Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christians: How to Abstain from Questionable Worldly Amusements

[This is another piece that was written for Yahoo but never made it into the online publication queue there. It grew out of my Seventh-Day Adventist memories, from a time when the church was trying to purge itself of old, elaborate rules about how believers ought to abstain from various "questionable worldly amusements." Granted, the list of abstinences seemed to be different for every different congregation, and some people claimed to have been offended, in the past, by expectations that they abstain from things they had never been asked to renounce. What I saw more of was people being offended, in the then-present, by expectations that they'd want to go back to doing things they'd stopped doing long ago, for good reasons, or never wanted to do in the first place.]

For those who think they need a rule about giving up questionable worldly amusements, I propose a rule of multiple choice. Everyone should be able to say no to at least some of these 45 things that capitalists are trying to sell us, for their benefit not ours. (Note that some things I personally do buy and use are on this list, along with things I conscientiously abstain from using.)


1. Gas-burning vehicles.

2. Television.

3. Credit cards.

4. Cell phones.

5. Ipods, CD and DVD players, whatever other electronic entertainment junk is being marketed this year.

6. Microwave ovens.

7. Dysfunctional shoes.

8. Nylon stockings, nylon underwear, any other form of plastic intended to be worn in direct contact with the body.

9. Lawn mowers, weed-eaters, leaf blowers, and the whole concept of having a lawn. Grassland that is not being sustained by and for the needs of grass-eating animals needs to develop into native plants other than grass.

10. Life insurance. (The alternative is to save your own money for whatever you want to have done with your mortal remains.)

11. Alcoholic beverages.

12. Junk food...whatever that means toyou.

13. Commercial beef, because the industry has not formally apologized yet for trying to infringe on Oprah Winfrey’s freedom of speech.

14. Makeup, because it’s an expense you can do without, or because even the products marketed as “cruelty-free” are being made by corporations that continue testing new products on little bunny rabbits.

15. Battery-operated toys.

16. Carpets.

17. Genetically modified food.

18. Poisonous “pesticides.” (Natural pesticides, like tobacco, tannin, borax, pyrethrum, juglone, ammonia, vinegar, and boiling water, can be used to kill really obnoxious weeds, bugs, and fungi in a mindful way.)

19. Foods imported from countries that tolerate procedures banned by our own F.D.A., like spraying crops with DDT or selling rabbit (or worse) meat as chicken.

20. Domestic air travel.

21. Medical treatments you believe to be ethically dubious...abortions, transplants, transfusions, vaccinations, excessive use of “pain medication,” or whatever.

22. Doctors and hospitals that perform ethically dubious procedures.

23. Hospitals that admit patients in the absence of a friend, relative, or patients’ rights advocate present to ensure that the patient receives only appropriate treatment to which the patient has given informed consent. (In practice, honest mistakes are far more common thn real patient abuse...but, when nobody but the patient, who may be unconscious, is there to supervise hospital staff, anything can happen.)

24. Neighborhoods or “communities” that have restrictive rules about how houses can be landscaped and decorated, whether legitimate businesses can be carrried on within a home, etc.

25. Products manufactured or marketed by corporations whose other work you deplore.

26. Fur coats. (As far as my generation are concerned, that look died years ago. I’m dismayed that Eastern European immigrants are even trying to bring it back.)

27. Encouraging rats by failing to keep either a cat or a rat terrier.

28. Petrochemical perfumes (as found in cheap cologne, commercial deodorant, and also in some hygiene products).

29. Public elementary schools.

30. Going back to work while children are young enough to need “day care.”

31. Games played with cards and dice.

32. Electronic games.

33. Movies and videos.

34. Stage plays.

35. Colorful slick-paper magazines (because they don’t recycle well and release cyanide when burned)...that said, I love that my collection of Knitter's magazines shows knitted projects so clearly and resists mold infection so well!

36. “Uncensored” city news magazines that advertise “underground” enterprises, such as prostitution, from which you want to withhold all support. (I love the Washington City Paper, too...but I know Christians who won't read it, no matter how good the lead article may be.)

37. Any novels, because you believe that reading other people’s fantasies is a waste of time.

38. Cheap “genre” novels, because you believe reading stories whose ends you can predict is a waste of time.

39. Sexually explicit novels.

40. Badly written novels.

41. Watching sports.

42. Playing sports.

43. Keeping score while playing sports.

44. Businesses that practice discrimination...whether directly, as when Dick Gregory was allegedly told, “We don’t serve Black people,” and snapped back, “Good, I don’t eat them,” or indirectly, as when they ignore the actual concerns of women in the community but scream about their support for abortion or for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

45. Whatever other waste of your time and money you personally find most counterproductive or philosophically offensive. This list may be exhausting but it doesn’t even try to be exhaustive.