Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Not a Big Fan of Camping

Occasionally, a friend will ask me, “Do you ever go camping?” In my mind, that question is no different than if he had asked, “Do you ever barbecue puppies?” Both activities are equally reprehensible. 

Let’s take a macro view of human history. For tens of thousands of years mankind has worked hard to make life safer, healthier, and more comfortable. The most important aspect of this relentless quest has been the invention of a thing called a “building.” Buildings keep rain off our heads. They are able to keep at bay both biting cold in the winter and oppressive heat in the summer. They prevent wild animals from gnawing on our jugular veins while we sleep. And buildings stop insects from regularly crawling inside our ears and nostrils and the nether regions of our underwear.
When someone chooses to go camping, all of these amazing advancements in human safety, health, and comfort are thrown right out the window. Except when you’re camping, there is no window, just a flimsy screen by the tent entrance, which causes bears, racoons, snakes, spiders, and earwigs to laugh heartily while saying, “Oh fellas, this is gonna be a fun night. We’re gonna drive these humans CRAZY!”

The one word in the previous paragraph that makes me shudder is the word “chooses.” People actually choose, of their own free will, to go camping. I could understand it if they had lost a bet. “Yup, your favorite team lost a playoff game, so you either owe me $100 or else you have to spend the night outdoors inside an oversized trash bag!” 

Or I could understand if someone decided to go camping on a dare, or if they did it to barter for goods or services. “OK, if you actually spend the entire night outside, then I’ll let you borrow my pickup truck.”
But people do this horrible activity willingly! And furthermore, they spend a lot of hard earned money in the process. Camping equipment is not cheap — tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, battery-powered lanterns, bug spray, coolers, cooking equipment, etc. Then there are the fees at campgrounds, which can be rather pricey. Purchasing all this stuff, just so you can spend a long weekend at a campsite, costs about the same as seven days in a fancy hotel. Just in case you weren't aware, hotels have walls and ceilings. And heating and air conditioning. And beds and toilets. And TVs and mini-refrigerators. And hot water and towels. Also, many hotels are located near state parks and lakes, so if you really want to go swimming and hiking during the daylight hours, you are not required to spend the night sleeping on the ground and feeding your blood to mosquitoes, gnats, and grizzly bears. 

By the way, there is another activity often called “camping,” but it is nothing of the sort. Some people spend the night in a three-bedroom raised ranch on wheels, and actually tell their friends that they went camping. Sleeping in a recreational vehicle (or RV) is not camping. Everything I previously listed that is available in a hotel room is also available in an RV. The cost of purchasing an RV — along with gas, maintenance, camp site fees, etc. — is equal to the cost of booking a hotel room … every night for the rest of your life.
So, I think it’s clear that the proliferation of camping is a sign that a sizable percentage of Americans have simply lost their minds. That’s the only explanation. For all you campers who are going to write me a nasty email, I bet you will write it from a comfortable BUILDING, rather than a tiny tent. Which kind of proves my point.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The Eucharist, Part 3

This is the third and final segment in our series about the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, the belief that the bread and wine at Communion truly become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Not coincidentally, a large Eucharistic Congress is taking place in Indianapolis this week. So, please pray for those people.
So far, we’ve discussed the fact that some groups accuse the Catholic Church of inventing the doctrine of the Eucharist during the Middle Ages, many centuries after the time Jesus walked the earth. These folks insist that everyone during the early years of Christianity knew that all the talk about Jesus’ “body and blood” was just symbolic. No one, it is claimed, believed that bread and wine somehow miraculously changed into the real body and blood of Christ. 

Last week we examined some passages from the Bible, specifically Jesus’ words in John, chapter 6, and St. Paul’s writings in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11. When you read these verses from Scripture, there is no hint of any figurative or symbolic meaning; the words about eating flesh, drinking blood, and recognizing the body of the Lord come across as quite literal.

This week, let’s take a look at the teachings from some early Church fathers. These words all come from the first few centuries of Christianity; that is, way before the Middle Ages, when the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was allegedly invented.
  • St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 AD): “[Heretics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ” (Letter to Smyrnians 7:1).

  • St. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165 AD): “For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology, 66).
  • St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 140 – 202 AD): “[Jesus] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be His own blood...and the bread, a part of creation, He has established as His own body” (Against Heresies 5:2:2).
These quotations, and many similar ones, clearly spell out what the early Church believed and practiced regarding the Eucharist. (See my book “The Gospel According to Morty,” specifically the section titled, “Is the Real Presence Really Real?” Available on Amazon Kindle.) It is simply impossible for an honest seeker to claim the Catholic Church “invented” the idea of the Real Presence sometime during the Middle Ages. 

Renowned historian J.N.D. Kelly was a professor at Oxford and an expert on the early Christian church. Although Kelly, who died in 1997 at age 88, was a life-long member of the Anglican Church (a Protestant denomination), he had the honesty to write: “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, page 440).

A significant percentage of practicing Catholics do not accept the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. They think it’s just a symbolic ritual. I suppose that’s understandable. It is hard to wrap your brain around the claim that mere bread and wine are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus, just because a priest said some words. 
Here is one last quotation, from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 350 AD): “Do not, therefore, regard the Bread and Wine as simply that; for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ” (22 [Mystagogic 4], 6) (Emphasis added.)

Please take the time to investigate the doctrine of the Eucharist, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the “source and summit of the faith.” Christ is truly present. The Eucharist is the closest we can get to Our Lord on this side of Heaven. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

A Day at the Beach

Recently, I spent a lovely afternoon hanging out at a beach in Rhode Island. Here are some random thoughts:

I saw a woman come out of the water and I said to myself, “Oh, she’s got seaweed all over her leg.” Then I looked a little closer and said, “Oops, never mind. Just a massive tattoo.”

As the afternoon wore on, I thought, “That sunblock I sprayed on myself four hours ago should still be working, right?” Later that evening, I had my answer: “Wrong!” Say hello to Mr. Redneck. Or if you prefer, Mr. Red Calves. Or Mr. Red Left Ear. (I have no idea how one ear got burned but not the other.)

Speaking of sunburn, I get it that the beach in the summer is not my ideal environment. I’ve never had a tan in my life, and I’ve had skin cancers removed three times. But now that my hair is gray, I look more pale than ever. I look like Andy Warhol and Edgar Winter had a baby. To give you an idea, if I took off my shirt and stood next to the Pillsbury Dough Boy, I’d make Poppin’ Fresh look like he was from Puerto Rico.
Speaking of taking off one’s shirt, I was pretty much the only person on the entire East Matunuck State Beach who kept a shirt on the whole time, even when I was in the water. I do that partly to avoid the sun and partly to keep young kids from exclaiming, “Look Mommy! Frosty the Snowman is swimming!”

I can only assume that tattoo artists are now in the same tax bracket as investment bankers. There were more works of art on display on that beach than in the entire Louvre. Have you ever gone to an event at, say, a fancy country club, and walked through the parking lot filled with Mercedes, BMWs, and Bentleys, and thought, “I wonder what all these cars are worth?”? Well, I took a long walk on that beach and thought, “I wonder what all these tattoos cost?” The total has to be equal to the annual GDP of some mid-sized country. The U.S. economy is not in recession as long as people can afford that many tattoos.
Walking around for hours while barefoot is something I do exactly once each year, when I visit the Rhode Island shore. Even though I pamper my feet with socks and shoes the other 364 days, I’m always taken by surprise at how tender the soles of my feet are. I’m pretty sure every part of my body is tougher, including my corneas. Walking around the smooth sand at the edge of the surf was OK. But then some areas had a lot of pebbles, and the walkway at the pavilion where the bathrooms were located was made of some kind of asphalt with embedded gravel. So, by the end of the afternoon, my doggies were howling. But on the plus side, this year the blisters on the soles of my feet healed in only nine days.

Even though I’m not cut out for the sunny shore, and even though I limp for a week afterward, I love going there. The smell of the salty green ocean and the steady drone of the crashing waves are delightful sensations. Whenever I go to the beach, I just close my eyes, inhale deeply, and listen. Within 15 minutes my blood pressure drops 20 points. It’s awesome.

I had so much fun at the beach this year, maybe instead of waiting until next year, I’ll go again later this summer. I just have to wait for the burns, the blisters, and the sand-in-your-shorts chafing to heal.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

The Eucharist, Part 2

Last week we noted that some groups claim the Catholic Church invented the concept of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist during the Middle Ages, long after the time Jesus walked the earth. Further, it is claimed that everyone understood from the beginning that the bread and wine were just symbolic, and nothing in the Bible describes the false Catholic view.

Well, this week let’s take a look at that claim. In the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus says some interesting things. While speaking to a large crowd, in what became known as the “Bread of Life Discourse,” Jesus compared Himself to the manna that came from Heaven and fed the ancient Israelites. He said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
At this statement, many in the crowd were shocked. They argued among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” This was not an unreasonable question. 

Because Jesus’ statement was so shocking and offensive, many people conclude that He must have been speaking figuratively. Throughout His ministry, Jesus often spoke in figurative and symbolic language, for example, comparing Himself to a gate and to living water. But during this sermon, right after the people grumbled, read what Jesus said next, and count how many times He used figurative and symbolic terms:  

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” 

Whoa, there is nothing figurative or symbolic there at all! Jesus not only did NOT offer any symbolic interpretation of His original claim, He instead repeated the harsh and startling statement four more times!
There is just no way an open-minded person can read John’s gospel, chapter 6, and conclude that Jesus was only speaking in figurative language. This is strong proof that the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist came directly from the mouth of Our Lord, rather than from some scheming Church leaders in the Middle Ages.

Here is some additional biblical evidence. In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, he discussed the believers’ communal gathering each Sunday. He wrote, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord....For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

Interestingly, one of the most popular Evangelical translations of the Bible, the New International Version, is even more stark: “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” 

Whether it’s the current Catholic translation, “...without discerning the body,” or a popular Protestant translation, “...without recognizing the body,” it is quite clear that St. Paul believed the body of Jesus had to be present in order to be recognized. How could Paul, a brilliant man who chose his words carefully, have picked the words “discerning” or “recognized” if he thought the bread was simply bread, a mere symbol and remembrance of Jesus? 

How could Paul possibly have been so upset, accusing the Corinthians of conducting the ceremony in an “unworthy” manner, of “sinning against the body and blood of the Lord,” if the body and blood of the Lord was not actually there to sin against? 
It is illogical that Paul would write these words if he believed the bread was just bread and the wine was just wine. This passage in 1 Corinthians, along with John chapter 6, are clear evidence that the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is found in Scripture. Claims that the doctrine is unbiblical are simply wrong.

Next week, the National Eucharistic Congress will take place in Indianapolis. For our third and final segment of this series, we will review next time what the early Church fathers said about the Eucharist. Then you can make your own educated decision about the accuracy of the claim that the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist was “invented” in the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

How Many Photos Are Enough?

From the time I was born, up to the age of 10, there were exactly nine photographs taken of me. Each one was in black-and-white, and they were spread out fairly evenly. There was one of me as a baby, one as a toddler, one as a young boy on a tricycle, and so on, up to the ninth photo, me as a buck-toothed 5th grader wearing what seemed to be an odd version of Capri pants. Actually, I had a growth spurt that year, but our family rule was: no new pants until the “back to school” sales at the end of August. So, I had to go an entire summer wearing “high-water pants” and getting sunburned shins.

Compare that to my four-year-old grandson, known as the “Rhode Island Wonder Boy™.” In the 48 months since his birth, there have been approximately 97,000 photos taken of him, along with over 1800 hours of video. I’m pretty sure in four short years he’s had his picture taken more often than the Beatles did from 1959 through 1970.

Every person the “RIWB™” knows — my daughter and son-in-law, each of his four grandparents, various aunts, uncles, neighbors, etc. — own smartphones with cameras. And these smartphones have multi-gigabyte storage capacities, so it is possible to record every moment of this young boy’s existence. We don’t do that, of course. Instead, we just record every OTHER moment of his existence.

This is not to say that each of those 97,000 photos and every minute of those 1800 hours of video have ever been viewed by anyone. We are all in the habit of taking zillions of pictures of the boy, but never actually doing anything with them once they’re stored on our phones. I suppose our plan is to have archeologists a thousand years from now unearth one of our phones and conclude that a particular young boy must’ve been crowned monarch of the nation, which required all of his court jesters to chronicle every move during his imperial reign.

Well, that’s not exactly correct. Some of those photos do see the light of day. The younger folks involved in this whole process — that is, those who weren’t around during the “black-and-white photos are the only option” days – are familiar with exotic wizardry such as Instagram and Snapchat. So, some images of the “RIWB™” are posted on these online platforms for others to view. But over 99% of the recorded images remain as unseen piles of zeros and ones in the memory chips of various smartphones.

Compare technology throughout the ages. George Washington never was photographed. It hadn’t been invented yet. Ol’ George had his portrait painted half a dozen times, and that was about it. Unless you were famous or wealthy, your image was never recorded for future generations. 

Then photography came into existence. If you were fortunate, maybe you’d be able to save up and have your picture taken — but only once in your entire life. If your eye twitched the moment the button was pressed, or if you were having a bad hair day, tough luck. That one image is how your descendants knew you for multiple generations.
So nowadays, billions of people worldwide, including a youngster in the Ocean State, are having their pictures taken more frequently than Marilyn Monroe ever did. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I have no idea. All I know is when a cute little boy says, “Papa, let’s go outside and play,” I grab my Red Sox hat and my phone, to make sure I record the delightful moments I’m about to have. Maybe someday when I’m in a nursing home, those images will be the one thing that makes me smile.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Is the Doctrine of the Eucharist a Recent Invention?

In 2021, the U.S. Catholic bishops announced a 3-year Eucharistic Revival campaign. The first two years focused on promoting the Eucharist at the local parish level. Now, during the final year, there will be a National Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Indianapolis on July 17 through 21.

With the Eucharistic Congress coming up soon, this is a good time to discuss the Eucharist, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls “the source and summit of the Christian life.”
First, let’s take a look at the origins of the Eucharist, the Church doctrine that claims the bread and wine at Mass are transformed in the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

There is a popular Bible tract that discusses the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist. By the way, Bible tracts are small booklets, sometimes with comic book illustrations, that present religious teachings. Fundamentalist Christians distribute Bible tracts by the millions. 

In this popular tract about the Eucharist, an unnamed pope during the Middle Ages is shown hatching a scheme to keep people in fear of the Church. With the aid of a trusted adviser, whose comic book image looks suspiciously like Satan, this pope announces out of the clear blue sky a brand new doctrine: he and all ordained priests now have the magical powers to transform bread into the body of Jesus Christ. All people must bow down and worship this bread, a practice which the tract calls blatant idolatry.

Furthermore, all people are required to eat this magical “bread of life,” or else they will NOT go to Heaven. And finally, if people disobey or in any way question anything said or done by priests, then the priests will withhold the magical bread, which means the disobedient persons are destined to spend eternity in Hell.
The Bible tract alleges this diabolical scheme was implemented during Medieval times, hundreds and hundreds of years after Jesus walked the earth. Therefore, the Catholic Church’s claim that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ is not only unbiblical, but it is also based on purely selfish and power-hungry motives.

The comic book tract concludes by urging readers to flee from the non-Christian, Satan-inspired, demon-possessed Roman Catholic Church.

Fortunately, few Protestant groups nowadays go to this extreme in presenting nasty anti-Catholic teachings. However, the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist is a major stumbling block. The Catholic Church does indeed teach that mere bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Jesus Christ when an ordained priest says the prayer of consecration during Mass. Most Protestant groups, on the other hand, believe Communion is just a symbolic ritual, and the elements used, bread and wine (or grape juice), remain unchanged. When the worship service is over, any leftovers are tossed in the trash. Compare that to the Catholic practice of reverently putting any leftover hosts in the Tabernacle, typically located behind the altar in the church sanctuary.

To further complicate this issue, a sizable number of Catholics, including many ordained priests, do not believe the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist. They simply find it too fantastical that bread and wine can turn into the body and blood of Jesus.
If the Catholic belief is correct — that Jesus’ body and blood truly become present at Mass — then the Eucharist is the most powerful way for a person to be in union with the Son of God on this side of Heaven. It is “Emmanuel,” God with us, and therefore should be the central focus of the Christian life. But if the Protestant view is correct — that the bread and wine remain just bread and wine, and the whole ritual was meant by Jesus to be merely a symbolic gesture — then the Catholic Church, as the little comic book tract declares, is guilty of promoting the worst sin of all: idolatry, the worship of anything other than God.

Next week we will examine the claim that the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist is not biblical. Are there any verses in Scripture that indicate whether or not the Catholic teaching about the “Real Presence” is true?

Stay tuned for next week’s episode.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Airport Baggage Handlers Give Gorillas a Bad Name

Someone recently took a cell phone video of an airport baggage handler, who was throwing bags of golf clubs onto the tarmac. The bags were coming down a conveyor belt, being off-loaded from the plane. The baggage handler pulled each golf bag off the conveyor, and tossed it about eight feet, where it crashed onto the pavement. From there, another employee picked up the bags and loaded them onto a wagon.

The golf clubs belonged to the East Tennessee State University men’s golf team. The team was traveling to an NCAA regional tournament. Naturally, the video of the less-than-delicate baggage handler’s behavior was posted to X (Twitter) with these words: “Nice of Delta to handle our clubs with such care…”

The video went viral, and the backlash was immediate. Delta Airlines issued an apology. They also asked the college for a second chance, which they labeled as a “mulligan.” (Clever idea from the marketing department — or maybe it should be called the damage control department.) 

Here is the official apology, from Delta spokesman Anthony Black: “We apologize to the ETSU Golf team and ask for a mulligan on how their equipment was handled. We’re in direct contact with the Bucs to ensure they have what they need to successfully compete in the NCAAs.”

No word on whether Delta officials are in direct contact with the baggage handler himself. I doubt it, since the union regulations probably allow him to have one or two or twelve “mulligans” before any disciplinary action can be taken.

Here are some random thoughts that went through my head as I read the news story and watched the viral video: 
  • No matter how roughly those golf clubs were treated by that Delta baggage handler, it’s nothing compared to the way I’ve treated my golf clubs after a particularly poor round. The game of golf is so frustrating, it just makes you want to throw something in anger across the parking lot, usually whatever is nearby: your clubs, a garbage can, your playing partner, a Mini Cooper, etc.
  • I’m surprised videos of airport baggage handlers go viral these days, since it happens so often now. I mean, who is even surprised? Ever since video cameras were added to cell phones, it seems baggage handlers are tossing suitcases around with greater gusto than they used to. It’s as if they’re showing off for people in the plane or at the boarding gate who are pointing their phones right at them. “Hey folks,” the baggage handlers seem to say, “Look at this!” And then they throw a suitcase with the technique and strength of an Olympic shot putter. Once the suitcase crashes to the asphalt, they turn and bow for the cameras, confident that their final throw will earn them at least a bronze medal. 
  • Remember those old TV commercials for American Tourister luggage, which showed a gorilla throwing suitcases all around his cage and jumping on them? It was meant to be an exaggeration, but the way things are nowadays, it’s actually fairly accurate. (I recently read that those commercials were quite memorable, but most viewers didn’t catch the name of the suitcase manufacturer. A survey found that well over 50% thought it was Samsonite.)

  • I always do my best to use only carry-on bags whenever I fly. Besides avoiding that annoying wait at the luggage carousel, it keeps my suitcases away from baggage handlers with anger management issues. If I’m going to be away for many days, I just wear all the clothes I need right onto the plane: four shirts, two pairs of pants, five pairs of underwear, etc. I just wish people would stop taking viral videos of me as I waddle down the aisle.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Young Pup Explains ‘James Bond Christians’ 

In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, he discussed the heart of the Christian faith, which is belief in the Resurrection. Here are some thoughts on that passage, written almost 30 years ago, in the final chapter of a little book by a na├»ve young pup:

"There are a lot of earthly benefits to being a Christian….But if there is no hope for eternal life, if the secular humanists are correct that life is a random, meaningless accident which ends tragically at the moment of death, then we might as well crack open a bottle of tequila and max out the VISA and MasterCard right now. 

"The hope and faith in eternal life is the key difference between Christians and secular humanists….This assurance, this hope, this confidence in eternal life makes all the difference. It is what allows us to live as 'James Bond Christians.' 

"Well, OK, I’d better explain that one: 

"When I was a kid, I just loved those James Bond movies….The greatest thing about the character, Agent 007, was that no matter how perilous the situation became, he was always as cool as a cucumber. It was as if he KNEW no harm could ever come to him. 

"I can remember thinking that it would be so great to KNOW that my life was part of a grand script…and that no matter how awful a situation might be, everything would ultimately turn out fine. Then I could relax and not be scared and maybe be almost as cool as James Bond. 
"Well, despite being a weird analogy, this is what the Christian faith allows us to do. God has assured us that we are part of his grand plan in which we shall be victorious. When an eternal perspective is added to our natural life-span, we are able to realize that no matter what happens here and now, our ultimate fate is victory and glory. 

"With a faith and a hope such as this, we can handle whatever comes our way just like 'James Bond Christians.' We simply know that God has prepared in advance a marvelous place for us for all eternity. 

"In conclusion…when it comes time for my funeral, I don’t want any weeping or hand-wringing, understand? Save the tears and flowers for some other occasion and have a graduation party instead."

Oh, wasn’t he so cute, with his cock-sure optimism, split infinitives, and misuse of the words “which” and “that”? Don’t you just want to give that mid-1990s guy a big hug? 

But overall, he made a reasonably good point. Our faith in the Resurrection allows us to have confidence in eternal life. And it allows us even to laugh in the face of death, as St. Paul did: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). 
God never promised our journey here on earth would be easy — something the pup began to learn in recent years. However, despite our trials and tribulations, we still can be joyful and confident because our God is more powerful than death. 

The Resurrection and eternal life make all the difference. The truth of the Resurrection and the promise of eternal life allow us to be shaken, but not stirred. (Sorry, I had to say that.) We face many difficulties, but when we put our faith in Jesus and cling to His promises, we will never be defeated.

(Oh, by the way, the young pup who wrote those words three decades ago? Yeah, that was me.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

To Substack, or Not to Substack? That Is the Question

Recently, a good friend said to me, “Bill, you should expand your audience. You should start publishing your essays on Substack.”

“Stub crack?” I said. “What’s that?”

“It’s Substack,” he replied. “An internet platform for writers. You can create regular online newsletters, and as your audience increases it can turn into a very nice retirement income for you.”
“Wait. Did you say income?” I asked. “As in, money is paid to me, rather than me shelling out each month for my Mailchimp group email service?”

“Exactly,” he said. “On Substack, writers post a lot of stuff for free, but they have special content that’s for ‘members only,’ the readers who pay a subscription fee.”

“Oh, I have to ask people to subscribe and send me a check?” I grimaced. 

“No, it’s simple,” he said. “The subscription price is five bucks a month. They pay with a credit card. It’s like asking your loyal readers to buy you a cup of coffee once per month. Or half a cup, if we’re talking about Starbucks.”

I hesitated. “Aw, I dunno…”

He said, “Bill, for every five dollars that comes in, Substack keeps a small percentage, and you get the rest. Here’s an example. If your audience is a mere 500 people, that will be over $2,000 per month in your pocket, each and every month.”

“Wow, that would be nice,” I admitted.

“And,” he continued, “if you gain some readers in other parts of the country, and the number of your paid subscribers grows to, say, 5000, that would be over $20,000 for you — every month! Don’t you want to get rich in your retirement?”

“Rich?” I laughed. “I’ve spent the past 45 years making bad decisions to insure that I don’t get rich. My only retirement goal is to avoid living in a cardboard box under a bridge down by the river.”
“Bill, you gotta listen to me,” he implored. “This is the future of publishing. Now, you’ve got plenty of content, right?”

“Oh yeah,” I answered. “I write two new essays every week, and I have an archive of almost 1200 published humor columns, over a thousand faith essays, two novels, and ideas for at least three novels I’d like to work on during retirement.”

“Perfect!” he said. “You can serialize the novels, and mix the old stuff with the new in your Substack newsletters.”

I sat quietly for a few minutes, while visions of 20 grand per month danced in my head. Then I said, “Oh no, it won’t work.”

“Why?” my friend asked.

“If the people who regularly read my stuff were around 40 years old,” I explained, “it just might work. People that age don’t hesitate to use their credit cards to pay subscription fees. But you see, the people who like my stuff — at least based on emails I receive — are retired seniors.”

“So?” he asked. “Seniors are the wealthiest demographic in the country.”

“No, you don’t understand,” I said. “Many seniors may have some money, but they NEVER give their credit card number to an internet site — at least based on my parents and in-laws.”

Well, at this point, I don’t know what to think. Whenever I’m unsure about something, I ask this simple question: What would Jesus do? 

No wait. That question is for other situations. For this situation, the correct question is: What do the readers think?
Please send a note to and let me know if having access to my “special content” plus serialized novels is worth a cup of coffee per month — or half a cup if we’re talking Starbucks. Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom. And keep it clean.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Pride is the First and Worst of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’

Recently, I discussed pride with a friend. She explained that whenever one of her young children does something good, she is tempted to say, “That’s terrific! I’m so proud of you!” But since she knows that pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, she hesitates. We agreed a better thing to say would be, “That’s terrific! I’m so grateful to God for you!”

In our modern culture, we are inundated with people who declare how proud they are. In every case, pride is presented as a very good thing. For example, I remember back in my high school days, during football season many people in town put bumper stickers on their cars proclaiming: “Morgan Huskies Have Pride!”

For the first time in forever, our team was really good. During my senior year we went undefeated and won the league championship. So, someone in town printed up hundreds of bumper stickers and we all announced to the world (or at least to a small shoreline town) that we had pride.

However, is pride really a good thing? According to Church theologians, pride is not good at all. In fact, pride is not just one of the Seven Deadly Sins, it’s the first and worst of them all. Many of the other sins on the list have pride as their root. (By the way, if you’re not sure, here are the Big Seven: pride, anger, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, and sloth. Hmm, they kind of describe the American way of life these days, don’t they?)
What exactly is pride? Well, no one has ever discussed this concept better than C.S. Lewis. In his wonderful little book, Mere Christianity, there is a chapter titled, “The Great Sin.” Here’s what Lewis wrote: “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed and drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” Lewis tells us that pride is competitive by its very nature. “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others….It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.”

 So, to return to the “pride” bumper stickers, if football players are happy when they work hard and score a touchdown, it’s not really so bad to congratulate each other for a job well done. But if they score a touchdown and then immediately start taunting and mocking their opponents in an attempt to humiliate them, you can be sure sinful pride is at work. I can’t remember exactly how we behaved a half-century ago, but if we had taunted our opponents, our head coach would’ve made us run about 15 miles worth of laps at the next practice. It was a different era back then. Just watch any ballgame on TV nowadays. A guy will hit a solo home run in the 8th inning, when his team is behind 9 to 2, and he’ll strut around the bases pounding his chest and screaming to the crowd, “Look at me!!”

As Lewis stated, pride is the complete anti-God state of mind. He also explained why prideful people can’t stand the idea that there really is a God: “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that — and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison — you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God.”

We would be wise to learn from Lewis’ undeniable conclusion: “It is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.”
Pride is not a good thing. It puts us at odds with our fellow man, and more importantly, it puts us at odds with our Creator. Instead of declaring that we are proud of something (a child’s achievement, job promotion, scoring a touchdown, etc.), we really should say that we are grateful to God for that particular blessing.

I mean, really, why embrace an attitude that, as Lewis said, caused the devil to become the devil?

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Should Air Conditioning Be Banned?

Now that the summer weather is here, more and more people are complaining about air conditioning. No, they’re not complaining that their A/C unit cannot make the house cool enough. Instead, they’re complaining that air conditioning is bad for the environment. 

Well, guess what else is bad for the environment: B.O.

That’s right, if millions of people are sweating because climate activists want to restrict the use of air conditioning, those sweaty people are going to stink. If you have countless people giving off offensive smell rays, it ruins the environment. (By the way, “smell rays” are those wavy lines that cartoonists use to indicate something is stinky.)
All kidding aside, there actually are people fretting that air conditioning uses too much electricity, which hurts the environment. I suspect these are the same folks who use private jets and gas-guzzling limousines to criss-cross the globe trying to shame people for committing the sin of wanting to be comfortable. Whatever doom-and-gloom scenario these people are selling, I’m not buying. 

Now, full disclosure: I work in the air conditioning business. The company I work for sells commercial ventilation equipment. But you know what? Even if I worked in a completely different industry, I would still be a big fan of air conditioning. Why? Because I don’t particularly enjoy being awake the entire night, unable to fall asleep because I’m lying in a pool of my own sweat.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy website, “Air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States.” That’s it: six percent. If you ask me, that’s a real bargain. 

I found an online news story with this headline: “‘Absolutely disastrous’: Air conditioners take horror toll on the environment, campaigners warn.” Yeah, you know what else takes a “horror toll” on the environment? Countless sweaty, smelly, uncomfortable people, many of whom faint or die from heat stroke. 

Forcing people to go without A/C is no different than forcing people to wear cardboard boxes on their feet instead of shoes. It’s a major leap backwards in technology and comfort.

Some of these activists point out that humankind survived for tens of thousands of years without air conditioning. That is true. Humankind also survived for tens of thousands of years without hospitals, antibiotics, clean drinking water, and Pop Tarts. During this long period of time without any modern conveniences, the average person lived to the ripe old age of 32. I prefer not to return to those days — especially the no Pop Tarts thing.

Something tells me the people complaining about the carbon footprint of the electricity used to run air conditioners never denounce the electricity needed to recharge their Teslas. Where do you think that juice comes from, the Electron Fairy?
If the carbon footprint of the electricity used to run air conditioning equipment is worrisome, let’s do something smart: phase out coal- and oil-fired power plants, and replace them with natural gas and nuclear power plants.

Another concern about air conditioning is the refrigerant gas in the systems, which occasionally leaks. Most experts say having those chemicals released into the atmosphere is not good for the environment. However, government regulators are taking steps to reduce the impact. One popular refrigerant is scheduled to be phased out on January 1st, 2025. The new refrigerant replacing it has a much lower global warming potential, but it is classified as “mildly flammable.” Hmm, that’s a curious term. Is that like being mildly unemployed or mildly pregnant?

Air conditioning is no longer a luxury. It’s now an important part of modern life. A/C also keeps us healthier, especially if we can minimize giving off offensive smell rays.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

More Thoughts On Purgatory

Last month I wrote about Purgatory. I explained that it is possible to avoid what I call God’s “attitude adjustment bootcamp” if we develop the correct spiritual attitudes while still on this side of eternity. The primary sinful attitude we need to shun is selfish pride, and the virtue that is opposite of pride is humility. I thought it was a fairly well thought out and clever essay (which proves that I still have way too much pride and not nearly enough humility).

Soon after that essay on Purgatory was published, I received an email note that said, “So, you’re saying that you are really humble and you’re not going to Purgatory, huh?”
Well, actually, I said nothing of the sort. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it lately, but the main reason I compose these essays is to remind myself of important theological concepts. I have received a lot of feedback over the years from people who tell me this Merry Catholic feature has helped their faith life. I’m very grateful whenever I can assist someone in their walk with Christ. But to be perfectly honest, I’m not a teacher, I’m not a preacher, and I have not been called to stand on the rooftops and proclaim the Good News for all to hear. (Besides, whenever I climb onto a roof, I get dizzy. So, that would not be a smart thing to do.) 

Whenever I get an idea and sit down at my computer, I am writing for myself. I am working through various spiritual concepts so that I can better understand and apply them to my life. When I’m done, I’ll post it online, but that’s not the reason I composed the piece in the first place. I did it to improve my own walk with Christ.

Years ago author Joan Didion said, “I write to find out what I think.” That is so true for me. Many times I’ve had an idea I wanted to explore, and I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted to say. But then when I started writing, along with doing a little research and reviewing various Scripture passages, I discovered my original thoughts were somewhat offbase. As I typed away and tried to logically explain something, I came to understand a whole new aspect of that topic. I truly did find out what I thought by sitting down and writing. Whenever that happens, it’s a little exciting and very humbling. I think to myself, “Wow, this is an interesting new take on this subject.” And then I add, “But man, my previous view was way off base!”
So, to answer the email I received: no, I was not saying that I am really humble, nor did I claim that I will avoid Purgatory. I understand far too well that I have a lot of selfish pride. I judge others and compare myself to them constantly. When I do that, I immediately understand that it’s wrong, but I can't help myself.

Regarding Purgatory, if I drop dead before finishing this sentence, then I’m sure– uhh, uhh, aaaaack…… 

No, just kidding. I didn’t croak. Not yet, anyway. What I was trying to say before I was so rudely interrupted by myself, is this: If I have to stand before God in judgment now, I am definitely going to spend time at the “attitude adjustment bootcamp.” Right now I’m too self-centered and too judgmental. I will definitely need Purgatory to excise all those bad traits from my soul.

The whole point of my essay last month was the fact that we do not necessarily have to spend time in Purgatory after we die. If our souls are pure, we can go straight to Heaven. If we work at being more humble now, then maybe we won’t have to go to bootcamp later. At my current rate of improvement, I should be all set in about 196 more years. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Insects and Spiders and Bugs, Oh My!

The other day I was driving back to the office after a meeting. The car radio was on, but I was spacing out. Then the DJ mentioned a statistic that caused me to pause and say, “Wait, what?” I didn’t quite hear, but it sounded like he said for every single human being on earth, there are millions, or maybe billions, of insects. 

I was curious about what the DJ actually said. So, when I arrived at the office, the first thing I did was ignore a bunch of voice messages waiting for me, plus a load of urgent emails, plus the promise I made to call a client the moment I got back to my desk. Instead, I did what any responsible engineering sales guy with a to-do list a mile long would do: I did a Google search for earth’s human-to-bug ratio. 
Depending on which scientific organization you prefer to trust, the answer is anywhere from 1.4 billion to 2 billion insects and other bugs per person. When I read that statistic, my first thought was: Eww, that’s a lot of creepy, crawling critters on this planet. My second thought was: I don’t feel so bad anymore for not using a paper Dixie Cup to scoop up an insect on the floor and take it outdoors, as my wife encourages me to do. My method when seeing an insect in the house is a bit more blunt and final — especially for the bug. I still have to go outside, of course, to scrape bug goo off the bottom of my shoe.

When I did that Google search, a bunch of other bug-related fun facts appeared on my computer screen, most of which I really wish I had not seen. For example, I bet you didn’t know that human beings eat insects. And I don’t mean certain foreign cultures that incorporate insects into their local cuisine. I mean human beings who have no desire to eat insects, such as you and me. Every person in the U.S. unknowingly consumes, on average, one-and-a-half pounds of insects per year. At first, I thought bugs must be getting into the machinery in food processing plants, and then are mixed into hot dogs and other products. However, the insects that enter our digestive systems without us knowing it come mostly from fruits and vegetables. See? I always knew hot dogs were better for us than veggies.
Here’s another fun fact: the average human being has 1.5 million bugs living on him or her. When I first read that, I exclaimed, “Nope, not me. I have a bubble bath every day. I’m bug-free!” Well, I read a little further, and it turns out I am NOT bug free. Not even close. There are microscopic critters called “mites.” Mites are in the arachnid family, which means they are the cousins of spiders and scorpions. And mites are all over our bodies, feasting on dead skin cells. I get a really uncomfortable feeling just thinking about that. But not nearly as uncomfortable as the feeling I get when my mind wanders and I imagine my body being covered with 1.5 million spiders and/or scorpions. I’ve never been a big fan of horror movies, and I’m definitely not a big fan of the idea that tiny horror films are taking place on my body 24/7.

So, I think we all know what the moral of this story is: whenever you’re driving back to the office after a meeting, keep the radio off. And when you arrive at the office, dig into that to-do list rather than doing a nightmare-inducing Google search. Then at lunchtime, enjoy your peanut butter and cricket sandwich. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Should Christians Watch Violent Movies?

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered this important spiritual observation: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Well, Jesus didn’t say it exactly that way. The phrase is popular in the computer software world, and it means if you start with incorrect data, you’re going to end up with incorrect results.

This concept is mentioned in the Bible, sort of. In his epistle to the Romans, St. Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2). And in his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:2).

Paul meant that if we fill our minds with unwholesome thoughts, we will end up living unwholesome lives. In other words, Garbage in, garbage out.
This idea came up recently when I read an article on a Christian website that said believers should not watch movies with bad values. The article specifically mentioned James Bond movies.

Is it wrong for a Christian to watch James Bond movies? Um, asking for a friend.

It’s an undeniable fact that James Bond movies glorify violence, alcohol abuse, and sexual promiscuity. I guess you could make the same statement about three-quarters of all the movies and TV shows produced these days.

So, I guess the question is, can we watch popular entertainment without some of its unwholesome values seeping into our souls?

Well, I’ve watched a lot… er, I mean, my friend has watched a lot of James Bond movies over the years. And he doesn’t go around blowing things up and shooting people every 15 minutes. He hasn’t had a drink in almost four decades, and he has never cheated on his lovely wife.
But can he really say he has not been subtly influenced by all the coarse themes depicted in James Bond films, along with all the other secular content he watches, reads, and listens to?

Hmm, that’s hard to say.

And speaking of “listen to,” what about popular music that is not very wholesome? I’m reminded of that classic song with a nice melody but horrible lyrics: “Imagine,” by John Lennon. The song opens with these words: “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.”

The song is pretty much the Atheist Anthem. It’s about as ungodly as it gets. And this song is played frequently on my favorite Catholic radio station, along with many other well-known pop songs. I’m pretty sure faithful Catholics do not hear this song and suddenly renounce their religious beliefs and embrace Mr. Lennon’s unattainable dream of godless utopia.

In addition to enjoying James Bond movies, I also… er, I mean, my friend also likes listening to John Lennon and the Beatles. So far, my friend has not been tempted to try Eastern Mysticism, LSD, or comically odd hairstyles — as long as we ignore his 1975 high school yearbook photos.

As Catholics, we are not Bible-thumping fundamentalists who insist that watching any movie or having a single drink of alcohol are sinful behaviors and therefore prohibited. The Catholic Church teaches that alcoholic beverages are acceptable — in moderation. Alcohol abuse, however, is a sin.
The same, I suspect, is true for movies and music. If it’s occasional entertainment that doesn’t cause us to “conform to the pattern of this world,” as Paul described it, then it’s probably OK.

The Holy Spirit can help us discern what is best. If the only movies a person watches are in the James Bond genre, or if he or she only listens to coarse music, then maybe it’s become a “Garbage in, garbage out” situation, and it’s time instead to “think of what is above.” It might take some digging, but there is a fair amount of wholesome, uplifting entertainment available. 

I think I’ll give that a try… er, I mean, I think I’ll tell my friend.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

More (Tentative) Thoughts About Beta Males

Recently, I discussed “modalities of manhood,” a term I had never heard before. Using Greek letters, it’s a description of various traits men possess. I had heard the term “alpha male” in the past, often used to describe strong-willed leaders who take charge. But I didn’t realize there also are beta, gamma, delta, sigma, zeta, and omega males.

One website offered this definition of one of those categories: “Beta males are extremely kind and down to earth. Shyer and more reserved, beta males value personal relationships over material wealth or career achievements. They’re often associated with happy, long-term marriages. Betas are communicative, creative, and make great romantic partners.”
Not to brag (since beta males are humble), but of all the “modalities,” the description of beta male was the closest match to me. Well, after that column appeared in the newspaper, a reader sent me the link to a different website. Here’s the description of a beta male: “A man who is not as successful or powerful as other men. Someone who is perceived to be weak and unimpressive. ‘Beta’ is a slang insult for a man who is passive, subservient, and effeminate.”

Hey, wait a minute. I don’t like that definition at all. I think I’m going to contact that website and raise a ruckus. No wait, I hate confrontation and conflict. Instead I’ll just whine about it here. (Hmm, is that a sign of being a weak beta? Probably.)

I checked some other websites to see if I could find a more positive definition. A blog comment offered this take: “A beta male is the kind of wimp who would waste time looking up the definition of beta male.” Very funny, alpha dude.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I am not an alpha male. The few times in my life I’ve been in leadership positions — captain of the high school football team, supervisor of a department in a manufacturing facility, and the head of a customer service group — I was extremely uncomfortable. I preferred to be friends with those other people, not the guy who was supposed to scrutinize their work and demand better. I would actually wake up in the middle of the night with a knot in my stomach, fretting over a confrontation I needed to initiate the next day.
So, I am very blessed that my current job has no supervisory responsibilities. I’m kind of an independent operator within the company. And my part time job, writing essays for various publications, is a completely solo endeavor — not counting my wife’s input to correct all my grammatical errors and occasionally say, “Really? You want to reveal that about yourself in the newspaper?” I bet that’s the comment I’m going to hear when she proofreads this one.

As I’ve mentioned previously, when I retire from my full time job sometime in the near future, I have a bunch of ideas for books I’d like to write. After doing unexpected online research about “modalities of manhood,” I now have another book idea to add to the list. The title will be, “Confessions of a Proud Beta Male,” with this subtitle: “Well, not that proud, since pride is a sin.”

One chapter will be devoted to all the World Wars caused by beta males. It will be a short chapter, since the exact number is: zero.

The book will focus on the positive characteristics we betas possess. I’ll try to do my best not to make too much fun of arrogant alphas, but on the other hand, mocking people (from a distance) is kind of my superpower. Look for it in bookstores! It will be on the bottom shelf, hidden behind copies of the latest alpha male autobiography.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Shock Rock ‘Bad Boy’ Loves Jesus

The other day my wife and I were watching “Jonathan & Jesus,” a Prime Video series about the actor who plays Jesus in the acclaimed show, “The Chosen.” A camera crew followed Jonathan Roumie around, as he traveled the world going to meetings and doing promotional events for the hit show.

The format of the series is very unstructured, with a lot of hand-held cameras. There are multiple vignettes of Roumie having conversations with friends and fans, and generally dealing with the hectic life and significant burden that comes with being the “face of Christ” to so many people. Roumie and his friends don’t hesitate to talk about their faith in the Lord, which is very refreshing. (Roumie is a devout Catholic, and the creator of the show, Dallas Jenkins, is an evangelical Protestant.) The program is enjoyable to watch, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is familiar with “The Chosen.” 
I must admit, I was quite surprised during one episode when Jonathan Roumie spent time chatting with a friend who had become a Christian later in life. The friend’s name is Vincent Furnier, but most people know him by his stage name: Alice Cooper. Yes, THAT Alice Cooper, the originator of “shock rock” in the early 1970s.

Back when rock bands focused primarily on playing music during live concerts, the Alice Cooper band was way ahead of its times, bringing exotic theatrical elements to the shows. Common props included: fake blood, axes, gallows, simulated torture and executions, a boa constrictor, and a guillotine. The more that parents and preachers and politicians railed against the band, claiming that Alice Cooper’s macabre “horror rock” was corrupting the morals of America’s youth, the more popular the band became.

Which, of course, is nothing new. Teenagers love doing things that annoy adults. As soon as grown-ups complain about something, teens go out of their way to embrace that exact thing. If parents started complaining that homework was bad for their children, the kids would immediately start begging their teachers to assign lots of homework. (Hmm, maybe parents should employ a little reverse psychology.)
Anyway, the segment where Roumie chatted with Alice Cooper was fascinating. Cooper, now in his mid-70s, still has the iconic long, black hair, giving him the appearance of a bad-boy rock star. But he’s a very well-spoken and intelligent man, and he calmly and quietly discussed his struggles with alcohol and drugs, and how putting his faith in Christ many years ago completely changed his life. (Hey, that’s my story, too, except for the millionaire rock star part.)

After turning his life over to Christ and getting sober, Cooper told his manager that he felt compelled to go public with his religious conversion and sobriety. His manager flat-out told him, “If you do that, your career is over.”  

Ignoring his manager’s advice, Cooper told the world about his love for Jesus, and it didn’t hurt his career at all.

I have some Alice Cooper songs downloaded on my phone, but to be honest, I’ve never been a fan of heavy metal, death metal, horror rock, or whatever they call it. I prefer more mainstream classic rock, such as The Beatles, Springsteen, Eagles, U2, etc. Because of this, I hadn’t really kept track of Alice Cooper’s career. I knew of him (or them, since the band and the lead singer go by the same name), but I didn't know what he was up to these days.
So, let me just say this: the phrase “Alice Cooper is a born-again Christian” was definitely not on my bingo card. It was a real surprise to see the legendary bad boy of rock talking to Jonathan Roumie about how much he loves Jesus and how the Lord delivered him from addiction and despair.

The moral of the story is simple: the power of Christ can overcome even the worst of situations. If you don’t know the Lord, ask Him into your heart today. If you get a chance, watch “Jonathan & Jesus.” And definitely watch “The Chosen.” 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

How Can Loving Parents Do That?!

Recently, it came to my attention that very few people are aware of the infamous “Midwest Children’s Opium Epidemic of the 1880s.” In the years after the Civil War, as Americans expanded westward, children were smoking opium and getting addicted, primarily in the cities of Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita. The parents of these children provided the opium, and approved of their offspring getting high on a daily basis. Even when the children started to have major problems as a result of their addiction, parents continued to give them the drug. Most parents explained that their kids really enjoyed opium, and if they took the narcotic away, the children would be ostracized and teased at school. The Kansas City Star reported that many parents were unwilling to have their children be the only kids in school who didn’t smoke opium. The epidemic, which began in the early 1880s, continued unabated for a full decade. 
I am quite surprised that more people are not aware of this embarrassing chapter in U.S. history. It’s just mind-boggling that so many otherwise sane adults let their precious children be ravaged by a powerful drug for so long.

Actually, I suspect the main reason so few people are aware of the infamous “Midwest Children’s Opium Epidemic of the 1880s” is the fact it never happened. That’s right, I just made it up. But I bet as you were reading the first paragraph you were getting rather upset. “How could parents do that?!” you were most likely thinking. “How could they watch their kids ruin their lives, and yet do nothing?!” 
Loving and sane parents would never do that, right? They would never willingly give their children a powerful mind-altering substance and just passively stand there while their kids’ lives were destroyed, right?

Well, don’t be so sure. A similar situation is taking place right now, and unfortunately it’s not something I just made up. Today countless parents are providing their children with a highly addictive product, and are just standing by passively as the kids’ lives are being ruined. The powerful mind-altering drug being given to America’s youth today is the deadly cocktail of smartphones and social media.

Studies have found that emotional issues and mental health problems among adolescents have skyrocketed in recent years. It’s at epidemic levels now. A major spike in children’s mental health problems began right around 2012. Why then? Because that was the time when the majority of youngsters fully embraced smartphones and social media. 
The federal Health and Human Services website has this to say about the issue: “Children and adolescents who spend more than 3 hours a day on social media face double the risk of mental health problems including experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is concerning, as a recent survey showed that teenagers spend an average of 3.5 hours a day on social media. And when asked about the impact of social media on their body image, 46% of adolescents aged 13-17 said social media makes them feel worse.”

Today’s drug dealers work in fancy office buildings, making tons of money for online services such as Tiktok, Snapchat, and Instagram. It’s been proven beyond a doubt that these companies develop their products to be highly addictive, especially for young people.

I hope a hundred years from now, folks are not talking about the infamous “U.S. Children’s Social Media Epidemic of the Early 2000s,” and wondering how loving and sane parents could have stood by passively and allowed their kids to be harmed so much. Unfortunately, the way things are going today, this will be a major topic for historians and sociologists to investigate. That is, of course, unless our entire society collapses before then.