ROME -- Roman Catholic bishops in Italy are urging the faithful to go on a high-tech fast for Lent, switching off modern appliances from cars to MP3 players and abstaining from surfing the Web or text messaging until Easter. The suggestion gives a modern twist to traditional forms of abstinence in the period Christians set aside for fasting and prayer ahead of Easter. And it shows the Church's increasing focus on the use of technology as well as its perceived abuses. Dioceses and Catholic groups in Modena, southern Bari and other cities have called for a ban on text messaging every Friday in Lent, which began last week with Ash Wednesday.... "It's a small way to remember the importance of concrete and not virtual relationships," the Modena diocese said in a statement. "It's an instrument to remind us that our actions and lifestyles have consequences in distant countries.".... The diocese said the "no SMS day" seeks to draw attention especially to years of conflict in Congo fueled in part by the struggle for control of coltan mines. The mineral is an essential material in cell phones.
OK, so it would seem that there are few gestures more pointlessly futile than the idea of giving something up for Lent. Then again, I'm not Catholic...just blessed with an abiding dislike for the well-fed clueless White males who happen to rule the Church as if it was their personal playground. Sure, they talk the talk of Christianity, but walking the walk isn't exactly part of the Vatican's vocabulary.
While not I'm not about to reject the latest silliness to emanate from the Catholic Church out of hand, neither am I about to embrace it wholeheartedly. Giving up electronics for Lent by itself accomplishes exactly NOTHING when it comes to easing suffering in Congo. When not accompanied by concrete, focused efforts to relieving suffering, self-denial is merely a pointless exercise in...well, self-denial. Those who engage in it feel better about themselves and their ill-focused piety which doing nothing to make the world a better place.
If the Church was truly serious about alleviating suffering in Congo, the request to give up electronics for Lent would be accompanied by concrete plans to take something resembling action...never something the Vatican has been renowned for. Empty, pointless gestures such as THINKING about a problem rarely advance us any farther down the road toward actually SOLVING or even merely addressing a problem. The again, if it's really just about feeling better about yourself...well, knock yourself out, eh?
At best, compliant Catholics get to think about a problem for a few days, while at worst the prospect of reduced demand adversely impacts those who toil in Congo's coltan mines. More than anything, this is yet another example of just so much mental masturbation- the sort the Vatican is famous for.
I'm all for increased awareness...when that awareness is combined with focused, concrete action. Absent that, all you really have is a way for the Church and their supplicants to feel better about themselves for a few days until they go back to listening to the new U2 album (not there's anything wrong with enjoying No Line On The Horizon...it's a damn fine piece of musical expression). Meanwhile, exactly nothing changes on the ground. Same as it ever was....
This pointless act of feel-good mental activism has been brought to you by the Catholic Church, home to millions of easily-led supplicants the world over....
Man, where is Oliver Cromwell when we could actually use him??