February 19, 2001
volume 12, no. 50
Food for thought: How far will we go to gorge ourselves in sin?

    In the opening shot for the television show "Iron Chef", it gives a quote which says "Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are." Or words to that effect. I don't generally subscribe to the opinions of the food police but it doesn't take a nutritionist to figure out that one cannot live a long healthy life with a daily diet of twinkies and ho-ho's. This applies to other aspects of life as well.

    Through history, through research, we've been shown that one can be desensitized to almost anything, so much so that, what was once considered abhorrent would one day be considered normal and passé. Take for example what happened in Nazi Germany. How could a people, noted for their hospitality, find themselves letting millions go to their deaths? Men and women who would find it terrible to harm a stray dog thought nothing of sending millions to their deaths.

    Recently, the "Today" show reported that a television research group reported that explicit sexual content was present in one out of every three television shows. And not late night shows, but prime time, family hour, etc. According to industry 'experts' television is merely mirroring present day society. The thing is, which came first? A kiss between two people is one thing but what are our children learning when they see the various 'Friends' jumping from one bed to another? The female character on "The Road To El Dorado" was reportedly redrawn to give her more clothes, but even then there was the implied idea of a sexual liaison between her and one of the main characters. (It was my kids who noticed this) So it appears that even children's shows aren't immune from sexual content.

    But we must not blame television alone. Open a newspaper. Notice the lingerie ads in them? Today that's seen as no big deal, but not long ago the only bra you saw was either drawn or on a manikin. And how many women can really wear those outfits on the "Victoria Secrets" commercials? And if you've seen the Dentyne Ice commercial, you have to wonder, is it really gum they're advertising? It's sex in your face, sex on the television shows, on the commercials, in the newspapers, etc. And considering how much television our kids reportedly watch, is it any wonder that sex is a subject that is not only viewed as no big deal, but almost as recreation.

    I heard one 'expert' say that we aren't so hung up on sex any longer, that it's no big deal. I wonder how many people have exchanged reading their daily newspapers on the bus with reading Playboy or Penthouse? I mean could you imagine what would happen if a person on the bus was seen by the patrons admiring Miss April's centerfold? Let's be honest, I'm sure there are some who can read Playboy and actually just 'admire' the beauty of the women inside. But since they're often the 'Girl Next Door' placed in sexual overtones, what do we slowly come to? And once Playboy and Penthouse get too tame, there's Hustler! And then, there are all sorts even beyond that. But where once one had to go into a store and ask the clerk to retrieve a copy from behind his counter, or quickly duck into an adult bookstore, we can now just log on and download all sorts of things. Anything! Blondes or brunettes, male or female. Guys who like guys or girls who like girls, guys who look like girls, or girls who like to beat on guys, the list is almost endless. Sodom and Gomorrah would have thought they'd died and gone to heaven! (so to speak)

    And one doesn't even need to go looking for it, sometimes one can run into it without even knowing it. Like many who were surprised when they thought they were going to the White House web site. My daughter liked the Japanese animated cartoon "Sailor Moon", so I decided to help her find some web sites that she could visit. I ran into a number of sites with naked Sailor Moon cartoons. I was shocked!! It was my daughter who explained to me the difference between anime and hentia. My daughter!!! Then she informed me that, in the Japanese version, two of the sailor scouts (all female) were lovers.

    Is it any wonder that society is being desensitized to sex? We're bombarded with it, it's easily accessible and often subtly presented so that anyone who raises a cry is often portrayed as being a bit off. Even today, Jerry Falwell is ridiculed for his warning about the Teletubby. But no one recalls that it was the mainstream media that first reported that the gay community had adopted the character as gay for the very reasons given by Falwell.

    A priest friend of our family was very careful about what shows he watched. Not because he was a prude or obsessed with sex, but because he was going to avoid the occasion of sin. In the company of women, he made sure there were others around him to avoid any notion of a scandal and to, again, avoid temptation. And once temptation is given in to, it is easy to become addicted to it. How many kids think, and have thought, that it could never happen to them. It's only one cigarette, only one pill, and only one toke. It's only sex! And how many find that they can't give up the cigarettes, the pills, the toke, the booze, and the sex! And with each, they find that they need more. If sex gets boring, they need to 'spice it up', try new things!

    Is it any wonder then that so many seem to laugh at the Church when it tries to teach abstinence? When it tries to teach the sacred beauty and responsibility of sex? Is it any wonder that the Bible is banned in schools but "Catcher in the Rye" is ok? Or that abstinence-based sex-ed programs are laughed at while sex-ed classes that are almost "how to" classes and advocate any sex, any time, are applauded?

    In these times of being deluged by these messages of a 'Brave New World', it's more important than ever to avoid the 'twinkies and ho-ho's' of the world and feast on the banquet of God's word.

    "And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for their soul, and a pure and lasting font of spiritual life" [Die Verbum; 21] Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful. [Ibid; 22]"

    The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful…to learn 'the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,' by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. 'Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.' [Ibid; 25; Phil. 3:8]" (CCC #131; 133)

    Daily reading of Scripture and prayer is no less important than eating a well-balanced meal. Just as getting into the habit of exercise and watching our diet are necessary to help us lead full and active lives, so too getting into the habit of daily prayer and watching the 'diet' of what we fill our minds with are necessary to help us lead full and active spiritual lives. As food and exercise are necessary to the body, so too are prayer and spiritual reading necessary for the soul.

    "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

    "And He told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, 'In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Vindicate me against my adversary.' For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.' ' And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?' " (Luke 18:1-8).

    "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; and pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ..." (Col. 4:2-3).

    And for those ensnared in the various addictions, what recourse do they have? The same. They can choose to ignore Christ and remain in the bondage they find themselves (though they'll call it freedom).

    "For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first" (2 Peter 2:18-20).

    But those who wish to break the chains will find strength and solace in God. In prayer and the Scriptures. It won't be easy, it may not even happen overnight or instantaneously, but if we persevere!

    "And He called to him the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, 'If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels' " (Mark 8:34-38).

Pax Christi,

Pat Ludwa

For past columns by Pat Ludwa, see VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives

February 19, 2001
volume 12, no. 50
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW column
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