Elizabeth Scalia's new book, "Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life," has a brilliant cover. It shows the window of a cathedral looking into rows of app icons. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, shoes, sports, alcohol, gambling, a political party. None of these are intrinsically bad. But in excess, outside of a healthy order, they can poison our lives and relationships.
In "Strange Gods," Scalia, known online as "The Anchoress" from the title of her blog, announces that ours is a "culture that is over-connected, media saturated, and weirdly obsessed with the fake glamour of 'reality' exhibitionism."
Illusions are all around us. Some of them are presented by advertisers (as Google adjusts to our conversations!), and "can keep us recklessly careening about in search of some elusive idea of perfection."
Our vision is "bedazzled by our fears, insecurities, egos," she suggests. We find ourselves "mesmerized by our favorite iThis and eThat and how much we love our favorite artist, our favorite politician, and our favorite sports figure."
We attribute to all of these things, all of these people, expectations that aren't fair to -- or good for -- anyone. Even in our cynicism about politics, we look to personalities and legislation for salvation.
Sitting at a conference on religious freedom -- far from my first -- this past week, I reflected on these alternative realities. Here the Ethics and Public Policy Center had gathered Sikhs, Muslims, Pentecostals, Jews and Catholics, among others, to discuss the urgency of the threats that are eroding religious freedom in America.
One of these threats, the Department of Health and Human Services insurance mandate that has forced business owners and religious leaders to court for relief is about protecting basic conscience rights that the late Ted Kennedy, as well as Hillary Clinton, when marketing her health-care reform plan as first lady, were not long ago in favor of. It's about basic freedom.
Family life is on the decline. Researchers and commentators tell us what we can see every time we get on an elevator or wait in a checkout line: People are connected, but they're not connecting. Good luck building families and communities, kids, in a culture of looking down at your iWhatever.
We need to do more than just hit "refresh."
Kathryn Lopez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.