Panem et Circenses

On a local radio show the other morning, the sports guy was talking about the lockouts facing professional sports and lamented “No NBA, no NFL?  What are we going to do?”  Right about now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with that weird phrase in the title, panem et circenses.  Well, that’s Latin for bread and circuses, which is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement{{1}}.  And, professional sports, television, video games and just about every other aspect of pop culture fits that description.    Think about it for minute, when you’re watching a ballgame, playing the latest offering on X Box or Playstation or on the edge of your seat, wondering if Scotty’s going to make to the finals of American Idol, you’re not worrying about all the stuff that’s wrong in this broken world of ours.  And, that’s kinda the point of it all.

The phrase bread and circuses comes from a poem by the Roman playwright Juvenal, where it stands for the only thing a public that’s given up its political involvement cares about anymore.  These people want to eat and they want spectacle and they want it now.  Forget engagement in society, taking a part in their government or anything else, just feed me and entertain me; nothing else matters.  Unfortunately, we seem to be heading the same direction these days.  While I disagree with just about all of their politics, one thing I admire about many of the people involved in the Tea Party movement is their passion for what they believe.  Same for those on the Far Left, like Code Pink and MoveOn.  I think both sides take things too far, but at least they taking it somewhere instead sitting immobilized in front of their TV, emptying their brains of constructive thought and having it replaced with consumerist crap.

Lest you think this is a strictly political post, let me bring it back to my usual topic, faith.  Unfortunately, many people haven’t just given up their political involvement, they’ve given up involvement in their faith.  Oh, they’d argue if you told them that.  Well, they would if you could tear them away from the TV long enough to say so.  But, if you’re glued to the television every Sunday afternoon and evening, watching ballgames, races, golf, tennis or whatever else is on, there are things you’re missing out on.  Maybe the youth group in your church needs another leader, or perhaps the choir or praise team could use your particular talents.  Or maybe, your family would love to spend that time with you, doing whatever.  Instead rabidly following American Idol, Survivor, The Amazing Race, you could spend that time in a bible study, a social circle or, again with your family.  If you walk around with earbuds in, listening to your iPod and oblivious to everything, you’ll walk right by the person that needs your help the most.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these things are bad.  They provide a momentary escape that’s needed at times.  What I’m saying is that pop culture is all about me and not about us.  I’m saying that the escape becomes addictive, an end in itself.  It pulls us in, distracts us from the important stuff and, eventually takes over our lives.  We forget everything else and when our IV feed of crap becomes jeopardized and we say things like “No NFL, No NBA?  What are we going to do?”  Hopefully, we’ll engage those around us and do some good.                                         [[1]][[1]]