Literal Gov-Supported Blasphemy: Congregation Defends Church Against Mob's Desecration on Eve of Holy Day


Churches are places of worship. They’re not props, pretty though they may be. And they’re not a space for doom metal musicians to use as concert venues.

Picture this flying in any other religion. A mosque being used by an artist to sing about drinking? A synagogue given over to a band whose music goes against Judaic principles? None of this would fly. Why, then, is the media and the mayor of Nantes, France, furious with “Catholic fundamentalists” who refused to let their church be used for a thoroughly unreligious event?

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, given that Christians in the Western world are expected to conform to the secular world and make space for it. At The Western Journal, we’ll continue to champion Western and Judeo-Christian values — no matter what. You can help us by subscribing.

According to the U.K.’s Guardian, Swedish doom metal pipe organist Anna von Hausswolff’s concert at the church of Notre-Dame de Bon-Port in Nantes was canceled Tuesday after a group of churchgoing protesters blocked a mob of attendees from entering. A Thursday concert was canceled as well.

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There’s a reason why von Hausswolff picks churches for tours. As NPR noted in a 2013 piece, she’s “one of the few recording artists in the world who plays the pipe organ in popular music.”

At that time, she was promoting her album “Ceremony,” which she recorded at a church in her hometown, Gothenburg, Sweden.

“Getting access to the church wasn’t a problem. It was getting access to the church organ, because every church has their own organist, and the church organs are their babies,” she said. “So I had to convince the organist that I wasn’t going to harm his little baby … I mean, it’s a really old instrument, and it’s kind of complex. And if you don’t know what buttons you are pushing, you don’t want to push those.”

Should this event have been canceled?

There’s also a reason why churches — or at the very least, churchgoers — might not want to host an organist whose work is described as fitting in the “doom metal” genre.

Indie bible Pitchfork, for instance, described her latest effort, 2020’s “All Thoughts Fly,” thusly: “Her dissonant drones, flurrying melodies, and uncanny, almost electronic-sounding effects guide listeners on a bleak ambient journey through an abandoned castle at dusk.” Not exactly “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” stuff, in other words.

This album was purely instrumental, but previous albums weren’t — and a particular issue was the 2010 song “Pills,” a ditty about drug addiction.

“These pills keep me alive / These pills keep me alive / Oh my love / I’m holding it,” she sang. “I made love, I made love / With the devil, With the devil / Oh I, I made love with the devil / With the devil.”

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t sit here and listen to classical music and Christian worship all day. However, I’m also of the opinion that, much as I may enjoy her music, Lana Del Rey shouldn’t be singing hits off her 2019 album “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” in a consecrated church building, be it my congregation’s or any other’s.

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The same goes for von Hausswolff’s dissonant drones, bleak ambient journeys and metaphorical coital sessions with Beelzebub — but, by listening to the hue and cry from the media, you would think the crowd demanded the reinstallation of the ancien régime, only with hard-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in place of Marie Antoinette.

That’s especially true considering that the Tuesday concert came on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic holy day that honors Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the Catholic belief that she was born without original sin.

A concert by an artist like Hausswollf in any house of worship would be a problem, but in a Catholic church, on the eve of a holy day, it amounts to blasphemy. The fact that this blasphemy is literally supported by the government just makes it worse.

Nantes deputy mayor Bassem Asseh tweeted that the protesters were “[a] handful of intolerant radicals” and then had the gall to say, in the next sentence, that this wasn’t “our conception of a social project based on dialogue and cultural openness,” according to Twitter’s translation.

There’s nothing that’ll get dialogue going like calling people “intolerant radicals.”

He wasn’t the only government official condemning the protest. According to the Guardian, Aymeric Seassau, deputy for culture to the mayor of Nantes, said the reaction supported “the idea that in the face of obscurantism, we need the light of the arts and culture more than ever. Nantes will remain a city open to all cultures and artistic styles.” One culture it apparently won’t be open to, however, is Catholics who don’t want their church being used for secular events of a dubious nature.

Von Hausswolff went further in a social media statement, even using the F-word — far-right, that is.

“Yesterday night the far-right Catholic integralism won over art, but not over love,” she said on Instagram. “Here I am waiting inside the church while listening to about 50-100 integralists chanting and screaming outside the church’s doors, blocking the way for almost 400 people.”

Integralism, for the unaware, is the belief the state should be subordinate to the spiritual tenets of the Catholic church. I haven’t found any outlets that polled the protesters for their support of integralism, but funny that she would use the term: There were certainly no shortage of organs of state power in Nantes, after all, willing to tell Catholics they should shut their silly traps and subordinate themselves to the secular will, no matter how distasteful and irreligious they found von Hausswolff’s appearance to be.

Then there was Eli Commons, director of the cultural center which promoted the show, le lieu unique. He called it “an attack on the freedom of creativity and expression and said the organization disavowed “unfounded accusations of desecration” made about the artist’s music.

“There is no religious inspiration, no violence! She just plays the organ, and organs are found in churches. It’s post-metal-influenced music,” he said.

Oh, it’s just post-metal-influenced music. Carry on, then.

It’s the flippancy of the statement that gets you: “She just plays the organ, and organs are found in churches.” Yes, and so are church congregations. Western Europe may be a terribly secular part of the world, but there are still people there who believe God is real and His presence can be found in holy buildings.

It’s the responsibility of artists and performers who enter those spaces to tread lightly, present their material respectfully and remember it isn’t a concert venue but a place of worship. Treating it like a concert arena is a desecration.

When that happens, scenes like Tuesday’s protest can only be expected. None of the principals involved should be the slightest bit surprised, much less angry, over the reaction they caused.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture