When ultra-Christian French fundamentalists attack

We joke about the overuse of "fundamentalist" to describe people that reporters don't like, but I think we need a special award for whatever happened in this Associated Press report filed from Paris:

The city of Paris is filing legal complaints against a group of fundamentalist Christians who have been protesting a play currently showing at the municipal theater, claiming it is blasphemous, the mayor said Friday.

Riot police have been called in to chase off demonstrators bearing crosses loudly protesting in front of, and sometimes inside, the Theatre de la Ville since the Oct. 20 opening of the play.

"Sur le Concept du Visage du fils de Dieu" ("On the Concept of the Son of God's Face"), by Italian Romeo Castellucci is a provocative story centering on a young man caring for his aged and incontinent father. A portrait of the face of Christ looms large onstage throughout and projectiles are ultimately thrown at it.

Each night, police have had to defend the theater from a group of ultra-Christian protesters — organized by the group Renouveau France — who turn up with crucifixes and banners denouncing "Christianophobia," determined to disrupt the show.

Emphasis mine. We've discussed the problems with describing French Catholics as "fundamentalists" already. So by now, any GetReligion reader worth his salt could recite the Associated Press stylebook definition of "fundamentalist," right? Right:

fundamentalist: The word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent years, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians.

In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.

Way to ignore your own style guidelines, AP. So does the AP story tell us more about which sect of Protestants this "ultra-Christian" group belongs to? Guess what: these ultra-Christian French fundamentalist Protestants called Renouveau France aren't even Protestants. I'm going to go with Wikipedia here but Renouveau France is described as "a French far-right nationalist political party affiliated with the European National Front, founded in November 2005. Renouveau français politically defines itself as nationalist, Catholic and "counterrevolutionary" — in this case, reactionary opposition to the principles of the French Revolution of 1789." Like all good fundamentalists, they've "warned against the "parliamentary system", and the "fundamentally Masonic, secular, and cosmopolitan Republic." Just like George Marsden described, am I right?

Also, what in the world does "ultra-Christian" mean? Is there some use of the phrase with which I should be familiar? It's almost as if the reporter meant to describe "ultra-Royalists," which sounds more like what the group is going for. While the mayor is quoted as using the "f" word, the story failed to put the group's action in the context of a long line of right-wing royalist Catholic groups.

On that note, the protests involve, it seems, a few different far-right Catholic groups. The AP credits Renouveau Francais while The Guardian credits Institut Civitas:

Italian theatre director Romeo Castellucci has responded to Christian protests against his work by offering to "forgive" those who disrupted performances in Paris last week.

On Thursday, members of the Institut Civitas group interrupted a performance of On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God at the Theatre de la Ville, brandishing placards with the slogan "Stop Christianophobia". The performance resumed after protesters were removed by police.

The following night, despite increased security, audience members were pelted with eggs and oil as they entered the theatre, according to French news agency AFP.

In a statement, Castellucci paraphrased the words of Christ, saying: "I forgive them for they know not what they do … I forgive them because they are ignorant and their ignorance is much more arrogant and damaging because it involves faith."

This is the same group that, with the Bishop of Avignon, collected some 80,000 signatures to prevent the town council from staging an art exhibit that included Andres Serano's 'Piss Christ'. All this would be helpful information to include the next time we read about "ultra-Christian" French "fundamentalists."

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