Wednesday, September 10, 2008

the disease of Consumerism threatening our lives- come see an event and feel happy

One of my favorite authors for a number of years has been Rodney Clapp, the editor of Brazos Press, a division of Baker and consistently among the best houses in the industry. This weekend Kristi and I hope to attend an event at St John's Church in Tampa that he is speaking at.

The title, which intrigues me greatly is Between Two God's: Christianity and the Challenges of Consumerism. Rodney, like myself and a growing number of individuals, sees Consumerism as a religion, competing with Christianity for the souls of church goers. I have grown to believe that Consumer Capitalism is the greatest threat to historic Christianity in America, followed closely by Nationalism. While the church focuses on the "threat of gay marriage," liberalism and the Emergent boogyman, it ignores Nationalism and consumerism at its own peril.

Heck, even within the Emerging church with its focus on technology, I have seen this insidious cult grow ever more present, with its tentacles wrapping around the very church that preaches against consumption and nationalism. I was going to joke that maybe we can record this event on high def so we can watch it on our iPhones and HDTVs, but I won't do that.

For too long the church has sat idly by and ignored or baptized this extreme consumption (for a number of years I have been obsessed with this, blogging on it periodically). I remember attending a local church in Tampa that justified consumerism and even embraced and blessed it. My wife and I never sat foot in that church again after a pastor talked glowingly about Prada, hoping to reach those cool rich-folk and not offend their delicate sensibilities (small groups conversations revolved around boats, Pottery Barn and getting rich). In the past few years I have been in close proximity to too many pastors and christian leaders  blind to the ravages of this disease, completely caught up in the spiral of stuff, justifying their crap with circular logic that would shame a political campaign director or lobbyist.

What I can applaud is the higher profile this is getting with people like Rodney, Shane, the Sines and most of the New Monastics, along with a number of bloggers. However, we must clean our houses and minds holding each other to a higher standard and speaking directly into the lives of one another to make sure we are not falling prey to this same religion we easily name in the established, seeker, modern and contemporary churches.* We must follow the advice of bloggers like Jonathan Brink and the band Toad the Wet Sprocket, which continues to convict me daily in their song Throw it All Away (lyrics here).**

read this blog post entitled Happiness Does Not Come from a Shopping Mall about a new book called Consumed

*since the credit card companies are about to collapse, according to some economists, this idea of rampant consumerism will not be as prevalent. I just wish the church had been speaking out on this issue in the past, before the issue was upon us. We may have kept it from happening.

** yes, I am a consumer- like all people. However, I try to see myself as a recovering consumer, falling off the wagon occasionally and hoping to continue to get this addiction under control. It is why I listen to that song so often, read the works of Berry, Gandhi, the Monastics, Theresa, Francis, Sine, etc. and talk about it so often. I think it is that insidious and Christian leaders must take on the responsibility of leading in this area (especially those claiming the title Emergent).


Magrey said...

Why is the church in decline in North America and Europe, and growing rapidly in Africa and South America? Could it be that those continents are, by and large, unaffected by rampant consumerism?

mycotn said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Rick. I realize this is a negative over-simplification, but it seems to me that poor folks faced with boredom gravitate towards sex and/or violence while bored rich folks tend towards buying stuff (before getting to the sex and violence part).

All that to say I'm interested in your thoughts on boredom (as well as meaningful stuff in life).

Michael said...

it is really hard to escape materialism in any of its manifestations, disguises and hybrids. i decide to simplify and lean toward renovating a home and restoring and repurposing architectural elements and, before i know it, get caught up in getting and spending as much as i did before i decided to reform

Rick said...

good thoughts all.

Magray- you are definitely onto something. We need to look closely at some of these issues and try to figure out why the western church is dying and others are growing. I do think rampant consumerism is a modern western (and increasingly nonwestern)invention. Like narcissism, we have seen it manifest itself in the last half century, due to a number of factors- namely not having to worry about food, health and safety, media influence, etc.

they are manifestations of older patterns, but this is our modern version of the "evils" of the past. Some think that the church will look back on this era with the same sorrow we look back upon other eras when the church connected itself to indulgences, the Crusades, etc.

Mike- I understand where you are coming from. I offer no guesses on this, but it is interesting to consider. I guess we will gravitate towards what we can get when bored. if we have no money (and no credit) we will find other things.
Michael- I think total escape is impossible, at least for Americans. But active rebellion is always an option, even if we are always failing (I see that in you).