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Thursday, April 12, 2007


I prefer to get all my headlines throughout the day via the AP headlines on my Yahoo! page. Sometimes I peruse the headlines on my local newspapers websites. Sunday is the only day of the week when I pick up an actual newspaper and I watch the local news less than once a month anymore.
I used to watch the news every morning and get a daily paper. If I missed a day, I felt left out. Now, I realize, there is little to miss out on. On any given day, the top "news" stories relate to celebrities, bickering politicians, sex or grotesque violence. None of these sensasional headlines reflect events that will in any way impact me. At most, these news stories give people things to gossip about over the water cooler. As a culture, we obsess over the accidental death of a Playboy centerfold or the careless remarks of a radio host. Why do we waste so much of our precious time, energy and resources on such meaningless drivel? Even local papers fill most of their pages with news irrelevant to their local subscribers. We know more about the A-list in Hollywood or NYC than we do about people in our own hometown, as if our neighbors are less important.
We have a major problem with distraction. If we got off our couches, turned off the TVs, closed the newspapers and stood awhile in conversation with our neighbor, we'd learn a lot more valuable information than anything coming over the wire.
And I'm not talking about gossiping; I'm talking about forging friendships and relationships with those in our community. Today, children are still assaulted despite the protection of Meghan's Law. Fifty years ago, a pervert couldn't move into a community and unpack before word spread about who he was. We stay in our own houses and expect to get all the news we need from the media. We're outraged and blame the government when a crime happens in our community.
But the news we need is hardly the news we receive. The end result is a country who wastes their time worrying about American Idol finalists, campaign finances and Oprah's opinion on anything. We put so much effort into discussing or solving these non-existent problems we totally overlook the real problems in our communities. And this fluff is what we use to form opinions, elect officials, make decisions and raise our children on.
In the most recent issue of Crisis, Alice von Hildebrand has a wonderful article, "The Devil's Distraction, A Misplaced Bad Conscience." And while her piece talks specifically about American bishops, the points she makes can be applied here.
"The devil knows that any Christian worth of this name realizes that he is a sinner in need of God's mercy. This is a valid attitude that the father of lies will deflect for his own purpose; to give men (particularly church men) a bad conscience for things they are not responsible for, while closing their eyes to real moral faults that can lead to a severe neglect of their duty as pastors of souls. It is a superb method of leading them into a dead end and making them feel contrite and apologetic for sins they have not committed. This approach has several advantages for evil. First, an imaginary weight of guilt is paralyzing and unbearable because it cannot possibly lead to a valid contrition, which in turn leads to confession and reconciliation. Another is that it closes the eyes of pastors to their real sins of omission and the grave neglect of their primary duties."

So while I'm not talking just about pastors, hopefully you see the connection. The devil distracts us in order to keep us from addressing our real sins. This works on a personal and communal level. What upsets you in the world today? Global warming? Are you buying fancy electric cars, recycling, and writing letters to your congressman? How's your relationship with Christ? Are you working on that or are you too busy? Do you work yourself up into a tizzy over Brittany's latest adventure? Do you gossip about her with your friends and buy tabloids to make yourself feel better for not being a better mother to your own children? "Sure I'm verbally abusive, but hey, I didn't shave my head! Those crazy pop stars!"
It can be hard to focus on our sins and the problems right outside our door. It's easier to let the government, or charities or anybody else deal with the injustice in the world and to focus on the funny, sexy, unusual or morbid. There's certainly enough stimulation to pick from. Take time to turn off the world. Examine your conscience and see what's there. Go to confession and clear it out. Fill your head with prayer, spiritual readings and the scriptures and see if your priorities don't change.


Nate Wildermuth said...

Thank you for this, Kelly. I find myself falling into all the traps you point out.

I know some people don't believe in the devil or demons, but evil seems far too intelligent for me to believe otherwise.

I was just thinking yesterday that all my problems would vanish if I would simply return to God in prayer and Word and deed... if I just opened me eyes.

But easier said than done, huh? Thank God for Reconciliation!