Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Who are the Present Day Pharisees and Scribes?

A survey made by a research institute discovered that most of the elderly over 65, spend their leisure time watching TV. A column in the Catholic Times gives us some facts that the writer wants us to  ponder. The elderly are limited to the channels  that are of interest and fun to watch. Sadly, because  of economic difficulties, many are not able to take advantage of the cultural events in society. 

Many viewers,  even though vaguely, put  trust in what they see and hear on TV. When a restaurant is introduced by the media, it becomes the restaurant of choice, and viewpoints become the majority opinion.

Those who are producing TV  programs know they have to  grab the attention of the viewers when they  surf for channels, the time is less than 3 minutes, so they have to fill their offering with sensational and stimulating fare. Those who think that TV is offering the viewers something objective and impartial are not sufficiently discerning.   

TV is  often called the Fools Box, but the writer quotes the French intellectual Pierre Bourdieu,  who felt TV was  hindering democracy with its vulgar industrialism-- not only distorting our culture but  hurting a healthy democracy. 

Precisely for this reason the Church is concerned in the way the mass media and the news are conveyed.  "Information is among the principal instruments of democratic participation. Participation without an understanding of the situation of the political community, the facts and the proposed solutions to problems is unthinkable. It is necessary to guarantee a real pluralism in this delicate area of social life, ensuring that there are many forms and instruments of information and communications... Among the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of the right to objectivity in information, special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups. This has dangerous effects for the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishment"(Social Doctrine of the Church #414). 

Consequently it is up to the viewer to be wise and discriminating when dealing with the mass media.  Especially in viewing TV we need to be discerning and critical of what we see. It is not the wise thing to view programs to fill up our time. There are many other things that can be done: reading magazines, papers and the Scriptures. 

The writer even gives the readers the possibility of not watching TV. He mentions his own experience in not watching TV, and has  found many  other profitable things to do. Time for prayer, and being more interested in those around him; his world  has become  larger. What is important is to be the master and not the slave. When that happens we are free.

A good question to ask ourselves is who takes the place of the Pharisees and Scribes in our society. They were the  influential leaders in society the makers of the culture and the reason that Jesus was exceptionally severe in his criticism of their words and deeds. They were influencing  society and not for the good-- distorting the values that were the message of creation.

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