Friday, February 26, 2010

Is Christianity the end of Consumerism? (Part 1)

I just got back from a 10 day intensive face to face experience with my fellow students in the Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation and Leadership through George Fox Seminary and my head is absolutely swimming.

The content of my classes shared a focus on how our consumerism is an addiction in our culture and is utterly opposed to Jesus' teaching and purpose.

The system of capitalism is dying (or at least stalled). We can observe the breakdown of our economic system and infrastructure. Our economic system is based on consumption.

The fall of humanity found in Genesis is an act of objectification and consumption. According to the narrative, Adam and Eve objectified the fruit on the tree, consumed what they were forbidden to eat and suffered the breaking of relationship (trust, hope, union).

Jesus came to turn the systems of oppression upside-down. The sermon on the mount is a testament to the way the "Kingdom Economy" works. The least of these are the ones in control.

Jesus came to establish a new kingdom, here and now, based on everyone (all humanity) having their basic needs met.

I'm not sure how it all is going to work, but it seems to me that our system (capitallism) based consumerism and consumption must die if we are to follow Jesus.

I became aware of how much time energy and effort I make to buy things I don't need. My consumption deters what God wants to do in me, though me and with me in the world.

I am not what I buy or consume. I am responsible to be salt and light in the world. I am to value Kingdom Economy of Justice. I believe that the values of consumerism cannot stand for justice and that the our system rooted in consumerism is inherently unjust.

So what do we do in light of our consumeristic values that collide with Jesus mandate to care for the poor and oppressed? I think awareness of our own addiction to 'stuff' is a good beginning. The affect of our consumerism is rampant.

Will you join me in repentance? Are you aware of your consumption? Can we live in a "kingdom economy" and participate in an inherently unjust system of oppression? Why are we so attached to things? What values must change?

1 comment:

Brien said...

I don't think capitalism is the problem, as I don't see capitalism and consumerism as inextricably tied together. The capitalist asks "how much can I produce?" while the consumerist asks, "how much can I consume?"

Capitalism, insofar as it encourages competition, and "reaping what you sew" is the best way to provide for all to meet their basic needs. Looking at socialist societies such as cold-war russia, and present-day north korea, you'll see that if we take away all incentive to work (i.e. work more, and receive more for your work) then we stifle innovation and nobody gets their basic needs met. Capitalism isn't the problem, a lack of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of the people is the underlying problem. Take away the Holy Spirit working in men to regenerate them and bring them to repentance, and all they have is themselves, and their god becomes their stomachs. They live to serve themselves, and to fill themselves up with what they consume.

Capitalism, and specifically capitalism in the USA, has created without question the most prosperous society the world has ever seen. We are able to do so much for the rest of the world in terms of aid and and such. The further we slide towards socialism, the less we'll produce, and subsequently the less we'll be able to provide for those in need.

To say it again: The problem isn't capitalism, the problem is sin! Consumerism is perhaps just more plainly exhibited within a prosperous capitalist society than in a socialist society, but sin is no more or less prevalent in capitalism than in socialism!