Computers and Gambling

An understatement, perhaps

The spiritual poverty of many of our contemporaries, who no longer perceive the absence of God in their lives as a form of deprivation, poses a challenge to all Christians.

--Benedict XVI

I know so many people of whom this is true. It's very hard to know what to say to them. You're telling a person whose soul is wounded but numb that he would be better off feeling the pain.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Exactly.

AMDG

Yes. This is even the post-"I was a slave to religion but got over it" generation -- this is the generation of the blank stare, when you invoke what you thought was at least a vestigially common language. Or the "obviously you need re-educating" generation. One of my former Episcopal youth, who was a red-diaper baby-teenager when I knew him, posts all kinds of stuff on Facebook that really creeps me out, not because it's de facto creepy, in the way that a stalker would be creepy, but because it's so . . . rational. And progressive. And clean and well-lit. And certain that anyone bringing God into the conversation suffers from a mental illness.

Obviously I wasn't a very good youth director. Or else I was, but I was even wronger than I already think I must have been.

But even those, in my experience, still sometimes have a hostility to Christianity that seems telling in some way. Although...I like to think that's evidence of some seed still in them, struggling to grow, but maybe it's just as likely plain old hatred of something that seems like an enemy. And is.

I guess compared to the blessed poor in spirit in the Beatitudes, these people are rich? Or, we are all poor, but only we who know it are blessed by having our emptiness filled with God.

That's very well put, Maclin.

yes, the generation of the vacant stare - that's about right.

Well, Sally, perhaps you could simply assert that unbelief in God is a mental illness. How could anyone prove you wrong?

It is a challenge. But desire for God is imprinted somewhere in there.

I am studying/contemplating happiness (beatitude). That might be one approach.

I'm travelling again today and won't be online again for a while.

This post reminded me of an article that appeared in the October issue of The Atlantic, “The Selfish Meme.”

It’s about a study undertaken by neuroscience researchers at Harvard about why people are so into email, Facebook, Twitter, etc., that showed it was because it “activates the brain’s reward system.”

What occurred to me as I read the piece was that Jane Goodall actually approached her chimpanzees with more awareness of their sentience than this article did that of human beings. Example:

Researchers have previously shown that certain online activities—such as checking your e-mail or Twitter stream—stimulate the brain’s reward system. Like playing a slot machine, engaging in these activities sends the animal brain into a frenzy as it anticipates a possible reward: often nothing, but sometimes a small prize, and occasionally an enormous jackpot. The response to this unpredictable pattern seems to be deeply ingrained, and for the most basic of reasons: precisely the same cycle of suspense and excitement motivates animals to keep hunting for food. E-mail inboxes and slot machines simply tap into an attention-focusing mechanism that’s perfectly designed to make sure we don’t lose interest in Job No. 1, which is to keep ourselves alive.

That last bit about our job no. 1 being to keep ourselves alive I find terribly bleak. But the whole tone of the article is quite chipper.

I hate to say this, but the slot machine aspect of email, etc. has occured to me many times.

AMDG

"Chipper" makes me think of that remark of Richard Weaver's about modern man--we are never so happy as when we have demolished some essential part of our inheritance, or something along those lines.

They *love* it when they can further the argument that we are machines or apes. It's very curious.

Is this at all similar to looking into the fridge?

Should I try to cure my habit of looking into the fridge by going out to play slot machines?

No wait, it's ok. I'm already cured. We have to keep the fridge locked with a child lock to keep the 2yo out. And I don't want to tempt a temper tantrum by opening the wretched thing unnecessarily.

I don't get how gambling is like opening the fridge. I must have a different sort of relationship with the fridge.:-)

I'm not completely sure I understand your comment, GretchenJoanna, but I would say the kind of people Sally was talking about are not exactly poor in spirit. I'm having trouble articulating the difference, though. I mean...I guess they are, but for me "poor in spirit" has always carried some kind of implication of humility, which I don't see in the blank-stare types.

However, the picture is certainly not all dark. Our priest is the age of some of my children (30-ish) and grew up in a non-religious household. However, he did have a Catholic grandmother, who is probably implicated in his conversion.

Also, I met a young woman recently, a recent convert, who didn't know until she was well into her teens that Christmas had a religious significance.

Meanwhile of course many people raised Catholic continue to bail out...

I think I (used to) open the fridge to see if there were something interesting in it. A bit like checking my email.

I didn't think opening the fridge was like gambling *exactly*.

You were hoping maybe someone had come along while you weren't looking and left you a nice treat? :-)

Now that you mention it, I suppose I've done that a few times when I was at home with nothing specific to do, or something I didn't want to do. I think of it more as a tendency for the desire to eat to appear when I'm slightly bored.

Getting back to the original quote and the "obviously you need re-educating" generation (not that I'm not very fond of the refrigerator) I think this is one of the reasons why we don't have much hope in the political arena. The percentage of the population who are blank with regard to any faith-based morality will continue to grow. These people will only change their minds-or, more importantly hearts--when they come up against real holiness.

AMDG

Which is why I think we need to spend more time and effort trying to become holy than we do trying to be politically informed.

AMDG

No argument, of course. Still, when you see the arsonist having poured gasoline over the structure and preparing to strike the match, even if you can't stop him it's hard not to yell a lot.

You were hoping maybe someone had come along while you weren't looking and left you a nice treat?

Exactly.

Getting back to the original quote and the "obviously you need re-educating" generation (not that I'm not very fond of the refrigerator) I think this is one of the reasons why we don't have much hope in the political arena. The percentage of the population who are blank with regard to any faith-based morality will continue to grow.

O'Connor's "wingless chickens"?

These people will only change their minds-or, more importantly hearts--when they come up against real holiness.

Maybe. I keep wondering exactly what a holy suburbanite looks like. It is too prideful to suggest that I am holy already, but I really can't see how different my life ought to be looking in order to make some kind of impact. What am I supposed to be doing differently?

Which is why I think we need to spend more time and effort trying to become holy than we do trying to be politically informed.

It's not either/or, it's both/and. Besides, how holy am I if I do *nothing* politically when I have the right to vote and live in a democracy?

Notice I'm asking what I should do. I dare not judge the efforts of my (orthodox) co-religionists and I hardly dare even judge myself.

What does a holy suburbanite look like?

I assume it is possible to be holy in the suburbs of an affluent Western city in 2012, because St Thomas More said "the times are never so bad that a good man cannot live in them."

Well, More was proved wrong fairly quickly.

I'm too tired and too entirely discouraged to answer at the moment.


AMDG

You can live until they kill you.:-)

I don't by any means think we should refrain from participating in politics, just that it's foolish at this point to think we can turn things around by that means.

I think holiness can exist under almost any circumstances. I suppose I should take the "almost" out of that. I think it's more a matter of what we are than what we do--the "do" part may be confined to the people immediately around us, and have nothing directly to do with anything related to politics or attempts to change the culture.

Twenty years ago already Christopher Derrick (who may or may not have been a saint, I couldn't say, but was certainly a serious, funny and suburban Catholic) was saying that all we could do was fast and pray.

Although, in fact, he did rather more than that.

If "more" is the word. He did other things, but I think he was right to insist that fasting and praying were the main ones. I really shouldn't post comments while waiting for the breakfast kettle to boil.

Louise, what makes you think you should be doing anything differently? How do you know your life isn't having an impact already?

We can't strictly do anything that will have any effect except co-operate with the Holy Spirit. I can think of plenty of things I should be doing differently, but if you can't, it might not be a question of doing different things. Getting deeper, rather than reaching wider, might be the way to go.

This might not be the right answer, but, well, you did ask the question.

Just one more, then I'll stop, I promise.

Janet's we need to spend more time and effort trying to become holy than we do trying to be politically informed doesn't present an either/or, but prioritizes the both/and. Sure, exercise your duties as a citizen. But spend more time on something more important.

You can live until they kill you.

Indeed. :)

I don't by any means think we should refrain from participating in politics, just that it's foolish at this point to think we can turn things around by that means.

Oh, I agree entirely. From my POV I think I must have at least *some* input into the political process via letters/phonecalls etc to my MP on occasion and I consider that to be part of my Christian duty, but not the most important part, nor even close to the most important part. Prayer and fasting absolutely are at the top of the list.

Janet's [comment] doesn't present an either/or, but prioritizes the both/and. Sure, exercise your duties as a citizen. But spend more time on something more important.

Yes. Good point.

Janet I'm very sorry you feel discouraged - I will pray for you.

Louise, what makes you think you should be doing anything differently?

Maybe it's a certain tendency I notice a lot, where Christians seemingly blame their fellow Christians for being luke-warm etc. Because they make such sweeping statements, it's hard not to feel included. I mean, if I were holy already - "real holiness" - people would be converting all around me right?

How do you know your life isn't having an impact already?

I don't, really, but given that I live in a society full of barbarians (polite, well manicured barbarians admittedly) and since so few of the people I've been rubbing shoulders with for the last 25+ years have made much progress towards the Faith, I have to wonder.

I guess I just feel a bit bashed up, when it comes to some commentary on personal holiness. (Not here, I hasten to add - this is a very safe place).

It's even worse when you have close family members suffering from clinical depression and the most loving thing to do seems to be just trying to lift everyone's mood, which of course, can just look like sheer self-indulgence, consumerism, hedonism etc. Not that I think we're engaging in anything to an immoderate degree, but that *is* how it could look to more ascetic types and to worldly people who perhaps cannot see any great difference in way of life between our family and theirs.

Now I'm beginning to feel discouraged.

I don't think trying to lift everyone's mood in that circumstance is self-indulgent at all! Anyway, there's just no easy way, as parents, to reconcile, externally, the gospel demands of asceticism and the circumstances of middle-class life. If you separate yourself too much from the rest of the world, there's a good chance of producing a bad reaction in your children. But obviously there's a danger in the other direction as well.

I always used to feel something like the way you do in comparison to Catholics who preached a certain degree of separation from the world, withdrawal into a Catholic counter-culture, etc. For instance, the old problem of having no Advent, and starting the "Christmas" season in November. If you don't live in a Catholic enclave where everybody agrees on that stuff, there's only so much you can do to resist it. You just have to try not to let that more-Catholic-than-thouness get to you, which is obviously easier said than done. It's easy to let that concern about who's really living a truly Catholic "lifestyle" become a species of Pharasaism (sp?).

And I think Paul's advice is great. As long as you're trying to master yourself and love everyone else, you're on the right track.

Thankyou Maclin, that's very helpful. Much appreciated.

Louise, Thank you for your prayers, and I will pray for you. It sounds to me that you are doing just what you need to do. I'm sure that anyone who sees you doing it will see the sort of love and dedication that takes. I'm sorry if what I said upset you, but I don't think that I meant it in the way that you took it.

What I do mean is that we all, and I certainly am not excluding myself, have obstacles in our lives that are keeping us from, as Paul said, going deeper into God's love. There are little things that we know need to change, but we put it off. I surely have no idea what these are for anyone else, but there is usually some area that the Lord is nagging me to death about, and when I get serious about doing something about, He gets serious about helping me.

And the reason I bring it up at all is that I think that in the coming years we are going to need to be as close to Him as we can possibly get if we are to face what's coming without losing our faith. It looks like one thing that is happening here is that many people just won't be able to work in their current jobs if they want to follow what the Church teaches--pharmacists are already in deep trouble in this area. I can think of many jobs that might require some sort of sinful act. And, of course, if you are trying to support a family it would be extremely hard to stand up to this kind of challenge.

And I guess what really worries me on the political front is that I see many people (Facebook is a horror to me) who are so upset with Obama that they almost relish each new terrible thing they find out about him. If we can do something constructive politically, that's good, but I think to pick over every nasty little detail, to take our eyes off of Jesus, and stare constantly at all this horribleness is a waste of precious time and weakens us.

So, I hope this is coherent. I've been going to bed at 8 and it's almost 10:30, so forgive me if I'm not making sense.

AMDG

I'm sorry if what I said upset you, but I don't think that I meant it in the way that you took it.

It's ok Janet, it's more that I was reminded of things that have been long troubling me, rather than the comment itself.

And the reason I bring it up at all is that I think that in the coming years we are going to need to be as close to Him as we can possibly get if we are to face what's coming without losing our faith.

I agree entirely.

I can think of many jobs that might require some sort of sinful act. And, of course, if you are trying to support a family it would be extremely hard to stand up to this kind of challenge.

Yes. It's all very grim.

I do wish that y'all would remind me, and I really do think I'm probably forgetting something, when politics saved or even helped God's people, whether in the Bible, or anywhere in history. I'm not being disingenuous or anything like that. I would really like to know.

AMDG

Off the top of my head--I don't know about politics per se, but war has sometimes been helpful.:-/

Yes! That is one thing I was thinking.

These people will only change their minds-or, more importantly hearts--when they come up against real holiness.

Just to add to the general gloom, I am even dubious about this sometimes. Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of his heart, and one thing it says is that holiness is unpleasant.

One example: The marriage thread reminded me of an experience from 25 years ago, when I was in university. I heard a fellow student complaining about her flatmate's boyfriend, whose extended visits amounted to his essentially living rent-free in the flat for six weeks. Her interlocutor commiserated and then added offhandedly, "Wow, I don't know if I could sleep with the same guy for six weeks." Can someone who says that see a long and holy marriage and recognize it as a good she is missing out on?

Well, when I got married, I couldn't imagine staying married for five years. We are celebrating our 41st anniversary next Monday.

Where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound.

My husband wants me to go eat dinner and watch Doctor Who. More later.

AMDG

Sounds like really nice evening.

Not sure if politics ever saved God's people, but surely good laws - good governance help?

The daily argy-bargey of political life bores me stupid, but good laws are always helpful for living a virtuous life, surely?

Yes, they can help. What too many Christians seem to think they can do now is rescue a collapsing culture through politics, and that isn't going to happen. The best we can hope for is to limit the damage for as long as we can and hope there's some kind of renewal before things get really really bad. And the renewal has to start with us.

Anne-Marie, re your story from 25 years ago: it wasn't called that then, but something like the "hook-up culture" really was already in place then. I think it goes back to ca. 1970 in the universities, when all those oppressive rules on women were struck down, men and women (boys and girls is more like it) were allowed in each others' dorm rooms at all hours, no curfews, etc.

Still, that's a shocking statement. Surely that's a bit extreme for any time.

Can someone who says that see a long and holy marriage and recognize it as a good she is missing out on? Well, it may take a good long time, but to say that she can't is to say that God is incapable of saving her, and we know that isn't true. I came across this passage in Reed of God this morning. Caryll Houselander wrote in 1944:

There is nothing so little appreciated by the world today as purity, nothing so misunderstood as virginity.

In many minds virginity is associated only with negative qualities, with impotence--impotence of body and mind, emotional and spiritual impotence.

Unfortunately, there are not only wise virgins in this world but unwise ones, foolish virgins; and the foolish virgins make more noise in the world than the wise, giving a false impression of virginity by their loveless and joyless attitude to life.

This reminded me of this conversation. Maybe the woman you are talking about had no experience of a good marriage, or of the beauty of purity--no example to tempt her to holiness. Of course, I don't know. And I'm not saying that our holiness is necessarily going to cause some huge, nationwide conversion. In fact, I think it's one-on-one relationships with the people around us that we are called to.

AMDG

Oh, and I'm not some kind of Pollyanna, that thinks if we pray every thing will be fine and dandy. I'm probably more pessimistic that anyone about what might happen in the next four years. I know I'm more pessimistic than Maclin, and that really gives me pause. :-) I'm just confident that this election didn't catch God by surprise.

AMDG

Louise,

Yes, they are helpful. I hope we can get some. ;-) I will pay enough attention to be able to vote for people whom I think might help along those lines.

AMDG

Janet, would you count instances in which politics improved the state of things for people generally, not God's people specifically? How about laws against slavery or child labour?

But generally I am pessimistic also. Pace Samuel Johnson, I think that laws or kings can't cure much but they can give us a lot to endure. You are quite right that it only intensifies our immediate duty to be holy.

"more pessimistic than Maclin, and that really gives me pause."

As well it should. I need that Gmail emoticon that indicates grave alarm.

Yes, although here what really ended slavery was the war. I'm glad that you and Louise mentioned things like this because I wasn't really thinking along those lines.

Still, both houses of Congress passed a law against partial birth abortion and Clinton vetoed it. And so often when we get a good law, it is struck down by the courts.

AMDG

Oddly enough, I was only thinking a couple of days ago that we must still be tolerably civilised if women are able to live by themselves and go out to work unmolested - as most are. In an absolutely barbaric nation, women would all flock to the most powerful men for protection. As it is, most men in our societies are civilised enough not to go around molesting women as a matter of course.

I was reflecting on this, because I'm not sure we even have much of a notion any more of men as the natural protection of their families, which was why Scripture always speaks of the need to look after orphans and widows.

But things could easily deteriorate.

I'm just confident that this election didn't catch God by surprise.

I am too. I have no problem believing in Divine Providence.

I don't know how it is where you are, but there are high-crime areas in this country where women are definitely not safe alone. But those are the exception, and your basic point is valid. We are a long way from that kind of barbarism. That's part of why I said I would use different words--it's decline, for sure, but of a different sort. Decadent, corrupt, etc.

Janet: "I'm just confident that this election didn't catch God by surprise."

Louise: "I am too. I have no problem believing in Divine Providence."

Which made me think of Grumpy’s comment about divine providence over at Janet’s place (The Three Prayers) a while ago:

“I think the providential path for any human being is the path they cooperate with God in shaping. No human co-operation, no providence.”

Good enough excuse for me to obsess over politics? ;-)

Yeah, maybe it's your vocation.:-)

Yes, I'm sure there are some areas where women are not safe alone and I don't feel very safe alone at night myself, but on the whole, women are pretty safe, so I take your point about decadence rather than barbarism. It's just that when I see *lots* of people with severe tattoos and piercings (it's worse in my Mum's suburb) I do feel pretty alarmed in all honesty and so I tend to think of such practices, when they are extreme, as fairly barbaric.

Forgive me if I've already shared this anecdote, but one day I was driving along a highway at about 70km/h (45mph?) and a young lassie, perhaps early 20s was running around her car which was parked off to the side. Merely because she was doing this, I paid attention to her out of the corner of my eye for a split second and noticed she must have had at least 3 inches of, er, buttocks exposed. I was rather stunned and said to my kids, "I'm only going to say this once - the barbarians are here."

I read a news story once (sometime in the past year or two) about a controversy related to such displays. A woman was defending her daughter's (!) practice in that respect, saying "Just because you show your **** doesn't mean you're a bad person." Not exactly, but it may mean you're a moron.

And that's sort of how the tattoos and piercings strike me, when carried to extremes: not so much barbarous as really dumb. Like having a sign that says "I really don't have much sense at all"...um...tattooed on your forehead.

Much of the tattooing craze here is NZ is largely Maori related and popular among those going "back to their roots," as well as among non-Maori progressive types.

I find it freaky largely because some of it covers almost the entire face and also often includes the lips being done in black. A very sinister look overall.

What a terrific job you did -- it's beautiful.

Funny you find Fr. Matt's being roughly your children's age a bit disconcerting. I tend to find younger members of clergy comforting. I guess because their very youth says the faith is being kept alive.

Oh, it is that, too. But even though my children have been adults for some time now it's still disconcerting to have someone their age be in a position of such responsibility and authority. I hope I can retire before I find myself with a boss their age.

A woman was defending her daughter's (!) practice in that respect, saying "Just because you show your **** doesn't mean you're a bad person." Not exactly, but it may mean you're a moron.

LOL! The mother too, obviously.

A vulgar moron. That's what's so overwhelming to me--the vulgarity and crudity, often extreme, everywhere. Not as bad as barbarism, but certainly a bad sign for civilization.

Yes, your terminology is probably more accurate. I guess it's just that in comparison to modesty, this vulgarity and crudity seems barbaric to me.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)