Monday, 9 July 2007

Getting in a lather over soaps

Soaps,that is soap operas, are such a part of the TV wallpaper of life that it's difficult to imagine TV programming without them. They provide simple, straightforward entertainment that does not demand much from the viewer nor do they profess to be anything much in the way of art.
I am a fairly keen viewer of soaps: Coronation Street, Home and Away and Neighbours. At this point I pause and reflect on the confession I have just made. Anyway, until recently, I watched then waited for the next episode, without having much recollection of the one I had just watched. That's the way to do it. But a recent episode of Coronation Street made me think and realise that these apparently harmless, vacuous programmes are possibly quite the opposite.
Soaps are story driven and characters swap from situation to situation and relationships are changeable to say the least. One female character in an Aussie soap has had three sexual relationships-or "taking it to the next level" as they euphemistically say- and she still hasn't left school. Dread to think what her exam results will be like.

The episode of the Street had a storyline about a middle aged woman having a casual affair with a married man and the criteria for deciding whether she continue this was "if it makes you happy". This seems to sum up society's attitude to so many things: the pursuit of personal gratification rather than any reference to subjective let alone objective moral standards.

People watch these people on their TV and, in the absence of any other reference point, might adopt the values they see portrayed there. TV is a very powerful medium, hence the power of advertising. As Chrisitans we should be more aware of the negative influence of soaps and TV in general. If you want to win the war, know your enemy.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Divine retribution. My contribution

I have just been reading Ian Dales Diary blog and he was facetiously apologising to the flooded people of Sheffield, because his decadence has brought down the wrath of God. It seems that the Bishops of Carlisle and Liverpool have linked the floods to Britain's decadence, in particular the issue of gay marriages etc. Apart from the gobsmacking idea that Church of England Bishops actually mention God (clearly some must even believe in Him or her as the case may be) I'm not sure what to think.

I read Ian Dale's blog daily, the best of the bloggers, and he seems to me to be a decent man with much to say that is worth listening to. I can understand his being offended at the Bishop's comments and I can understand his thoughts that it shows the Cof E is not really in touch with modern Britain. But I also understand the Bible's view of human behaviour that is contrary to God's plan for mankind and I understand that we do live in a culture that is clearly, in many ways, contrary to the way God would want it to be. I'm not really sure that God smites individuals or communities for their disobedience in such a direct way, but there clearly are consequences, though I do not profess to understand the dynamics of the process.

My problem is that my Church has clear and very strong views on gay marriage etc and I subscribe to those views. I do find the blatant exhibitionism of Gay Pride marches and the sometimes evangelical zeal of some gay people offensive; but there are many decent, loving people in committed gay relationships whose example of love and devotion shame many in heterosexual relationships. I am not a liberal Catholic and do not believe that the Church should conform itself to modern values and mores. It should lead not follow. But I am troubled that decent people are offended by our beliefs, which does not invalidate them, it simply makes it absolutely necessary to have what I call a compassionate disagreement.

This is a bit of a ramble but it illustrates the dilemma I feel.

More Old Time Religion

A few posts ago I mentioned prayer practices which had , to some extent, gone out of practice. I have just completed a novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and found it helpful both spiritually and practically. A novena is, firstly, an act of discipline where you determine to follow a course of prayer for a period of time. This involves an act of will and a committment to fulfill the intention. The will is strengthened having made the committment to, in this case, the Mother of God.

If the novena is for remedy of a personal weakness it has the very practical effect of creating a period of time during which it is less likely that you will allow that particular behaviour to occur. For example, an irritable person might use the period of the novena as an opportunity to practice control of that weakness, whilst at the same time seeking the help of Mary to overcome it. It is good both psychologically and spiritually.

There are many forms of prayer which too often lie unused. They give a form and framework to prayer time and, through repetition and familiarity, can instill the truths they represent deep into our hearts.

Give it a try.