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Pagan City, USA If I were going to pick a city to label as an example of our materialistically bent American culture, it would have to be Las Vegas—Pagan City, USA. After an absence of thirty years, I visited there recently.  I was amazed at what has transpired on Las Vegas Boulevard—commonly known as The Strip.

By Fr. Joe Landi, Editor  

Read Fr. Landi's story of conversion--Fr. Joe  Landi:  Out of the World and Into the Kingdom--His journey to priesthood  by Rissa Singson.

          Gaudy, aglow with electric lights, PC, USA has new and stunningly elegant palaces in which to get fleeced.  Moreover, it has become a gawker’s paradise.  Joining the crowds on The Strip at night was like being jostled at a huge carnival’s sideshow—one displaying that which is overdone and out of proportion to its reality to attract us rubes. Yes, it is still true, a fool and his money are soon parted and in PC, USA,  it’s done in themed,  air-conditioned comfort. 
             From around the world, hordes come even during the summertime’s 110-degree heat to stare, perhaps in disbelief, at what they see. And there is much to see, some of it is even free.  For example, the Bellagio Hotel’s choreographed water show shooting out of the lake’s 8-acre surface hundreds of feet into the air, costumed in colored lights, and set to melodies from pop to opera, with vocals that range from Pavarotti to Sinatra.  However, Bellagio’s shops had more clerks than customers, probably because merchandise is priced to attract those with incomes in the top 5% of our economy.

          The Mirage Hotel features an erupting volcano in its outdoor free water show. Indoors are Danny Gans “Entertainer of the Year” and Siegfried & Roy performing with their “48 white tigers, 19 white lions, a 4-ton elephant, and you” at only $95 per you.  Yes, there is something for everyone in PC, USA. You can watch yokels in gondolas on the Grand Canal at the Venetian or the fiery Sea Battle at Treasure Island, for free, too.

Visible from any part of town and its defining structure, the Stratosphere Hotel’s free standing tower at 100 stories high is America’s tallest such structure. It’s free to look at from the outside or stroll its themed shop-lined streets on the third floor with their scenes of Paris, Hong Kong and New York.  But it’s $6 to the observation deck and then more for those who want to ride the High Roller and the Big Shot—it shoots 160 feet in the air and then free-falls back down. At 100 stories high, doesn't that sound like fun?

For a truly American indulgence, there is the Galleria at Sunset, an air-conditioned, one million square foot shopping center with familiar anchor department stores, 110 specialty retailers, and a food court that gives new dimension to the words, American Cuisine. Even the Folies Bergere in Paris, where I celebrated my 21st birthday, is now in PC, USA at the Tropicana.

When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, John Winthrop reportedly assembled the people and charged them with a God-given vision using a metaphor Christ used to describe the Christian's responsibility: “We have come to these shores to set an example to the rest of the world,” he told them. “We are to be a city set on a hill for all the world to see.” That manifested destiny entered into the fabric of our society to even adopting as our national motto, In God We Trust. But somehow over the years the “in” PC—being "politically correct", the me generation, and rampant materialism has sidetracked our national consciousness.  What we have become is a powerful and wasteful people who consume 50% of the world’s resources with both PC’s being prime examples of everything we do to excess.

But when you scratch the surface of PC, USA there is shining hope—a vibrant Christian community. Protestant and Catholic churches are overflowing. At Guardian Angel Cathedral on The Strip, in the congregation are the usual you’d expect at daily Mass plus many, who by their attire, obviously worked at the pagan palaces. These are the salt of the earth; these are the light of the world of which Jesus spoke.

If the founding fathers’ vision of America is to be brought again into the American consciousness, we Christians must lead and be the “light of the world” to make being correctly Christian more important than either PC.

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Read other articles of Spiritual Enlightenment in the September 2000 edition of The Charismatics or return to the main menu by clicking here