No one is more hopeless, more a slave to pleasure than the person who thinks he is free to entertain his cravings. New technology, drugs, pornography, and other pleasurable diversions imprison people who are too distracted to notice the chains which bind them. As a consequence, not only do we lose our freedom, we enjoy it.
New technology, drugs, pornography, and other pleasurable diversions make it enjoyable for us to love our servitude. These diversions produce individuals, families, and communities that live in bondage to the dictates of pleasure. Distracted and brainwashed by the promises of a painless, emotionally numb, thoughtless existence, we have no desire to rebel against the things that kill us. We love them because they offer us a vacation from reality.
When our craving for pleasure gains power over us the damage it inflicts upon us is incalculable. We condition ourselves and modify our behaviors to fit the demands of our cravings. We humiliate ourselves in pursuit of pleasure. We gladly accept servitude so long as it promises relief from pain, suffering, and even death.
Our desire to avoid pain is a powerful motivation for embracing pleasure. So strong, in fact, that we view the removal of pleasurable diversions as a horrible form of punishment. Our cravings exercise a pernicious form of tyranny over us, and yet we feel we are most ourselves, most free when we are enslaved by them.
We want euphoria, not depression; good feelings, not unhappiness; a powerful sleep-aid, not thoughts, and prayers. We demand gratification now, not later.
For example, today, sexual gratification is promoted on every level of our society. Monogamy is old fashioned. The family is obsolete. Everyone must be able to freely indulge their sexual fantasies. Why? Because constant access to sexual gratification ensures that we are distracted by irrelevancies, too distracted to pay attention to the reality of the damage we are doing to ourselves. We are amusing ourselves to death.
We consume what is irrelevant, what is essentially garbage for our body and mind because it enables us to think, feel, and behave in ways that we find desirable. That's why there is an opiate epidemic. That's why millions of people are addicted to online pornography. That's why we can't put down our smartphones. They provide mindless and pleasurable distractions that consume most of our attention, most of the day.
We are distracted and dumbed down by the things that give us pleasure, and we like it. We enjoy our enslavement because it spares us from the consequences and responsibilities of life. We embrace mind-numbing slavery rather than dangerous freedom because it's easy and it feels good to just "let go and let God."
But, it's a sugar-coated lie. God did not make us to be slaves, to give up on reality, to let go of life. As the apostle, Paul writes, "For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1) We are free in Christ Jesus to not submit ourselves to our cravings. We don't have to medicate our feelings. We don't have to anesthetize our minds. We are free to embrace God-given reality, to enjoy our vocations in the world. We are free to be in the world, but not of the world. We are freed to stop treating the pursuit of pleasure as an escape from pain, suffering, and death.
In the power of Jesus' death and resurrection, we are set free to love God and our neighbor, not as pleasurable diversions, but as Beautiful Savior and beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. We are set free in Christ through the forgiveness of sin, to say "No" to the promises of a painless, emotionally numb, thoughtless existence. We are free to enjoy our baptismal identity and to carry our crosses because we are slaves to Christ Jesus, the sweetest, most satisfying, slavery the world has ever known because His yoke is easy, His burden is light, and His rule over us is defined by grace and a peace the world cannot understand.