Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sports Mad America

Sports have a stranglehold on the heart and mind of our culture and people need to be made aware of this. As predicted by the Popes of the last few centuries, as Secularism continued to take hold, mankind would begin to think less about the eternal dimension of their life (especially religious obligations) and focus solely on the temporal aspects (life's pleasures). While fewer and fewer parents have the energy or willpower to get to Mass on Sunday, pray as a family, or even eat together, they have almost limitless energy for getting up early on Sunday to watch football or get their kids to practice every night so that they can play in the game by the end of the week. Anyone who takes a step back and looks at this situation can see the insanity - and sinfulness - of it all.

Unfortunately, I have to make this disclaimer, though most people reading should already understand this: Sports are not evil, and in fact some benefits can be derived from them. Popes have even suggested that, within key limits, sports are a good outlet for males and foster bonding, which is true. The problem is most people don't take this in the proper context, and as a result end up eclipsing the more important aspects of life (i.e. religion and family).

Those who think that history does not repeat itself need look no further than the pagan Empires of Greece and Rome, which had their own sports teams and arenas. What is often forgotten about in our secularized culture is that sports originally were centered around worship of the human body and pagan gods. In other words, it's origins center around idolatry. But being secularlized doesn't mean the 'religious pagan aspect' has totally vanished, for there still remains a "cult of the body" (i.e. worship of athletic talents and good looks) that is alive and stronger than ever today. This is thanks to the break down of family, loss of religion, the advent of mass media, mass transportation, as well as the rise of feminism. Today sports have become an unhealthy and even unChristian obsession, including a very pagan and idolatrous dimension.

Cross-referencing the subject of man being made in the Image of God and thus naturally inclined towards union with God, the Catechism speaks on the sin of idolatry:
Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. (CCC#2113)
Such elements are clearly present in the modern concept of sports. This paragraph, likewise, cross-references to the subject of sports:
If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports. By its selective preference of the strong over the weak, such a conception can lead to the perversion of human relationships. (CCC#2289)
Not only is the "cult of the body" (a form of idolatry) present, but "the perversion of human relationships." The latter naturally lends itself to creating relationships along the lines of competition and success, leaving the 'weak' and 'loser' to be neglected as humans. This entails that if one isn't good at sports or good looking, they're naturally 'inferior' and not worth relating with. How often do we see cities and schools exalted or mocked based simply on how good their sports team is? And notice how modern "heroes" are not the Catholic saints, but the celebrities and sports stars. We even regularly hear people call their favorite celebrity or sports star their "idol" (which culturally has gone beyond a simple expression).

For all of our modern obsession with science, what our culture refuses to tell us - blinded as it is by sin and deviance - is that sports are fundamentally unnatural. The body was never meant to undergo regular sessions of 'cardio workouts' (which unnaturally speed up and slow down the heart) and recreational running/jogging (which wear out and damage knee and ankle joints), much less getting hit and elbowed in the face (e.g. basketball), or even slam-tackled (football). Contrary to the notion that sports promote "good health," sports related injuries are very common, and often these injuries far outweigh any health benefits. Yet what is the most common response? It's right out of paganism: "at least he got hurt doing what he loved" - as if sacrificing on the pagan altar of pleasure and (not so common) victory was worth the cost of the injury. We all know people who have been injured playing sports (often simply doing routeing moves), and even though we don't bring this up for the sake of being sensitive, we (and they know) that the injury wasn't worth it. I know people young and old who have had to have serious surgeries and will carry these injuries the rest of their life, be they damaged joints, metal rods in their arms/legs, concussions, etc. I feel sad when I hear them talk about how much pain they're in or how they cannot do this or that simply because of an old sports injury (it pains me even more when they refuse to accept the fact it wasn't worth it). Good health is simply a matter of good eating, good company, spiritual exercises, and activities like simple walks - no sports required. 

To make matters worse, there are even sports where the primary goal is to injure your "opponent" (e.g. boxing, cage fighting). Any Christian should be able to see the total barbarism and unChristian spirit such violent and dehumanizing events, but sadly many don't. This can even be carried over to many "extreme sports" that are by definition centered around dangerous activities (e.g. jumping off cliffs), which are also sinful because they treat life without sacredness and put pleasure and success as the ultimate goal. And what many parents don't know is that even if the sport isn't about hurting the other team, there is always a troubled child on the opposing end that has no problem taking out his anger or frustration on your child (and all it takes is one time). That alone should have parents be on extreme caution. 

Along the lines of debasing the value of life and relationships comes the loss of shame and decency. For example, cheerleading is often thought to be an innocent sideline sport to football, but really cheerleading is of pagan origin and not really about sports at all. It's origins are from female flaunting of their body to stimulate sexual temptations in order to 'urge on' their men, but astute Catholics can see this is wrong and degrades women. A similar (even more disturbing) thing can be said about how people are taught to act and behave in the locker room, particularly getting undressed infront of other people as if it's no big deal (when in fact it's very damaging). It is well known that many very lewd jokes and gestures go on in locker rooms precisely because of the fact people are undressed (and even shower) in front of eachother, where not only is shame and decency totally abandoned, it even fosters temptations like child abuse. This is right out of pagan Greek and Roman sports, where pedophila and homosexuality were encouraged in their changing rooms.

Next there is the time commitment. Do the math: If a child has practice 3 days per week from 5-6pm, with a game on the weekend, then 4 days of that week are effectively blocked out, including missing out on family meals and busy weekends. Not only that, but the child comes home too tired to do homework or other family activities. Just as serious is the fact one of the parents will likely have to do the driving, meaning one of the parents also must be gone during the important hours at the end of the day when their family needs them most. This isn't rocket-science, the results are plain: the entire household is thrown into serious chaos with just a single child in sports. Now add to this this, say there are 2 or 3 children in sports, and you've exponentially increased the chaos in the family. That's the reality, and it's totally insane.

Who is to blame here? Ultimately, the parents, who see nothing wrong with it and even encourage it. But most parents simply don't know any better, and get their conditioning (no pun intended) from the schools and media. This is undoubtedly because we live in an age where pleasure seeking is the highest good, and religion (i.e. worship of God) is an afterthought. The result is smaller families (so there is more time and money to "have fun") and less of a long-term outlook on life. And the media simply plays on these fantasies. Just look at how much hype there is surrounding games, including the hours leading up to the game purely speculating on what will happen, as well as hours after the game repeating what already happened. A typical NFL game is about 3 hours long, including tons of advertisements full of sin and vices, with a 1-hour 'pre-game' show and 1-hour 'post-game' recap. That's 5 hours in front of the TV for what really isn't that important, and often takes priority over Mass.

The school system actually does society a great disservice in this regard, because they are designed to not teach children about religion and higher duties of life, and have no problem flooding families with numerous year-round after school sports activities. And this leads to another problem, which is conditioning society to think about College in terms of sports-scholarships and good athletic programs. Think about it: how many colleges are tightly wrapped up and consumed with sporting events while promoting virtue and moderation are not even on the radar? Many big name modern Colleges are literally built around their massive athletic programs and the revenues that flow from it. Is that really what College is about? No wonder the College environments are so full of sin and children are so confused; it's because the philosophical environment is one of secularist hedonism. Ironically, the very term "gymnasium" has historically meant a place for intellectual exercises and growth, where as in America the term is exclusively used for physical activities.

The last important aspect I will look at is is the influence of feminism. With the rise of 'woman-power' came the 'competition' to be as good as (or better) than males at everything, including sports. As a result, women's sports needed to be equally funded and promoted. The result was that women began acting more and more like men, and lost their sense of femininity both physically and psychologically. Even the uniforms they have to wear often amount to immodest dress, with short shorts, sports-bras showing, etc. People say sports help reduce health problems like obesity, but what they don't realize is that most health problems are the result of mothers not being available for their kids at home. Think about it, if a child doesn't have time for family dinner, then the parent is forced to have them eat fast food, give them unhealthy sports drinks and snacks, and abandon the rest of the family at home to physically and emotionally fend for themselves. The mistakes and ramifications of the past generations have been sadly seen and felt, which is why more women today are rejecting the feminist role which looks down upon motherhood and caring for family.

There are very practical cures for this disease that I believe are worth sharing, and which people will agree with if they simply stop and let the initial shock pass. First of all, don't be on someone's agenda: if they schedule games on Sunday, don't participate; if they demand a strict practice regimen that makes them more of a parent than you, don't participate. Families need to be strong enough to say "No" and even get themselves off the rat-race and hamster-wheel if they're currently on it. Second of all, do the math: calculate how much time it consumes and whether you and your family really have the energy for it; consider whether it will prevent a parent from being able to take care of the rest of the family; consider the cost of gas and eating out; and consider the risks to health and development. You will see there really isn't enough time and energy. Third, put your Catholic faith first: this means promoting family time, promote decency, watch as little TV as possible, promote the father's role as head of the family, and promoting activities that foster large families. The result of this will force sports into their right and natural place as a backyard or neighborhood activity.

What amuses me about subjects like these is that most people avoid talking or blogging about them because they are "too controversial." But really, it's topics like these that many Catholics are eager to hear about and which promote proper thinking about faith and life.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Filioque proved in Revelation 22:1

[Update 4-21-12, big find by Steven in the comment box]

The other day I decided to look into the Filioque - the part of the Nicene Creed that says the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father "and the Son" - and as I was casually looking at how the Greek term "proceeds" is used in the New Testament, I came across a fascinating verse in Revelation 22:1. It turns out other people have noticed this as well, but to my amazement I couldn't find any Catholic apologetics articles spreading the news. One blogger who is Eastern Orthodox and strongly advocates reuniting with Rome based on many good arguments actually made some brilliant observations about Revelation 22:1, which I think deserve more recognition and thus will reproduce here along with my other findings. As I continue to look into this verse, I believe this verse has the potential to move mountains in terms of steps to bringing the Eastern Orthodox back into communion with the Catholic Church. I say this because I've become convinced this verse is solid Scriptural proof that the Filioque is true.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What would Mr Robinson Do? (Did St Maximus really abandon Rome?)

The Sixth Ecumenical Council assembled in 680 A.D. to deal with the Monothelite heresy. In the course of condemning this error, the Council also condemned various men who played a role in propagating this heresy, including Pope Honorius. Throughout history, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox have pointed to this situation as definitive proof that the Pope is not infallible, and that he can even be overturned by an Ecumenical Council. On the surface, that sounds like quite an indictment, but the details reveal a different picture. (NB: The example of Honorius is a favorite for Catholic agitators because it's one of the extremely few situations in 2,000 years of Church history where they have any hope of making a case against the Papacy.) Now, many Catholics have already written in defense of Honorius and how this example doesn't undermine the Papacy, so I only want to touch upon certain key details rather than write a lengthy post repeating what's already been done in service to the Church. In particular, I want to address an objection made by an Eastern Orthodox apologist named Perry Robinson in his article, "What would Mr Newman Do?"