The new sacred cows
It used to be that you didn’t discuss two things in polite company: religion and politics. Nowadays, you can devote entire blogs to the intersection of those two things. So what is taboo for discussion these days? What opinions are you not allowed to hold?
There are the obvious opinions that Catholics hold that are under constant ridicule; publicly and unapologetically adhering to orthodox Catholicism will garner snarks, chides, and perhaps a lawsuit or two. And, as we’ve seen recently, it’s okay to be a business and support certain causes but not others. (“You are Christians who sell chicken? Homophobes! You murder babies in the womb? Here’s some federal funds.”) (Aside #2: etymologically, wouldn’t a “homophobe” be someone who fears sameness?)
But, in the spirit of having a little Friday fun, let me suggest two opinions you are not allowed to have. I know from experience because I personally hold both of these opinions quite strongly and judging by purely objective data (facebook comments) I assure you that making these opinions known will incite wrath faster than anything:
1) I can’t stand football.
2) I don’t like coffee.
Let me state my cases:
1) I don’t think it’s hard to argue that pro sports, along with Hollywood celebrity worship, are today’s bread and circuses. Sure, people get obsessed with pro hockey, horse racing, and curling, but handegg takes the cake. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the fact that pro sports is probably a billion dollar business indicates that we’ve done phenomenally well in our economy’s history. When most cultures have trouble generating enough income and productivity to feed themselves, we can do that and pay tons of money on trivial entertainments.
My beef isn’t so much with enjoying temporary diversions, but the scope to which these diversions have risen. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the hours spent in church/at prayer with the hours spent watching games or highlights/following stats/playing fantasy handegg, since we are supposed to give God everything. Even if Americans spend more hours in church than they do watching sports and donate more money to churches than they do buying tickets or satellite TV packages, is that so wonderful? Aren’t we supposed to give all to God?
We are always in danger of idolatry, making created things our gods. I know Catholics get accused of worshiping the saints in heaven, which we don’t, but do you know people who worship the Saints in New Orleans? Have you heard people say, or have you seen bumper stickers that say, “Geaux Jesus!”
Instead of just being critical, here are some suggestions: if you spend time reading box scores online or in the paper, cut that time in half and spend the other half in spiritual reading (some of my faves: Scripture, Bible studies, St. Teresa of Avila, Peter Kreeft). If you watch games or highlights on TV, cut that time in half and spend the other half watching the Journey Home, other EWTN shows, or movies on the Vatican film list. Instead of checking your fantasy handegg every day, commit to an “hour” (really only about 5-10 minutes) from the liturgy of the hours or the morning prayer from the Magnificat. With a limited amount of time on this earth and the incredible wealth of spiritual classics in literature, art, and music from two thousand years of saints and Church history, watching guys run around in tight pants after a ball and following the statistics of which tight-panted guy ran the most yards this season seems a little mundane. Don’t store up handegg treasures on earth; store up treasures in heaven. (By the way, if there is handegg in heaven, I’m going to have to rethink this whole “Christianity” thing…)
2) I made it through college, grad school, and months-long stretches of four-hours-of-sleep nights thanks to our two little guys without developing an addiction to coffee. I’m sure most people don’t admit they are addicted to coffee, or if they do, they don’t consider it very bad. But, here is a quote with some blanks thrown in:
“I have to have my ______ every morning. If I don’t have my ______ in the morning then I’m not myself; I’m cranky all day. If I don’t have my ______ then I get bad headaches.”
For most people, the blank is “coffee” and we chuckle sympathetically and move on. For others, the blank may be “cigarette” or “heroin” and we pity or criticize the person and tell them to seek a 12-step program. If the results are the same, why does coffee get a free pass? Because coffee would win in a democratic vote over heroin? When did “we all do it” become a valid justification for any bad activity?
Again, don’t compare the amount of money spent at Starbucks with the amount of money dropped in Sunday’s collection plate. With plenty of cheaper substitutes out there for premium coffee, take the extra bucks saved per week and give to the Church, the poor, or buy those books I mentioned above. At the very least, admit that you may not be practicing the virtue of temperance in your coffee drinking, and that addictions should not be treated lightly.
Okay, in the grand scheme of things, football and coffee aren’t big deals. But my other option was to write yet another economics-related post. You’re welcome.
Speaking of watching sparks fly, check out the combox below in a few hours as the handegg and java devotees marshal their forces…