The Sickness Which Is Unto Death

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Reading around blogdom, I have come to realize that society is infused with a sickness which is unto death. I'm not unique in this observation: as a people and as individuals, we are distracting ourselves to death.

Not so long ago a work day was fourteen hours plus, then one came home and tended to things on the homefront that needed tending. We had bigger families and more help, but hours were long and recreation limited. Most people worked at least six days a week. (In fact, the Church obligation to attend Mass was set as a kind of charitable acknowledgment of the fact that Lords would have worked their serfs to death if attendance were not mandatory. The penalty was set for those who did not attend AND for those who obstructed another's attendance.)

Now most of us work eight hour days. We come home and probably grumblingly do some housework and then sit down in front of the television. According to one source, football and Harry Potter can be seen as definitive elements of community binding. I read this list from Christian Science Monitor with a kind of heartsickness. Of all of the events listed in the roster only one approached anything like a true community event (Fourth of July Celebrations). Most of the rest were endless distractions and amusements. Where were baptisms? Weddings? Eucharist? Confirmation? Prayer? Service? Where were the true things that help you know who you can really call upon in a time of great trial? I didn't see them on the list. No doubt Harry Potter fans are very generous, but I suspect that if my house burned down, I would turn rather to the members of my Church and my circle of friends for help, comfort, and solace. Are football games and The DaVinci Code and CNN the sum of what binds us together as society and community? If so, what a very sad statement on our culture.

Some have claimed that reading the Bible is too hard. I know that part of what they mean (for me at least, and perhaps for many others) is that it gets in the ways of other more amusing distractions. I can't read my twenty-two mysteries a month, or watch my eighty-nine movies, or indulge in my six must-see series, or play my softball, bowling, or curling matches. Coming up will be an endless cycle of Olympic broadcasts, the results of which I will glean from postings on the Blogs. And Blogs themselves--an amusement that can have a serious side, but really an amusement.

How can we identify when these things are a problem? I think it's fairly simple--do you craft a schedule around them? Does everything stop when the show comes on? Do you get irritated if someone interferes with quality reading time with a request for homework help or housework help? Do you resent giving up the time you would otherwise devote to the activity? Are you churlish, boorish, mean-spirited, or otherwise petty when someone suggests that your time might be better spent? Do you resent, just a little, any interference with your planned recreation?

I know that I can answer a big yes to many of these questions about both reading and blogging. If I am not ready to abandon the amusement at once to attend to important things in life, then the amusement has too much control over me. If my amusement prevents me from having a full prayer life or from reading scripture every day, then it is a sickness unto death--because the amusement has moved squarely between me and the God I must adore, worship, and glorify in all that I do.

This whole post started with the thought that "Bible reading is too hard." I said in a previous post that it has never been hard for me. And it hasn't. But I haven't done nearly enough of it. I began to ask myself why--and it occurred to me that my distractions and my amusements have become the entangling weeds of Jesus' parable. They are good things in themselves that have grown into me and become twisted by my own twisted spirit, my own reluctance to do what is good and right.

So now, for the evening, I'm leaving the blog. I go to do my Bible reading, to spend time with the wife and my beautiful son, and to ask God to give me the strength to do likewise every day of my life. Only grace can save us from our distractions once they have grown too strong and too encompassing.

(Sorry, if this is a downer, but I was commenting to someone the other day that I felt weary. I realize the source of that weariness is the utter sapping strength of my amusements and distractions. I am not doing what is right and good, only what can be good in moderation--and because moderation is lacking in many areas, the very goodness of it is questionable now. I know--typical Carmelite detachment talk--but where would you all be if it didn't come up every now and then?)

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As always, you are so dead on. Perhaps it is an extra-special blessing for you (as it is for me) that Lent is rapidly approaching. I think when Lent is taken very seriously it does more to order our lives than anything, save frequent confession and Communion.

God bless,

As a minor quibble, I think you may be misinterpreting the "cultural magnets" list. The "culture and community" they are purported to help bind together is "American." They're the sort of things you might expect to be able to strike up a conversation about with someone sitting next to you in the Salt Lake City airport. If that person happens to have personal knowledge of your wedding or your prayer life, then what binds you together is quite a bit stronger than American culture.

Dear Tom,

You make a good point. But even in those terms, it is a fairly dismal list.

On the other hand, it isn't which group of people we are exterminating now or next, or which group of people we need to hate, so I suppose there is some good mixed with the generally negative.



This is exactly what I needed to read today...thanks!

Late to the party, as real life has impinged on my blog-reading lately :-) .....

But great reflection, Steven.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 9, 2006 7:02 PM.

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