The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics and other things

I must be getting old, turning into a kind of curmudgeon, because I find myself increasingly at odds with what our society offers up as good and worthy. No, that's not quite right. Society doesn't simply offer these things to us and tell us they're good; rather it throws them at us, rubs our noses in them, submerges us in their squalor, and then tells us to inhale deeply. It then attacks and intimidates any who might in the smallest way object to such treatment. Examples abound...

The reaction to the comments of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy are beyond belief. Well, they should be beyond belief, but in our increasingly decadent society, you can safely believe them. Mr. Cathy, speaking of his company, simply said:

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles." 

Omigosh! The man unwittingly pulled a half-dozen politically incorrect triggers and apparently exposed himself as an ignorant, intolerant, homophobic troglodyte. No doubt Eric Holder has already put together a team of prosecutors to investigate the criminal acts that obviously lie behind such comments. The reactions from across this once-great land were near instantaneous.

Mayor Menino "talking"
Mayor Tom Menino, perhaps the most inarticulate mayor in America, reacted with remarkable stupidity and declared that Chick-fil-A didn't belong in Boston, the city that boasted the Freedom Trail. It would seem Mr. Cathy, by exercising his freedom of speech in support of values held by the vast majority of Americans for over two centuries, is to be denied that freedom in a city that played such a major role in our nation's fight for freedom. The mayor only reinforces my decision almost a decade ago to leave Massachusetts for Florida. In Chicago too -- where else but corrupt, murderous Chicago? -- Chick-fil-A's despicable values were declared not to be "Chicago's values." Similar comments gushed forth from many of the nation's self-proclaimed smart people.

Personally, I'm with Mr. Cathy. Homosexual marriage is an abomination. The homosexual lifestyle is sinful, just as fornication and adultery and abortion and theft and murder are sinful. One cannot engage in any of these and lead the kind of holy life God wants for us.

I've also decided to visit our local Chick-fil-A on Monday and consume one of their salads (I'm on a diet) in support of Mr. Cathy and his family. I'd go tomorrow after Mass, but Chick-fil-A, in open defiance of market economics, has a "closed on Sunday" policy. Our local Chick-fil-A has also supported one of the ministries dear to my heart: the Wildwood Soup Kitchen, thus giving me another reason to support them in turn.

To read more on Chick-fil-A and its maniacal detractors, check out Mark Steyn's latest column.

Some still enjoy the Olympics
Then there are the Olympics. In truth, I really don't care about the Olympic Games. I don't care if the US athletes win or lose. I don't care about gold medal count or new world records. Why bother? The Olympics are no longer the global venue they once were for amateur athletes to compete worthily in a display of true sportsmanship. The games have simply become another arena for professional athletes to display their oversized egos on a grander scale. Gone is any pretense of gentlemanly competition among amateur athletes. The Olympics have been transformed into a series of in-your-face events, more similar to Roman gladiatorial bouts than real sport. The fact that all athletes must be tested for drugs, blood doping, and other performance enhancing techniques says much about the place of sportsmanship in the Olympics and our society at large. And have you noticed the almost religious nature of so many of the Olympic ceremonies? Watching them is like participating in some ancient pagan ritual -- all very bizarre. Most readers probably disagree with me, but, hey, we all have a right to waste our time in different ways. For me, I will find something else to occupy me during the next few weeks

Perhaps one of the best indicators of the direction of our society is how much we pay professional athletes and entertainers. Have you noticed how business people come under constant attack for the money they make, but we rarely hear a word about the compensation enjoyed by celebrities? And yet businesses create jobs for the rest of us and provide useful products and services rather than mere entertainment. I suspect, though, that celebrities and even many business people make far more money than they truly deserve, and I fear for their salvation because so many never seem satisfied with what they have. Don't they realize that their talents aren't self-generated but are gifts from God? Their praise and thanks should be directed toward Him and not toward themselves. And their energies should be directed not toward the pursuit of more money, but toward the pursuit of good. How did St. Paul put it?
"For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains." [1 Tim 6:10]

Excess is never attractive, nor is it good for the soul. (All you celebrity junkies might want to read this article on celebrity excess -- both sad and funny.)  I certainly don't envy the rich, whether they are business people or athletes or rock stars or actors or corrupt politicians. Money has never been a particularly strong motivator for me and certainly no sane person can possibly enjoy being envious. (I am far more susceptible to other of the deadly sins.) The trouble is, the extravagant lifestyles fueled by all this money can be very attractive to young people. This becomes evident when one observes the more talented college athletes as they enter the ranks of professionals. They seem to be afflicted with a sense of entitlement, an attitude nourished and encouraged by parents, coaches, and school administrators from the time their talent first manifested itself. At some colleges, and Penn State is just one obvious recent example, the standing of the school's athletic programs trumps most other considerations, even basic morality. Many of our society's newly discovered "values" have apparently migrated from the world of professional sports and entertainment to the rest of society. Of course, many of these values originated in the academic halls, so it is only fitting that they should ultimately infect the field house and the stadium.

Focusing only on the health of the college and university, I offer a most radical solution: the complete elimination of intercollegiate sports and their replacement with intramural athletic programs. This, of course, will never happen, not because of a love for sport, but because of a love for money. These programs are simply too profitable. And, as always, St. Paul is proven correct.

Lest I sound too pessimistic about our society, let me conclude with a more positive observation. It relates to one of the good things that came out of the tragedy in that Aurora, Colorado movie theater. The manly virtue of sacrifice above self is still alive within many Americans. A number of the men who lost their lives did so by intentionally placing their own bodies in the line of fire to protect the women they were with. God bless them and keep them. You see, it's the good people of this country, the hard-working folks we know and see every day, who live and keep the values we hold dear, who truly set this nation's standards. It's not the politicians or the baseball players or the movie actors. It is the people who give me hope, not the president.

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