“Spiritual toxic waste”

toxic waste
Image by _boris via Flickr

The developed nations of the world, described in a few phrases:

  • subject to “an illness: practical materialism combined with relativist and nihilist thinking”
  • “such sickness of the spirit”
  • exporters of  “spiritual toxic waste that contaminates the people of other continents”
  • due to this export, “colonialism … has never really entirely come to an end.”

This is strong stuff!

For those of us who swim in the often-toxic waters of that culture, it can be hard to understand what Pope Benedict was talking about during his homily for the opening of the Synod for Africa.  But if one looks – really looks – or listens carefully to the language of advertisements, news, and our culture, it’s just barely possible to see the toxins.

It’s commonplace to joke about the things that can be said or done on television that would have been unthinkable 15 or 30 years ago.  On the rare occasions when I watch television, I am stunned – amazed – distressed at what I see.   It’s not just that half the ads seem to be for sex (viagra, antidepressants that promise romance, innumerable products that will make one irresistible).  The problem is that all of them promise complete happiness and fulfillment.

How to get all this stuff? Anyway that is legal – or that we can get away with.  Relationships – even families – become disposable: trade them in for a new model when the old one seems out of date.  Set aside ethical qualms or concern for the common good if it gets in the way.

Sometimes it takes strong language to paint a picture striking enough to get our attention.

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  1. Christians have lost the sense of being counter-cultural, of being bread for the world. We can’t commit to self-sacrifice because we haven’t allowed Christ to reside in our hearts. We want to transform matter through chemistry to solve the worlds problems without allowing our very beings to be transformed.

    In a sense we are prophylactic spiritually. Give money, send aid, make cheap loans, but we hold back of ourselves. Everything that’s offered (even desired) is a substitute for real life. When Christians substitue money for Jesus, they get far off track.

    That’s why when we finally become really poor, then, and only then, does the power of God emerge. Our weakness is God’s strength.

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