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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Sloth, Greed, and Avarice on Offer *Outside*, Nevermind the Store

For the annual post-Thanksgiving gluttonyfest known as “Black Friday”, and it is truly black indeed for the craven souls who worship at Mammon’s altar on this high unholy day, there are already shoppers camping outside a Best Buy store here in California, who will have waited 22 days before November 28, in order to be “first in line” for “deals” on….. who knows? They don’t know what’s for sale and how good the deals are because the promotion fliers haven’t even been printed yet! In other words, they don’t even know what they’re waiting in line to purchase. Make no mistake: this isn’t a bread line. It isn’t even a line for a thing. It’s a line where people partake in a lie, and not a particularly good one, i.e., getting a “deal” is really important and will fulfill that which is empty.

“’Some people say we’re crazy,’… adding that such comments don’t bother her in the least.”

Not crazy. Sad.

Pope Francis and the Idolatry of Spending on Pets

IMG_3881We have pets — two dogs and a cat — and the occasional visiting toad. We have three hens who lay eggs for us. We care for them, but we recognize that our pets are not people.

Today I came across this article: More Books Suggest Heaven Is for Real for Dogs (and Cats, Horses and Birds Too) (Title suggestion: Heaven is for Real, Wilbur, by Mr. Ed). Here in the First World, money is spent on such things as literature concerning animal afterlife, offered by sellers in the hope to realize some of the $60 billion per year spent by Americans on their pets.

Pope Francis has an opinion regarding spending on pets, which is consonant with the magisterial teachings of the Church. He connects it with the idolatrous attitudes of paganism such as “relativism, narcissism, consumerism. They are completely foreign to worship of the True God”.

From an interview given by Pope Francis (before he became Pope)(linked here), an excerpt of which (at around the 3:00 mark) is transcribed here, he says:

One interesting fact about this paganism….. the amount spent on non-necessities worldwide. Let’s put aside spending 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…..”

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).

IMG_5833

A “Roman Ruin” Cat

The Catechism specifically states that animals “…may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure” (CCC 2417) and that we must treat them with kindness (CCC 2416). Taken from the proper context, it’s likely true that the Holy Father is not referring his comments absolutely to all pet owners and all forms of spending on pets.

Idolatry can take many forms. In the case of spending on pets, Francis is speaking about attitudes that prioritize the use of our resources for animals at the expense of the care due our fellow human beings, and which tend to disregard human suffering.

My interpretation is also that what we spend on pets is merely a symptom of the larger problem brought on by the “relativism, narcissism, [and] consumerism” of pagan culture. When we personify our pets, when we devote and expend our best energy and attention on their care and attention, at the expense of other people, then we have gone too far. It becomes narcissism — a form of self-love — only “a caricature of love” — that involves satisfying our own desire to love and think ourselves loved.

First, people. Then, pets.

St. Francis, pray for us!