Time to come clean. I am obsessed with consumerism, because I think that consumerism will be the spiritual force to recon with in this century (maybe longer). I believe it will be the "delivery vehicle" through which the enemy will try to accomplish what CS Lewis calls "the abolition of man". The enemy used nationalism, fascism, and communism as his primary delivery vehicles in the 19th and 20th centuries. But, now consumerism is trying to consume all human society and make humans into the perfect renewable resource. It has a vested interest in destroying families, churches, and every other "support structure" in our lives so that we have to rely on purchasing products to be "whole" people (wholly addicted, that is). I really think that consumerism is one of the powers that makes Christianity so powerless in our society.
A divided Church that squabbles about everything is the perfect Church for consumerism. That beast will get us so tied up in pointing fingers at each other that It will be able to sell product to all sides, enslave us in never ending inner-turmoil, and we will never be the wiser. We will think we are doing God's work by having the Protestants opposed to the Catholics opposed to the Liberals opposed to the Fundamentalists opposed to the Pentecostals opposed to the Mainliners opposed to the Independents opposed to the... (et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum). But, really we are feeding the consumer beast, because look at all of the product and market niches we have generated, not to mention all of the marketing potential.
Consumerism's greatest trick thus far, other than playing Church division for all it is worth, is to make the Church a commodity for personal fulfillment. Christ and His Church becomes merely a product to make my life better, and not a family (or a body) that I am a part of, in which I am saved from the evil powers of the world, and through which I work to save others from the powers of the world. If we all could get out of our heads that Church is about making me happy, and get into our heads that partaking in the fellowship, sacraments, and mission of the Church is being part of the community of LIFE, and cutting ourselves off from the fellowship, sacraments, and mission of the Church is being part of the culture of DEATH, then I think we would see the passion and power of the Spirit return to the Church.
I know that is crazy, but that is what I think. I was surfing "Ad Busters" today (http://www.adbusters.org). I agree with a lot of their views, and some of their anti-ads are great, but I think they radically miss the point of WHY we should opt out of consumerism. Their purpose is environmental and neo-marxist: Opt out of consumerism so that we won't ruin the environment and we can re-distribute wealth via centralized governmental power. This is bogus on two counts: First, the environmental concerns are based on dubious science. They might be right, but they may very well be wrong. Second, the free market (not any version of bureaucratized socialism or Marxism) has shown to be the most effective way of distributing wealth and making whole nations prosperous. The free market is a GOOD thing, which we ought to thank God for (1Tim. 4.4).
Consumerism, on the other hand, takes the free market and turns it into something demonic. It is the opposite error of Communism. Communism took the God-given ideal of charity and mercy and turned it into a demonic system of coercive government re-distribution of wealth, and denial of the worth of personal work and effort. Consumerism, on the other hand, makes everything a marketable commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, for the maximum profit, with minimum responsibility, by creating a whole system of marketing that creates new "needs" out of what were once "wants" and "luxuries", in a never-ending, never-thinking cycle of activity, consumption, and production.
In short, consumerism is the parasite that we live WITHIN, which sucks everything human out of us, only to quantify it, re-package it, and re-market it back to us for maximum profit.
I want us to revolt against consumerism, but not for the reasons that Adbusters does. I do not want to set up a neo-marxist state. I want to revolt and bring about a free market that meets people's needs, encourages personal responsibility, devalues gluttony, and re-values wisdom and moderation. I want to revolt and bring about a Church that offers a radically united, radically loving, radically Christ-centered, radically Spirit-empowered alternative to the parasite of consumerism. I want to revolt and live a life of radical simplicity where I love Jesus above all, and love my neighbors as myself.
In 1998 I wrote a poem called "Revolt!". I will share that with you now:
Throw out your televisions! Men of valor and ancient heroism rise up and slay that foul mouthed beast who sits enthroned in your dens and living rooms and bedrooms and inner nooks of comfort! Rise up and exorcize that little flickering ghost of the dead dreams of a sensual society! Men and women bear your strong arms and rip apart those chains of mass produced market tested conformity which seem so lifelike but are actually mere two dimensional substitutes for reality flickering on the small screen!
Throw out your televisions! Hear the ravenous applause of the hollow implosions of ten thousand picture tubes collapsing in upon themselves as they meet their maker on cold concrete streets! Hear the cold lament of bitter tears as the Nielsen ratings and mass marketing aficionados meet the demise of their art- no longer able to cart around society in their greedy wheelbarrow of misconceptions!
Throw out your televisions! Feel the wind fly past as the vacuum of so many hollow minds is filled again for the first time in decades by actual thought! Mute armies of society slowly gain the ability to communicate again as the morphine like tranquilizer of the idiot box slowly becomes a thing of the past! Cries of pain rise up from the vast sea of humanity as something incredibly painful takes place- they have to THINK for themselves again! It is the pain of the addict coming clean after years of self abasement- and this pain is GLORIOUS!
Throw out your televisions! Discover again great truths and great thoughts long hidden in volumes gathering dust in the den! Crack open your books! Crack open the doors to your theater! To your library! To your symphony! To your poetry! To your garage bands! To your churches! To your schools! To your prose! To your fact, fantasy, philosophy, and fiction! To your Bible! To your God! To all those things long dubbed 'boring' by our sensual search for pleasure! Crack them open and drink them in!
Throw out your televisions! Like the cripple beggar was told so long ago to take his mat and walk- so you to must destroy your household god and rise up and think! Live life beyond entertainment- beyond numbing the mind in mindless chatter and accepting whatever flows out from that box into your soul! Turn from your comfortable dens and face the real world with your mind ready and sharp!
Throw out your televisions and seize the day! Get a vision for the vision-quest of life and die to find it- do anything but sit on complacent recliners and live life to be entertained! Throw out your televisions! Smash your comfort zone! Destroy your laziness! Annihilate everything in life that is not real! Burn down your soul with refiner's fire until all that is left is what is true!
Throw out your televisions!
Copyright © 1998, 2006 Nathan L. Bostian