- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Paris Ben Op Diary, Day Two

Greetings from a Starbucks on the Boulevard St-Michel. Starbucks is where they have big-ass cups of actually tasty coffee (French coffee is pretty bad), and free wi-fi. So here I am for a moment, updating the blog before running off to a liturgy at a Russian Orthodox church. Above, Self and my French co-conspirators Yrieix Denis (left) and Nick Thibault-Trewby, after a hard day of press interviews and prepping for a week’s worth of conferences here in Paris. Yrieix and I are drinking Muscadet and waiting for our oysters. Which arrived shortly thereafter, with little sausages:

Those were Black Pearls, and transportingly delicious.


I don’t mean to give the impression that I’m doing nothing but eating here. I had several good interviews yesterday, and will be talking to Le Figaro and Le Monde on Monday. So the Ben Op is getting traction here in France. I’m meeting some young, energetic, and engaged orthodox Catholics (two of them are in the photo above). I’m also hearing depressing stories about how hard it is for young people to find jobs in France, and to start businesses. I’ll report back more after today, if I can find a wi-fi connection.

One thing that always comes up: French fear that I’m calling for Christian separationism. I didn’t anticipate that they would view the Ben Op in light of the Muslim situation here. Many feel that to endorse strong Christian community would be implicitly to endorse the same with Muslims. I’ll have to think about this. Again … more later.

22 Comments (Open | Close)

22 Comments To "Paris Ben Op Diary, Day Two"

#1 Comment By Mark VA On September 30, 2017 @ 6:14 am

“Many feel that to endorse strong Christian community would be implicitly to endorse the same with Muslims”

It seems to me history shows that Muslims form strong Muslim communities regardless of what their non-Muslim neighbors do or don’t do. Besides, the compelling conclusion of this line of thinking is timid: “Let’s not form strong Christian communities, so as not to provoke our Muslim neighbors”. Frankly speaking, it implies the acceptance of dhimmitude;

I wonder to what extent “laïcité” has penetrated the thinking of Catholics in France. By this I mean “laïcité” not in its tidy scholarly definitions, but in its messy application to everyday life, and its lasting influence on human psychology. It appears to operate not only as a “separation of state and Church”, but as separation of French culture from the Church. It suggests a conflict between being a French patriot, and a Catholic;

At any rate, I hope French Catholics and non-Catholics will listen to some plain American common sense.

#2 Comment By Eric Mader On September 30, 2017 @ 6:19 am

Oh, Rod, what are you doing at a STARBUCKS? Boycott those losers already. I wouldn’t even give them my money if I were trapped in the O’Hare Airport. You are in a great European capital.

Looking forward to learning from you just what French Christians have to say. I was in Paris’ new Russian cathedral a week ago today. The Parisians call it “St. Putin’s”. Didn’t appreciate the snideness, given what muck the secular French have given the world since ’68. Vive la Russie!

[NFR: Dud, Starbucks has wifi; my hostel does not. Plus, the coffee at Starbucks is much better than average French coffee. You wouldn’t think so, but it is. It really, really is. I lived here for a month, and I stayed very far from Starbucks on principle … until stopping in one day because I was jonesing for caffeine. And my gosh, it was a revelation. I’ve had French people tell me the same. It is a real mystery why the French just cannot make good coffee. Italians are the world masters at that. BTW, I went to liturgy at the Russian cathedral on Saturday. The choir was amazing. — RD]

#3 Comment By Arrigu On September 30, 2017 @ 6:52 am

Hello Rod ! Very glad of your staying in Paris and very eager to meet you tomorrow morning in the Port Royal neighborhood : a place which has been steeped in such devout and modest caring and tight knit Christianity for centuries…

As a French person and an avid reader of your blog for years now, it will be a great pleasure for me to hear you and maybe meet you after the conference. And vow you are gonna talk with some of the very best catholic thinkers in France. I bet only Rémi Brague, Chantal Delsol and Pierre Manent are missing.

À demain !

#4 Comment By Oakinhouston On September 30, 2017 @ 7:09 am

“Many feel that to endorse strong Christian community would be implicitly to endorse the same with Muslims. I’ll have to think about this. ”

The Jewish Orthodox communities in the USA have been frequently mentioned (positively) in this blog’ comments as real-life examples of Benedict Option communities. Why would similar Muslim communities be different?

#5 Comment By Displaced Californian On September 30, 2017 @ 10:56 am

I hope you link to your French interviews when they come out. I can’t speak it well, but I can read it decently and would love to see the questions they ask.

#6 Comment By JamesG On September 30, 2017 @ 11:01 am

Muscadet, a perfect wine for oysters, is nearly impossible to find in the USA.

#7 Comment By DGJ On September 30, 2017 @ 11:03 am

We should have seen this coming. AI is now God.

Godhead based on artificial intelligence


#8 Comment By Lllurker On September 30, 2017 @ 11:23 am

RD: “I’m also hearing depressing stories about how hard it is for young people to find jobs in France, and to start businesses.”

Rod I’d be interested in hearing a little more about the latter if you get a chance to address it at some point. Over here almost 250 years after the founding it is still true that anyone can start a business. Of course you have to raise the capital (or find a way to start lean) but that’s always been the case. And of course a lot of the new jobs that appear in the US come from newish companies that find traction and grow.

So what is different in France? Do bureaucrats have the legal clout to block the establishment of new businesses? What extra hurdles are there?

#9 Comment By collin On September 30, 2017 @ 11:23 am

French fear that I’m calling for Christian separationism.

I would disagree with separationism but there is elements of our Christianity in the Benedict Option. The heavy dislike of progressive Christians and only conservative Christian both limits it appeal to progressives. For example, how many conservatives deny Barack Obama Christian beliefs? And it was his example that I taught my kids of God’s Grace and the importance of Christian beliefs in America.

Conservative Christians have to remember that more church goers in the past were like the Simpsons and not the Flanders.

#10 Comment By Jonathan M Scinto On September 30, 2017 @ 2:41 pm

Stay in Paris Rod and move the family over. You’re not missing anything in this week’s episode of the media provokes Trump into saying something incredibly stupid.

#11 Comment By Hoosier On September 30, 2017 @ 2:47 pm

What?!! French coffee bad? Did something change sincd I was there last in 1999? A cafe créeme and a warm croissant for breakfast is one of my fondest memories of my trip. It put anything we have in the US to shame.

[NFR: That might have been the case in 1999, but we’ve had a coffee revolution since then, as well as a beer revolution. — RD]

#12 Comment By Jeff R On September 30, 2017 @ 4:29 pm

One need not universalize everything. It is perfectly acceptable to say that Muslims need to integrate more with their neighbors and Christians do something else.

#13 Comment By gabriel On September 30, 2017 @ 4:54 pm

Regarding Christian separationism – doubtless you can clarify that you’re not endorsing a rigid separation of Christian communities from the broader society, but it might be worth pointing out that the current Christian-secular dynamic has hardly resulted in Muslim integration, and there’s precisely zero reason to think that if Christians weaken their own communities, that Muslims would follow suit.

#14 Comment By Pogonip On September 30, 2017 @ 7:53 pm

Day 3: “Dear readers, passed this museum called Louvre, which looked interesting, but didn’t have time to stop because I had to meet Jean and Solange at McOyster. Wil try to stop at the museum next time.”

#15 Comment By elizabeth On October 1, 2017 @ 12:08 am

What happened to French coffee? It was great in the 70s.

#16 Comment By Heidi On October 1, 2017 @ 7:57 am

That’s very interesting Rod. Please tell us more about how the French feel about encouraging Christian solidarity and community, perhaps in a somewhat removed, if not isolated, paradigm, in light of the Muslim “issues”… Can’t think of another word this am… I’ve wondered something about this but haven’t made my thoughts coherent yet. It was clear to me when in Paris two years ago that things were tense between Parisians and Muslim immigrants. Are you feeling that as well?

#17 Comment By Stephen Hoffmann On October 2, 2017 @ 12:38 pm

“What?!! French coffee bad? Did something change sincd I was there last in 1999?”

“[NFR: That might have been the case in 1999 . . . ”

My wife’s a Starbucks devotee, but she thought the latte she got just about every day at the Paul’s chain in Paris was a good deal better than ‘Bucks’s.

#18 Comment By James C On October 2, 2017 @ 12:58 pm

Dud, Starbucks has wifi; my hostel does not.

Oh, you must not have been staying in a hostel then. In my wide experience, hostels just about always have wifi! 😉

[NFR: It’s actually a clerical residence — very basic, and perfectly fine, except for the fact that le wifi doesn’t work. — RD]

#19 Comment By Seraphim On October 2, 2017 @ 11:11 pm

Seems like a good Eucharistic fast to me. Where do I sign up?

#20 Comment By mrscracker On October 3, 2017 @ 10:23 am

Eric Mader says:
Oh, Rod, what are you doing at a STARBUCKS? Boycott those losers already. I wouldn’t even give them my money if I were trapped in the O’Hare Airport. You are in a great European capital.”
I don’t much care for Starbucks’ coffee or their politics, but it’s weird that the best cup of tea I had in the UK a few years ago was in a Starbucks in Edinburgh. It was old school “builders tea”.
You just never know.

#21 Comment By Colonel Bogey On October 4, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

How about French tea? Is it any good?

[NFR: If you buy it from Mariage Frères, it’s some of the best in the world. I’m returning home with five packets of MF tea. My daughter adores it, and so do I. — RD]

#22 Comment By Hoosier On October 7, 2017 @ 8:55 am

You’re there and I’m not so I’ll have to take your word for it, but Starbucks coffee in the states is hardly anything to write home about. Maybe it’s different in France…

But more to the point, the atmosphere is so blah. Paris has some of the most beautiful cafes in the world. But if you’re there for work and need wifi I guess you may have to make use of it.

Also, in my opinion one of the worst aspects of Starbucks culture is the normalization of paper cups. A great café con leche, latte, etc., ought to be in a ceramic cup with a plate underneath and utensils for stirring in your sugar, if so desired. I’ve never seen a Starbucks around the world that does this. And in a perfect world, you’d have a waiter, preferably in a suit taking your order and bringing you your drink. None of this walking up to the counter stuff.

[NFR: Well, yeah, I had to have wifi. I would have rather had subpar coffee and Paris cafe atmosphere, but I needed to work. Still, I’m telling you, the best coffee I had in Paris was in Starbucks, no question — and I’m not a big fan of Starbucks back home. And. for the record, I drank my Starbucks coffee on the Boul’ Mich in a mug. — RD]