has a responsibility to tell the story of redemption to help them remember.
Quebecers remember that the Church kept them in ignorance and poverty by limiting their access to education. On the other hand, they remember positively the values found in Christianity: family, work, friendship, and solidarity, among others.
According to Charles Taylor, the Church’s greatest loss is the loss of the Lord’s Supper at the centre of worship.16 In most of Québec’s evangelical churches, worship is organized to please people’s emotions by creating a warm, modern, and fun atmosphere. In fact, it is an intrinsic experience. But Quebecers who go to church, often after being invited by a friend, want to go to church to feel God’s presence. They want transcendence. In response, the evangelicals demystified the Lord’s Supper as a horizontal experience. John Calvin’s emphasises the Lord’s Supper as a manifestation of spiritual presence. “We must closely observe that the strength and flavor of the sacrament is concentrated in these words: “who is delivered for you, who is poured out for you”. “17 “We must think about what wine brings and provides to our body in order to understand that the blood of Jesus Christ is also spiritually beneficial to us: it strengthens, comforts, recreates, and rejoices. »18
The people of Québec remember an oppressive Christianity without the redemptive message of the cross. They remember that because of the Church, they were not masters at home. Quebecers remember that the Church kept them in ignorance and poverty by limiting their access to education. On the other hand, they remember positively the values found in Christianity: family, work, friendship, and solidarity, among others. Therefore, the Evangelical Church can help people forget history and remind people that the values they cherish come from Christianity, and that Christianity is the only way to God. It is in Jesus that true peace for our souls is found and it is through the Lord’s Supper that God communicates his grace to us. Our future is not one of oppression but of redemption.
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BOUCHARD, Gérard, Genèse des nations et cultures du nouveau monde, Boréal, 2000, 500 p.
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- Le code Québec, p.24
- When Quebecers speak of the church, they generally refer to the Catholic church.
- L’interculturalisme, p.22
- Passer à l’avenir, p.21
- Histoire Québec pour des Nuls, p.91
- L’Histoire du Québec pour les nuls, p.91
- Mémoires d’un pasteur ordinaire, p.21
- Histoire sociale des idées au Québec: 1760-1896, p.353
- La Formation religieuse, p.40
- Les insolences du Frère Untel, p.55
- Le Code Québec, p.18
- La culture religieuse n’est pas la foi, p.9
- Présence magazine, février, 2011
- La culture religieuse n’est pas la foi, p.21
- Fêtes, traditions, et symboles pour comprendre le Québec, p.57
- Secular Age, p.288
- Institutions livre IV Ch. XVII, p.1284
- Institutions livre IV Ch. XVII, p.1284