Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Sect versus secte

Sect or secte? There is obviously a case of "lost in translation" in both the literary and cultural sense. I just don't get it...

Remember the shriners? Those funny men riding around in their little cars at your local 4th of July parade? Well, I grew up thinking they were part of a sect. You know, the Freemasons. Then one day a few years ago, just after my grandfather had his first stroke, we found my great-grandfather's freemason ring. Yes, I have some in the family. Oh no! The Freemason sect! Then, I found out that there are actually a number of francmaçons in my French circle including some in my extended belle-famille. It's all very hush-hush, you can't tell anyone and you would definitely never find a french francmaçon riding around in a silly little car on Bastille Day. In fact, the only freemason who is "out" in France is the Grand Puba who actually is consulted for important government decisions. Yeah, I know!

Then there is scientology. In LA, it's funny to walk down Hollywood Boulevard and take their tests. It's funny to drive past the grand temple and see which stars you can spot. It's funny to make fun of Tom Cruise for being such a prick about Brooke Shields' post-partum depression. But not in France. Oh no. Yesterday, the French court ruled to disband the scientology church in France (which I've heard Sarko is part of. Yes, I am spreading an unfounded rumor).

So tell me, what's the difference? What makes a sect a sect or a secte a secte? 'Cause as far as I know, both France and the US believe in freedom of religion (in theory at least) and a sect is something intrinsically evil. Then again, if Jesus, Moses, Mohammed or Buddha didn't have millions of followers each, they'd be the sects and we'd all be following the laws according to Tom Cruise, Beck and the entire cast of My Name is Earl.

5 comments:

jon said...

Freemasonry isn't a religion, so it doesn't really belong on any "sect" spectrum: it's a fraternity, more comperable to the Greek-letter fraternities around American universities than anything. Only for grownups, and it's been around longer.

Andromeda said...

I think the French word "secte" is more like "cult" in English, whereas we tend to use it just to mean "faction". Like Baptists are a sect of Christianity. So I always get very confused when people say they're going to "le culte" in France, I imagine mass suicides and brain washing.

Reb said...

ok, makes sense. So why are Americans scared of freemasons and laugh at scientologists while the French revere the first and are terrified of the latter?

Nicole said...

About the freedom of religion thing, a French lawyer once explained to me that in the States we express that freedom by allowing everything and in France they express it by acknowledging nothing. He said it better than that but essentially that for us it was freedom of and for them it was freedom from. Which I guess results in the much more literal separation of church and state in France than in the US. Which, I have to say, I really appreciate.

Reb said...

Nicole, that's an excellent point and does make complete sense. Whereas in the US, the seperation of church and state is more theoretical than anything (in God we trust, etc) in France, there is a real seperation (see the headscarf polemique). Thanks for the input.

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