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:

Words mean things

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?

My personal H-E-Double hockey sticks

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…

9 Comments

  1. Colleen /

    I have found that the “I don’t like coffee” reactions can generally be tempered with “I prefer tea” tacked onto it. Unless you’re in Turkey. Then watch out. :~p

  2. Hey, I’m right there with you on the football one. Not so much coffee. At least I’m addicted to decaf, ha ha!

  3. I drink coffee because I like it. And it’s not illegal. And, as far as I know, won’t give me cancer. Of course, not drinking coffee also won’t give me cancer.

    I can’t stand the idea of chewing gum. It’s just chewing for the sake of chewing… like a cud. Sure some people say they like the flavor, but that only justifies the first 5 minutes or so of chewing…

  4. I like coffee because it’s the drug that both increases my intelligence and contains antioxidants, and is also cheap and social.
    Still, I like to try to do a few simple tasks before I have any most mornings to make sure I still have some capacity to function without it; that just helps maintain my dignity.
    As for American football, I object to it on just two grounds: games are too long, and it occurs during the day on Sunday, tempting people to skip church or cut out early. Sunday games should be half-games, in the evening only.

  5. Patrick /

    I live in Wisconsin, so denigrating professional American football is about as terrible a crime as hating deep fried fish and potato pancakes. That said, I have no deep and abiding love for the sport, but I’ll enjoy a game if it’s on. It’s always on during the Season, so I guess that I enjoy it. Short of coming into a vast amount of wealth, I just can’t see myself getting an official jersey of course, so that’s where it stands.

    As for coffee, it’s received a papal blessing, so it’s all copacetic. Yes, I’m physically addicted, though I am rather adamant to not partake when fasting (E5men). If it ever gets so bad that I drink bad coffee just to stay awake, I usually quit for a month or so to remind myself to enjoy the hedonic experience a fresh cup.

  6. Tom D. /

    I’ve never cared about sports either, especially football, so you’re not the only one (but we really are fairly rare birds).

    I do drink coffee weekdays at work, but hardly ever at home. I don’t get headaches from not drinking it over weekends or on vacations from work. Honestly I don’t think coffee is all that addictive, if at all. At least it isn’t for me. I don’t know why you would insinuate that there is anything “bad” about drinking coffee, and it certainly doesn’t deserve comparison to heroin. If you don’t care to partake, that’s your right, but I think it’s ridiculous to malign those who do. It reminds me of Baptists and alcohol, except that they at least have the excuse that one can get drunk on alcohol.

    • Tim Shaughnessy /

      First, I suggested at the beginning that this post wasn’t going to be too serious, and at the end I said coffee wasn’t a big deal.

      Second, my coffee comments were intended for people who do crave it, who might say one or all of the lines in my fill-in-the-blank quote. If you aren’t addicted, that’s great. I think plenty of people would admit that they are.

      The Catechism reference says, in part: “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess.” I stand by my premise that some people do not practice temperance when it comes to coffee and use it to excess, the evidence of which is the physiological withdrawal symptoms they demonstrate when they do not have their daily dose.

  7. Matt Murphy /

    I’m totally okay with people not enjoying football, although I’m a bit puzzled as to why anybody with a basic understanding of the sport wouldn’t enjoy it.

    But, if you peruse some history, you’ll be impressed by the extent to which passions that once resulted in gladiator fights, marauding, and mass slaughter by enthusiastic armies now get poured into athletics. This is progress, of a sort. Save for the “Soccer War” between Honduras and El Salvador, and the horse races that almost brought down the Byzantine Empire, it’s generally the case that fewer people get hurt.

    People have gotten into murderous rampages in the past over electoral matters pertaining to slavery, the theological definition of Homoiousios versus Homoousios, the defenstration of Austrian regents, the cutting-off of a British official’s ear, and the question of which socialistic atheist ideology is the more delusional and, by some exceptional twist of perception, “better.”

    Nowadays, we invest many of our feelings with various sports figures who submit the issues involved to athletic arbitration. Has it made us more Christlike? Not much more so, no. But maybe a bit more so. Inadvertently, perhaps. But still…

    Of course, I’m somewhat biased myself regarding football. I grew up in Nebraska.

  8. Matt Sciba /

    You forgot to add that you hate beer.