Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Objects and Evil Part 1: A Commentary on the Issue of Using Things and Social Media, or Why I Choose Not To Abhor Facebook

Hello Everyone,

I am deciding to comment on an issue and a relevant sub-issue that is popping up a little bit on my blogger feeds: Using objects for moral goods/evangelization and social media. I want to start general about usage of goods and what got me writing, and then to say why I remain on Facebook (albeit not promoting Servimus, or maybe I should ..... hmmmm), despite what I have witnessed online.

Introduction: Where am I going, and What got me Writing
The starting point for me is that I observed a posting on a blog that I do not want to give anymore web hits to, nor name, as I've found the content to be critical to the point of overstepping proper, Catholic fraternal charity, particularly in a number of instances, some with regards to the Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto. While lately postings have supported our Holy Father, Pope Francis, if one has been reading it as long as I have, the "bigger picture" is one that I cannot endorse, one that unfortunately also supports other elements in our diocese, that I will not be promoting on this blog. See my "about page" to see what my blog stands for and my intentions with Servimus for more info on what guides my decisions to link blogs and not to.

On this blog, one of the group of men who write for the blog, has decided to take down the corresponding Facebook Page for their website, after finding Facebook a cesspool of near-pornography and Catholics living double lives.

If one is a traditional, older, moral man, I can see the shock for someone just venturing into what Facebook has now developed too. It may be no piddle-sticks to one like myself who has been "wired" from day one, or as a child. But, I have been part of Facebook since 2003, so I have seen where it's gone from, from a simple social media networking site, to one with ads, online free (with pay option) gaming, and worse, including the advertising content. In addition, it has mostly, or always allowed for posting of electronic pictures from digital cameras, scanned print pictures, or cellphone cameras. Needless to say, people in this "ME" age, or tell-all, hide nothing age, think that it's fun to let the world know about the raucous parties you go to, or to flash some skin needlessly. I've even defriended a person or two as I couldn't stand the stuff they were promoting in their newsfeeds online. I can understand the shock part of it, and the reaction is valid, but as for the decision to kill all participation in Facebook, I disagree for reasons I will explain in my second post on these matters.

So the summary argument of this "trad" blogger is: Facebook is a cesspool of evil, porn, immorality, and two-faced Catholics that show the sickness of the youth and our world, and I will not be a participant in the demon machine attached to Hell known as Facebook.

Scalia's Points: General Usage of Goods for Good or Evil
What finally got me to write these posts today, is that I caught a blog post by the Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia, with regards to money and power, and referencing a Billy Joel song: Everybody Loves you Now, about his fame. Scalia is a Benedictine Oblate (tertiary layperson's order) who writes at The Anchoress. However, Scalia's content in this post does intersect the issue above about Facebook from a use of goods standpoint.

In her post, she comments on the fame aspect of the song, but then proceeds to talk about money and its usage for good and for evil, with reference also to Pope Francis' "Pope of the Poor" modus operandi as our current Holy Father. The underlined content pertains to the subject matter at hand in my postings:

".... But while the pope is, justifiably, dressing down the “bishop of bling”, I wouldn’t make the argument that wealth is, in and of itself, an evil thing. Saint Paul says the love of money is the root of all evil, not the money itself. Just as guns are simply objects, only made evil in how they are used, money is just money, and how you attach to it, and what you choose to do with it, is what corrupts the soul.
Prosperity is not evil in and of itself. A wealthy nation is one that can respond quickly and effectively to help another nation in crisis. A wealthy philanthropist can do a great deal of good for others. It was the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea who had the coin, the connections, and the clout to have Jesus’s tortured body removed from the cross, shrouded in fine linen, and entombed before the Sabbath. All of this was essential to the Resurrection. But prosperity can be a fast and powerful vehicle for driving us away from what Christ has told us is essential which does not include getting rich.
In the end, everything always comes down to our intention, and with how we use the gifts we are given. You could do a great deal of good with money, if your heart is open to it."

It makes perfect sense. Whether it's a physical tool, like a knife, a talent like computer programming, or a computer program, like Facebook, we can all use it the way we choose. A knife can cut our food, free someone stranded by rope, or you can thrust it into someone's torso to pierce a vital organ, causing a person to be murdered with the cause of death being exsanguination (bleeding to death). The computer programmer can create useful programs, such as ones which organize our life and keep track of things, like say a spreadsheet that keeps' a parish's budget on track, or you can make malicious programs such as viruses that can take your vital imformation for someone's evil purposes, or even destroy your computers themselves. I am sure you can see that the same could be said for Facebook, which is, at its core, a computer program created by a user (which we know, one of was a principal founder, Mark Zuckerberg).

Before I get specific with Facebook though, what can we delve from Scripture, and our church theology and teachings on using Goods?

Scripture and Theology
New Testament
Let's begin with a passage that comes to mind: The usage of talents. Jesus tells of the parable of a land or business owner who gives lots of money for his servants to go out and make more profit, in
Matthew 25: 14-30 (NRSV, B/C we use this translation in Canada):
"14 For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents,f to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The obvious here is that the foolish servant who wasted his money, or just let it not be used to profit, despite the least amount, wasn't looked above highly. It is also highly evident, without me having to consult someone with more theological training than I, that verse 29 - 30 is referring to our spiritual salvation. You do the work of the Lord and remain steadfast, you will be rewarded with Him, but the other guy ... well let's not be him shall we? And part of that is using the gifts and talents God gave us for His glory on Earth.

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Our current Catechism, lists the following under explanation of the Seventh Commandment:


 You shall not steal.186  

2401 The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one's neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world's goods to God and to fraternal charity.   


2402 In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits.187 The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race ....

2404 "In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself."188 .... 

2405 Goods of production - material or immaterial - .... oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor ....   

2414 The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason - selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian - lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord."194

So what can we glean from these paragraphs, or at least how can I relate this to the Facebook situation? Generally, we are to use the goods we have, for the sake of respecting our God who created us and our world in the first place, and that we should be stewards of these gifts, using them for good reason. These goods are to the benefit of all members of our world, including ourselves and our friends.

CCC 2404 says it best though, because the good of production, both material and immaterial, requires us to use them to their maximal goodness. Facebook is a computer program, and runs on a program, and hence is "material" in that sense, but its content could be possibly "Immaterial" in the sense you cannot touch it, hold it in your hand, etc. It is "data". Have you ever been able to hold "Data" in your hands? Or an electric signal? The pictures you post, and your text, etc. are physical in the empirical sense that you can see them with your eyes, however it's not "material" in that you can't hold it in your hand, your ideas are not physical in themselves, but are made physical in the text, and what is conveyed in your pictures (the idea again in your pose or your more-revealing photos) is not malleable.

In addition, Facebook has sadly morphed less and less from its original function and context, as other deadly sins of pride, and especially greed, have creeped its way into Facebook, from online games of questionable morals, and even advertisments promoting dating with escorts, and games that feature scantily-clad heroines enticing young men to, em, fantasize online while killing fictional beasts. So yes, Facebook is actually participating indirectly in CCC 2414 with that regard, or directly if these advertisments are being OK'd by Zuckerberg and his staff in the appropriate division of his company running Facebook.

And what about the young people online who like to show themselves provocatively, or pictures of their latest drunken bouts, or ventures into electronic music festivals where there was likely drugs and liquor involved? Well yes, whether they know it or not, if you read the paragraphs above, we too, have a role to play, in using Facebook properly. It's not just those with businesses or profits, it's also those of us who use Facebook profiles. 2405 and 2414 strike again: When you are putting up pictures of yourself in those awkward poses, or a whole bunch of yourself (like, wayyyyy many pictures),

(1) Are you using Facebook in a way that you can assist your fellow man, your family, your friends, or are you engaging in self-gratification, saying "look at me! I'm a bad-@#3, / A hottie".
(2) Those who gaze at your pictures or posts, are you encouraging them to carry out the Gospel of the Lord and assist their fellow man, or are you just entertaining yourself and them? Think about it, what will encourage someone to feed the homeless, a picture of your shirtless self or a chest shot, or a picture of you working at a homeless shelter feeding those who are less fortunate?
(3) CCC 2414: Believe it or not, by putting up those pictures of yourself, are you really giving yourself the human dignity and respect you deserve or think you do, and telling others that you deserve that respect? What is the message about your human dignity and respect you are sending to your friends, family, and any onlookers to your Facebook profile?

So here we have a bit of Catechism and Scripture to tell us about what responsibility we have with our goods, materially and spiritually speaking. It's not just the bigwigs, it's also you and me, with what we can grip in our hand, and what we do online.

But now, you might be saying "Well Julian, you just proved that blogger's point. Facebook is the work of a Devil's minion and we should abhor it like the plague!!!!"

Really? Well, perhaps that's what you choose, but I am not making that decision for a number of reasons, ones I will be expanding upon in my next post.

Pax, Julian.

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