THE NEW HIGH PRIESTS OF THE SECULAR CHURCH OF POST-MODERN QUÉBEC: STAND-UP COMEDIANS AND THE ARTISTIC ELITE OF OUR PROVINCE
You know it used to be in our province that if you wanted to hear some good preaching or to be instructed in the right and proper ideas and ways of thinking, being and acting, you’d go to Mass on Sunday and listen to what your parish priest had to say about the prevailing topics of the day.
The clergy didn’t hesitate to comment on anything and everything, and were the principle arbiters of public and private morality in all spheres of people’s lives in Québec. Everything from how we should dress, who we should consort with or not, what we should or should not read, what to think, how to vote, and so on.
One famous saying which came out of this period, in regards to elections was that ‘heaven is blue and hell is red’, being a not-so-veiled reference to Québec voters not to vote Liberal, whose party colours were red, symbolizing secular reforms, and social and economic progress in living standards, which the clergy were afraid would pull the faithful away from the faith.
This is precisely what happened. People in Québec throughout the twentieth century, like elsewhere in Canada and the western world, had an overwhelming thirst for an improvement in their material living standards, and to rise out of the mire of economic deprivation, which they’d known for much of their history living in this land.
The problem is that this desire for social and economic progress and its concomitant association with rising out of poverty, also became equated with being Catholic and obedient to their clergy and their faith. Most Québecers began to equate being poor and subservient with being Catholic churchgoers, whereas being socially and economically emancipated and prosperous began to be associated with throwing off the yoke of their faith and their religion, and embracing the ‘new religion’ of such things as big government in the form of the secular state, then later the very powerful and populist secular religious ‘liberation theology’ of secessionism, which still lingers residually in our province, along with a certain religiosity concerning the defence and promotion of the French language.
However, the overpowering and overwhelmingly dominant hegemonic discourse which has risen up to supplant all of these other heretofore ‘wannabe’ forms of ‘religion’, is a commercialized form of commoditised popular culture. In the new Québec, culture is the New Theology ‘par excellence’ and its promoters and defenders are its new ‘high priests’. In Québec, ‘culture’ is now sacrosanct. Around here we cannot do enough or too much for the cause of ‘culture’, and anybody who publically takes a stand against the idea of having more as opposed to less ‘culture’ in the public domain, whether it be art galleries and exhibits, festivals, shows of all sorts, is branded, for all intents and purposes, as a ‘heretic’, against the ‘new secular religion of culture.’
What I’m driving at, essentially, is that people such as stand-up comedians and musicians especially, have now elevated themselves to the status of being the new ‘priestly caste’ of our province, stand-up comedians especially. Not a day passes where some stand-up comedian in Québec isn’t coming out with some new travelling show which he or she is taking all across Québec, usually with some sort of theme which seeks to raise awareness about some sort of pet cause of theirs, whether it be handicapped people, mental health, some sort of disease or sundry social injustice, the ‘awareness raising agenda’ has been totally Balkanized by this merry band of ‘wannabe’ ‘stand-up pseudo-preachers’.
The worst of it is that Québecers have fallen for it hook, line and sinker. In the old days, when Roman Catholicism was dominant, at least the clergy were genuinely interested in saving our souls, and had our spiritual well-being at heart. As well, the price you had to pay for your seat at Church and what you put into the collection plate was a pittance compared to the price these people are charging for tickets for people to go see their shows and to be ‘sermonized’ about whatever pet social cause they happen to be plugging that year, and end up lining their pockets with the proceeds.
What I find ironic is that Québecers swear up and down that they’ve ‘freed’ themselves from the power of the clergy and its influence in ‘telling us what to do and how to think’ etc.. The way I see it, Québecers have simply traded one set of clerics for another, the new ones charging them more of their hard-earned money so as to be ‘sermonized’ not-so subliminally about a whole slate of secular social causes, none of which add up to a coherent collectively-construed and driven agenda of public morality or ethics.
And, to boot, these new ‘clerics’ are in no way being held accountable for their public and private behaviour the way Roman Catholic clerics are having every single aspect of their public and private lives scrutinized and held up to the microscope for criticism by the secular media. On the contrary, these people are considered ‘stars’ and at the forefront of the ‘progressive awareness-raising’ movement about all of the various flavour of the month pet social causes being peddled in the public forum.
It just goes to show you how ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’. We’re still a clerically-dominated society here in Québec, we just don’t acknowledge it anymore, or worse yet, don’t want to admit it, or more likely are completely oblivious to it in our mostly ignorant, secular era of media-driven ‘culture’.
Personally, I think I’ll stick with going to Mass on Sundays and getting my ‘preaching’ from an authentic source. I also know that the organization I’m frequenting on Sunday morning has the interests of my immortal soul’s salvation, and isn’t about to deny that I have one to begin with that needs saving.
The Church may have committed some errors and abuses of power in its day in our province, but it’s been around in one way shape or form since New France was founded in July of 1608, when Champlain founded what was to become Québec city, the Province of Québec and Canada over four hundred years ago. Nobody can take that away from us as people of faith and people of the Mother Church.
I think that post-modern Québecers are now very temporally rich, but spiritually poor, and it’s beginning to show in the form and substance of our social fabric and the tone and quality, or lack thereof, of our public discourse. I can only hope that as the twenty first century continues to emerge, we as Québecers, both English and French, will look to the faith of our forbearers as a source of inspiration, not as a poverty-stricken and subservient vestige of a by-gone era which should be forever relegated to the dustbin of history, but instead elevated to a truly sanctified position of honour deserving of a people who for so many generations, put their faith in a loving God of their understanding, and a true ‘priestly caste’ of clerics whose first and foremost objective was and still remains, the eternal salvation of our immortal souls.