Our final American idol?

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As we approach the date of the “Big Game” on Sunday, I thought it informative for us as Catholics in America to reflect upon the following:

  • Super Bowl TV broadcasts start at 11am and end at 10pm
  • Live streaming of all the action is now available on mobile devices
  • A Google search on “Deflategate” yields over 17 million results and has its own Wikipedia article
  • Newer cars have integrated Internet access capabilities
  • The average TV size sold in 2015 is expected to be 60″ or larger
  • 150+ channels available on cable TV; 24/7 news, weather, sports and entertainment

Our fallen nature beckons: work is hard; challenges are demanding; we are entitled to free-time and leisure; … we earned it. But Genesis reminds us: “…Cursed is the ground because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

What made America great was the work ethic of the founding fathers, the immediate generations after them and the immigrants in the early 20th century. After World War II, prosperity came relatively easily to anyone who wanted to work for it. But now our ethic has evolved into an ever-expanding quest for leisure and distraction – and there is never enough – at the expense of a solid work ethic and dedication to God and family. Our ability to contribute to the common good is traded-off for narcissistic selfish pursuits and in the long run it is a bad trade indeed.

I ran across this article that includes founding father John Adams’ thoughts on luxury and its risks. Granted, times have changed, and certainly the “all work and no play” ethic could be carried to an unhealthy extreme. It is clear that the pendulum is swinging quite far towards leisure and entertainment idolatry, so where is the right balance, and what is needed for the right balance? I fear that we haven’t reached the extreme point on this, but we will need to before the situation is recognized for what it is – and that may likely be too late.

A reference is made to Neil Postman’s book – Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the introduction, Postman presents a contrast between Huxley and Orwell regarding their fears about the future. Given our current state of affairs, one can’t argue that Huxley was spot on the mark. I plan to add this book to my already stacked reading list.

The Catechism states: In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary. Work is for man, not man for work. (2428)  As Catholics, do we value work as allowing us to act in the image of the Creator? Are we personally doing our utmost to resist the temptations towards unbalanced leisure that will be the end of us? Is it possible for America to reverse course from an inevitable demise?

One comment

  1. […] suggested that sport may be our last American idol. He may be right — but regardless, there is a case to be made that to succumbing to […]

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