The Sacrifice of Notre Dame

When I saw the damage to Notre Dame de Paris, my first reaction was deep sadness that such a beautiful work of humankind might be lost. And in the outpouring of sympathy from everyone I found a silver lining to the clouds of smoke that rolled over Paris. 

The pettiness, populism and demagoguery that we have seen in recent politics have shown us a side of human nature that is not pretty. The universal outpouring of moral support for the people of France shows us that there are things that really count: beauty, tradition, the symbols of human accomplishment. These issues we can all agree on. 

The burning of the Namdaemun Gate in Seoul, Korea in 2008 evoked the same outpouring of sorrow, uniting the people of Korea and many others around the world in sorrow at the loss of such a monument. 

So when I see the damage to Notre Dame de Paris, I feel sadness at the loss of a work of art, and profound sympathy for the French who see the church as a symbol of their nation’s accomplishments. 

It is unfortunate that it takes the destruction of a beautiful work to bring out these positive sentiments in us. Perhaps we should take this as an impetus to think about our actions. We should be creating rather than destroying, cooperating rather than fighting, looking for joy rather than anger.

And if that sounds like Christianity, maybe the sacrifice was worth it.  

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