Notre Dame is a tragedy - but rebuilding it will help who, exactly?
PUBLISHED: 11:36 17 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:53 18 April 2019
We all wept to see such beauty being destroyed, but before we rush to put it back how it was, shouldn’t we first ask if that’s the best use of all the money that is being pledged to restore it?
I hated seeing Notre Dame burning to the ground.
I went there once, many years ago, marvelled at its beauty, and of course understand what it represents.
It is a proud symbol of France; a great nation that loves art and culture and has the most rousing national anthem in the world.
I also love Paris, having run the marathon there - the warmth and support of the people that day live long in the memory.
But yesterday, when I saw various billionaires coming forward to pledge tens of millions to rebuild this great cathedral, I also thought – but it's a building, isn't it? Think how many people that kind of money could help.
For me this has always been the problem with the church as an institution.
The symbolism, the piety, the showmanship – it's all important.
But Jesus got very angry in the Temple when he saw that the people there were putting money before prayer. He also spent his life helping the poor. I wonder if he would say, rebuild the church with your millions, or would he remind the world that a church is not a building but the people within it?
I saw a meme on Facebook that said it all.
'Grenfell survivors regret not installing stained glass windows to ensure quick rebuild after fire'.
I would love to see Notre Dame rise again, just as I loved seeing the Freedom Tower go up in New York after 9/11.
Perhaps there is something innate in all of us that needs to see the broken and devastated rise again?
But once a new Notre Dame tower is gleaming on the skyline, after that moment of, 'Oh good, there's a building there once more', what's left?
Famine. Hunger. War. Loneliness. Poverty. Disease.
As far as I can see, a new Notre Dame won't help any of those things.
The money that will be spent on it might.
Meanwhile a perennially broken Notre Dame would remind us that the world is as broken today as it was in the time of Jesus.
How about that for a symbol instead?
Want to read an alternative view? Read James Marston's riposte to Liz