Polemic Contra “Elf on the Shelf”

Christmas is not magical season. Magic (apart from that which originates from the demonic) is not real. Telling children to believe in magic and fiction in connection with the Nativity of Our Lord is a huge mistake.

Source: Flickr; Author: Davitydave; Creative Commons License

Elf on the Shelf: good little “Big Brother”, always watching. Source: Flickr; Author: Davitydave; Creative Commons License

I’d prefer not to fritter away the credibility and trust I’ve built up with my kids on selling fairy tales. There’s no Elf on the Shelf for the Quartermaster’s kids, as insurance against this foreseeable utterance: “Why should I believe you when you say God and Jesus are real? You said the same thing about Elf on the Shelf and Santa Claus!”

Elf on the Shelf strains the whole Santa thing — which has been grossly perverted by our secular consumer culture — to a point of ridiculosity. I intensely dislike the idea of coaxing good behavior from children with a season-long bribe. “Be good, or Santa won’t bring presents!” That’s true, because, getting stuff is the “reason for the season”?

As if we needed another reason to resist the whole Elf on the Shelf mania, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology says that Elf on the Shelf teaches kids “…..a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy.” This professor argues that the idea of Elf of the Shelf reporting back to Santa each night “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”

I would have to agree. Countless millions of children are being raised in the belief that a creepy little doll watches them during the month of December, and helps a fictitious dispenser of mammon to determine whether any pellets will drop into their cages at the end of the maze. Should the government ever decide to install a similar device for year-round monitoring — under the guise that it will be used for “safety” and to determine what “services” each family needs — it will be all the more palatable, thanks to Elf on the Shelf.

Elf on the Shelf is just another warped way that the secular religion known as Consumerism draws ‘em in young, conditions ‘em to want and buy, and then finally lets ‘em down with the realization that the thing being sold was a total lie.

Catholic parents: things like Elf on the Shelf cheapen Christmas and betray the truth that Christmas is real. Our focus should be on the reality: an infant — both fully God and fully human — was born 2,000 years ago to an Immaculate Virgin. He didn’t come to bring Xboxes and iPads. He doesn’t condition His love upon good conduct. He isn’t a minion who watches us and reports back the Big Guy.

Jesus is the Word. He is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. He is the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. He is the door through which we enter into salvation. Giving our children their first introduction to their Savior — and encouraging them to prepare their hearts for Him — is our primary obligation at Advent and Christmastime.

Elf on the Shelf is a $15 hindrance in our mission as Catholic parents. As he sets his gaze on our kids, he diverts their attention — and ours — in an utterly wrong direction. Send Elf on the Shelf home to the landfill.

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Francis and Pets in Heaven: Shea Gets It

I have posted before what Cardinal Bergoglio said (linked here) regarding pet ownership in an interview with EWTN a couple years ago:

One interesting fact about this paganism….. the amount spent on non-necessities worldwide. Let’s put aside pending on necessary things such as food and medicine. Of those things that are not necessities, or superfluous things, the greatest amount is spent on pets. The most unnecessary spending is made on pets. Pets are idolized. And there’s the idolatry to buy, to rent, to have a feeling to give as I want, where I want, without needing a response, isn’t that true? It’s all a caricature of love. And the second largest amount of money is spent on cosmetology. Cosmetics. I don’t remember exactly the amounts worldwide, but there are millions and millions spent on these two things. Meanwhile the Pope is talking about children who are dying of hunger in underdeveloped continents like Africa, Asia and America. First come pets. And then if there is something left we throw it to the children…..”

I stated:

Pope Francis is not raising a new issue. The Catechism states that it is “…unworthy to spend money on them [animals] that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.” (CCC 2418).

The most recent iteration of animals and their place in salvation follows a discussion by the Holy Father at a recent general audience. Secular media swiftly found someone to “interpret” Francis’ meaning (cuz, he’s tremendously oblique, apparently) and conclude that the Pope is “hinting” that animals go to Heaven too.

Mark Shea, in all his glory, deftly debunks what should be obvious, and simultaneously points out that “the press managed to a) decide that Francis was saying something revolutionary in the history of Catholic teaching and b) read it as an attack on Mean Ol’ Benedict. Two birds with one stone!”

Here’s the good stuff:

It’s pretty loosey goosey to talk of animals being “saved” since animals are incapable of sin.  Salvation is about salvation from *sin*.  Non-rational creatures can’t be “saved” since they have no sin to be saved from.  Similarly, “beatitude” in the theological sense ain’t happening since the ability to enjoy contemplation of God is no more in their nature than the ability to enjoy the works of Dostoeyevsky.  That’s not an insult to non-rational creatures.  It’s just reality.

That doesn’t mean that the rest of creation has no place in the scheme of redemption.  The whole point of talking about a new heaven and a new earth is to say that it has.  But talking about “animals going to heaven” in the sense of enjoying salvation as human shall is nonsense.  Your dog is capable of enjoying a lot of stuff and may well be capable of enjoying a new earth.  But he will never be capable of contemplating the face of God in the way that an angel or a redeemed human being will.


14561077950_82e31e4f9f_oC.S. Lewis, in the Problem of Pain, posits that “…there may be a sense… in which those beasts that attain a real self are in their masters. That is to say, you must not think of a beast by itself, and call that a personality and then inquire whether God will raise and bless that. You must take the whole context in which the beast acquires its selfhood — namely ‘The-goodman-and-the-goodwife-ruling-their-children-and-their-beasts-in-the-good-homestead.’…… And in this way it seems to me possible that certain animals may have an immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters. And the difficulty about personal identity in a creature barely personal disappears when the creature is thus kept in its proper context.”

In other words, none of this is new or revolutionary at all. Like many others, Francis is recognizing our Christian belief in a new heaven and new earth, which when remade the New Creation may hold animals, including ones who we love, due to the fact that *we* are saved, and not because animals merit salvation on their own.

Another Beer Thing I Cannot Do Without

In the Liturgy of the Hours, for Ordinary Time, there is a hymn (tune, Wych Cross) that I particularly enjoy called “O Father Whose Creating Hand”. The third stanza:

O Spirit, your revealing light
Has led our questing souls aright;
Source of our science, you have taught 
The marvels human minds have wrought, 
So that the barren deserts yield
the bounty by your love revealed.

Here is a (beer) marvel that the human mind has wrought.

When at home, I am blessed to have my own homemade “kegerator” that can dispense up to four different kegs of beer at once. Over the years, I’ve filled my share of beer bottles and glass growlers, and whenever we travel, “roughing it” means being at the mercy of our environs for decent beer. Sometimes we land upon a paradisiacal oasis. Sometimes we arrive at a beer desert.

I’ve cogitated over the ways that one might transport a keg for, say, a camping trip. The big problem with a whole 5-gallon keg is that there’s no easy way to keep it upright and chilled while you travel. You also have to figure out a solution for maintaining pressure. And, unless you have enough people (or a long enough trip), you’re going to have to slog beer back after less than optimal storage conditions, possibly resulting in waste, which is the cardinal sin in my beer catechism.

The “coolness factor” of this new thing cooked up by the people at “GrowlerWerks” is totally off the charts, and it seems a bunch of people agree with me, because the goal for this Kickstarter campaign was $75,000, and they’ve been funded with over $1.5 million.

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This pressurized growler could revolutionize the craft brewing market. Conventional growlers are cumbersome. Most are made from glass (which means they can break), and as soon as you break one open, you need to finish the beer pretty quickly, or it will go flat. Most growlers are a half gallon in size, which means you need to be a pretty big drinker (or have a friend) to get through four pints all at once. Most places that fill growlers will require that you use one of “their” growlers, that is, the ones that they sell, with their logo on the side.

Now that this Kickstarter is going to become a reality, I’d advise the GrowlerWerks people to work to work on getting every possible craft brewer on board with amending their rules to permit these to be filled instead. As a brewer, I’d give up my “ad op” for wider adoption of using these growlers to sell beer. Perhaps there is a dongle that could be attached, or a decal or something, identifying that the brewer has “adopted” the pressurized growler.

It would keep the beer away from light, oxygen, and preserve the carbonation. It suddenly becomes more convenient and provides better quality whilst saving the waste of cardboard, cans and bottles.

These pressurized growlers are will be available in 1/2 and 1 gallon sizes, which means you could potentially have one pint of draft beer from your favorite brewer each night of the week before needing to refill it. For myself, I’d just start making 11 or 12 gallon batches (instead of 10) and put the surplus gallons in one of these kegs to extend my brewing efforts a little further.

Do you have an Apple ID?

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Apple computer, you likely have an Apple ID. If so, this seems important. If you are using “Two-Step Verification” (a security feature offered by Apple to prevent unauthorized access to your ID / devices), apparently it is possible to get locked out entirely, unless you make a note of your “recovery key”.

CoE’s Archbishop of Canterbury says…..

14565473319_4f25b04611_o…..The Anglican Church is on the verge of “institutional collapse.” This is not much of a surprise; it’s been pretty evident for at least 20 years. Whenever we Catholics imagine crisis in the Church, we should remember the Barque which, in the time of the Reformation, appeared (to some) to be taking on water. Thus the use of the lifeboats (by some). Now the lifeboats have fallen into sorry states, many aboard them have already jumped out, the rations are gone (and were wholly inadequate from the start), some have managed to grab hold of life preservers and have made their way back aboard the Barque, while some have drowned in the icy waters. Pray that the marooned are brought home safely.

Holy Father announces Plenary Indulgences…..

…..for the occasion of the upcoming “Year of Consecrated Life”. Recall that, there are certain conditions that must be met in order to obtain a plenary indulgence. Even if you are not disposed to receiving a plenary indulgence — that is, complete remission of all temporal punishment due to sin — because, for example, you retain some attachment — however small, to sin — since the attachment can be to sins that are venial only — the indulgence you receive may be partial, which is still a spiritual work of mercy, and doubtless is appreciated by a soul in Purgatory.

14595318679_6b223e630e_oI don’t think we’re supposed to spend much time trying to figure out whether indulgences are truly plenary or partial. Over the years the Church has developed in its own understanding of the authority given to “bind and loose”. If God (and Heaven, and by extension Purgatory) stands outside of time and space, it becomes nebulous to quantify “time” in Purgatory. And yet, we believe (and it seems, know) that some prayers, some work, some actions, are more efficacious than others.

God knows our hearts and He knows the intention we bring. He accepts all earnest prayers, and we know that He is just and merciful. We can trust that when we are called to pray for souls who need prayers, our prayers have effect. So just do it.

Outcomes for Children Raised in Same-Sex Households

In short, this is an area for further study, but current findings suggest that claims regarding positive outcomes for children raised in same-sex households are misstated, overstated, or generally, not on par with outcomes for children raised in conventional families.

Children have a right to a father and a mother. When we intentionally deprive a person of his or her natural rights, this deprivation constitutes an inherent disruption in the person’s life. We can take steps to ameliorate, mitigate or minimize the damage, but there is no complete “fix” to supplanting a mother or a father, even with two, three, four, or five loving “parents”.

Intentionally depriving a child of a mother and father is selfish and evil. Misleading about the potential harm of such an act compounds and amplifies the selfishness and evil, because it beckons society further astray to satisfy one’s own desires.

Children aren’t chattel. No one has a right to a child.

“i don’t belong in church”

Today, in scanning the stats for this blog, I noticed a search string:

idontbel“i don’t belong in church”

Someone typed “i don’t belong in church” into a search engine, scrolled through the links, and landed here. What the person who typed it actually meant, we don’t know. Another thing we don’t know is whether anything the person read here or at any other Catholic blog was edifying or helpful.

What we do know is that a person “said” this. In the context of Internet as a “social” medium or “communication” tool, someone uttered this statement into the ether and peered at the crystal-lit glow for some kind of response.

I want you to know that if you uttered “i don’t belong in church” aloud so I could hear it, this is what I’d say:

You belong in church; it is your home! The Church’s entire existence is tied up in the fact that she heals the wounds of sin, wounds that afflict all of us, meaning that we all are completely dependent on her gracious mercy. There is no “lesser” or “greater” person to Christ; he had you (and me!) in mind when he gave us his Church, so that you (and I!) might be free. What does it mean to be free? It means that not even sin makes you (and me!) an unworthy participant; Christ has already paid our entry fee!

I would say that no matter what, you belong in church! And, I’m praying that you go! May God bless you!