Western Christianity has had its fair share of criticism. We're too this and not enough of that. There's always room for constructive criticism, but no matter how hard Christians try, they will always be criticized on this earth. But one of the books I'm reading for my Doctorate with George Fox University takes an interesting look at this issue in the United States among the culture as a whole.
Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture is a book about this issue. It deals with consumerism as it is related to American values and whether or not we've all been duped by the man and turned into a mindless group of buyers. We consume and consume because we are a me-centered culture. Brian Regan has a great parody on this called, "The Me Monster." Beware, it is hilarious:
"Unlike religion, which promised paradise after death, advertising promised paradise right around the next corner: through purchase of a new car, a suburban home or a labor saving appliance. Consumer goods had become the new opiate of the people-real life 'soma.' To Marxists, it seemed that advertising was not just promotion for specific goods, it was propaganda for the capitalist system. It created what came to be known as 'consumerism.' (p. 27)
Consumerism is how millions of American have found happiness, although only temporarily. Not feeling good? Treat yourself to some new clothes or a new gadget. Certainly you will feel better.
So the countercultural movement has come on strong to oppose these so-called 'values.' You see them in movies like, Fight Club and American Beauty (wouldn't watch that and don't recommend it), The WTO (World Trade Organization) protests, The Green Movement, etc., books such as Fast Food Nation, No Logo, and Culture Jam. These are all examples of countercultural rebellion.
But does this do any good to combat consumerism? The authors don't think so. In fact, they say, "What if countercultural rebellion, rather that being a consequence of intensified consumerism, were actually a contributing factor? Wouldn't that be ironic?" (p. 99)
The best example of this in the book is the "organic food" movement. Instead of it being a countercultural rebellion to 'go green' and support local farmers, it's become a place only affordable to the cultural elite. Have you seen how expensive it is to shop at Whole Foods?!! So the cultural divide between the rich and poor is even wider from these kinds of movements. The only way to fight consumerism is to spend less money - period.
We're stuck in consumerism and no matter how hard we try, there's nothing we can do about it. Or is there?
From a Christian perspective, reading this book forced me to ask questions about myself. What do I spend my money on and why? Am I a part of the problem? Is there something different I can do with my spending that really does help the poor and honors the words of Jesus? What about you? Have you found ways to live more Biblically as it relates to consumerism?