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Will You Sleep Through the Apocalypse?

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Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ - published on 10/07/15

There can be no excuses for not getting our spiritual house in order -- before it's too late.

Sometimes, even a humanities major like me conducts an experiment. I Googled: “The snooze button is evil.” The results: 145,000 hits in 0.39 seconds. I looked at the first page, and I saw that titles of some of the hits included: “Is the Snooze Button Bad for You?”; “Why Hitting the Snooze Button Will Screw Up Your Entire Day”; “Why the Snooze Button Is Ruining Your Sleep”; “Snoozers in Fact, Are Losers” (not a surprise to have a rhyming title from the New Yorker magazine); and perhaps the most authoritative-sounding: “The History of Snooze Clocks & Why They Are Evil.” It doesn’t take much insight or imagination to predict their content.

I made a more specific search: “The snooze button will endanger your salvation.” Results: 28,300 hits in 0.63 seconds. Some of the tiles seemed directly relevant: “Are You Pressing the Spiritual Snooze Button?” and “How to Stop Slapping Your Spiritual Snooze Button.” But most seemed to link to sermons for kids, and I wasn’t a quarter down page two of the results before I got to photos of cats.

I further specified my search: “Hitting the snooze button may cause you to sleep through the apocalypse.” Results: 84,600 hits in 0.64 seconds. The only hit that really stood out for me was: “5 Extreme Alarm Clocks to Make Damn Sure You Get Up Each Morning.” I found the “Defusable Bomb Alarm” to be the most…well…alarming…None that I could see actually mentioned the apocalypse, so I think I’m on to something new here.

Having lived in parts of the Third World where getting up before dawn and working till well after dark was the only way to stay alive, I see the literature documenting and reflecting on the drama of staying in one’s comfy bed (“Just ten more minutes—I mean it this time!”) to be more of a, as they say, “First World problem.” In other words, you are not accustomed to facing mortal danger or clear moral peril if the snooze button is the major issue in your life.

Nonetheless, I think I can make a non-trivial case that this frame of mind behind the snooze button (i.e., “I can always make at least a small excuse”) is a true spiritual danger.

  • It reinforces the illusion that there is always more time. (But we know that illusion is an illusion: www.searchquote.com has 18973 pages filed under, “Death comes for us all.”)
  • It reinforces the illusion that we can hide from the powers of life and death that will demand an account of us. (Scripture rejects that illusion—Psalm 139.)

The problem is not with the snooze button itself. Snooze buttons don’t make us snooze, any more than bottles of beer make us drunk.Here is the central problem that the snooze button symbolizes.  The problem is that we are unwilling to order our lives in such a way as to make hiding from our duties unthinkable.  Instead, the snooze button offers the seductive promise of an escape, however brief, from the demands of life.  Where order is needed, the snooze button facilitates disorder.

That high tolerance for excuses is hard to reconcile with our Christian discipleship, when our Lord promises to return “like a thief in the night.” (Matthew 24:43.) That tolerance for excuses is hard to reconcile with Saint Peter’s admonition that we stay “sober and alert.” (1 Peter 5:8.)

Imagine this:

  • You are convinced, without any doubt, that at any moment you may face a threat to your life or your salvation.
  • You are convinced, without any doubt, that at any moment you may be called upon to rescue a human life or a human soul.
  • You are convinced, without any doubt, that God will judge your readiness to face such challenges.

If you were so convinced, how would you order your life? And would you tolerate a snooze button?

The fact is that each of us may be called upon, unexpectedly, to testify to our faith at gunpoint, to put our bodies between evil and innocents, or be prepared to be plundered by the state because of our faith. And all of us, certainly, will have to face God and give an account of our lives. We all want the illusion of being able to hide, at least a little while, from the inconveniences and trials of life, as well as the demands of eternal life. But what we are reaching for when we reach for the snooze button (in whatever shape it takes) is just that—an illusion. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we can’t afford the luxury of illusions.

Now that you have been reminded of all this, how will you plan your life? Will your plan include a snooze button?

When I write next, I will speak about what parents often overlook about their children. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.

Father Robert McTeigue, S.J. is a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.  A professor of philosophy and theology, he has long experience in spiritual direction, retreat ministry, and religious formation. He teaches philosophy at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, FL, and is known for his classes in both Rhetoric and in Medical Ethics.

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