According to American media reports (and what could be more reliable?) the hottest gift items for pre-school children in this year's Christmas buying season are: cellphones, laptops, digital cameras, and MP3 players. A New York Times item directs us to the “hottest toys list” at Amazon.com, and such products as the Easy Link Internet Launch Pad from Fisher-Price; and an exercise bike for toddlers, connected to a video game. The theme of, “get the kid staring at a screen,” runs right through the chart, and since the screens are interactive, let me take this opportunity to warn medical professionals to prepare for a pandemic of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome among early adolescents in another ten years.
The comment is often made, by people of my own religious and political outlook, that you cannot write satire any more, for the world of our contemporaries is self-satirizing on an heroic scale. I have myself made passing references, over the years, to what I call the “mall culture”: the vision of frenetic consumerism one encounters, even while trying to avoid it.
Which is not to say that the person determined to find a church will not find one today: they are still there, embedded in the gums of our older neighbourhoods, like an old man's remaining teeth, many of them not yet turned into discount furniture outlets. They have made their own accommodations with the cold world. Parishioners now drive in from across town; almost every church I know has a parking problem. Few have the luxury of walking to church any more: in their Sunday finest.
I think much of the power that animates the post-modern environmental movement is dangerously spilt religion. We look at our world, and can see that it is ugly. Some see that it does little beyond burning fuel. But grant at least the happy fact, that we have never before in history had so much food with which to gorge ourselves, or better access to “leisure activities” (see Christmas toy list, above).
Yet out of our prosperity snakes a kind of nihilism. Out of the negation of the old Christian Canada, comes the desire to negate this negation -- to create some fanatic environmentalist regime that will stop the consumerism, and leave us with nothing at all.
What is the alternative? What shall we gather through this Advent season, to present to our children on Christmas Day? I think Christ is the only answer.
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