April 19, 2007

hirsch on consumerism


Hirsch linked to this video and writes:
"Consumerism claims everything and in Western contexts is all-pervasive. But here???s the problem, God also claims everything ... This clash of loyalties causes the disciple some real discomfort and so it should."

I agree. This is something the Church has really got to come to terms with. It is the reason why the voices of those such as the creators of Adbusters need to be listened to. Not necessarily agreed with all the time but at a minimum they should be "heard". For this reason, when Jordon asked for book recommendations for church planters I recommended the book Affluenza as an important read.

Other helpful material might be: Walter Wink's work on the powers. Understanding how consumerism works as a power against kingdom often times would be helpful. The Powers That Be is probably the most concise version of his thesis. Foster's The Freedom of Simplicity provides reflective tools for those looking at break the bind of consumerism.

On a similar note, a few years ago, when Ed Stetzer was writing Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age he asked some of us for input on the greatest challenges to church planters in the West. I wrote what I did below. I don't think he used it so I guess it's cool to post it here:

CONSUMERISM. What frightened me most after Sept. 11, 2001 was not what seemed inevitable reoccuring violence against our country but how our politicians and media voices addressed the nation. "Keep buying stuff. Keep being consumers," this seemed to be at the center of much of what was being said to the U.S. of A. post 9-11. It chilled me to the core to realize that this what we have become: Beings of buying. The language used in such phrases as, "I'm just not getting fed enough at this church" or "We're shopping for a new church" prove how influenced by culture our church lives are. We've bought into this ideal that presents the Church as simply a dispensor of "religious goods and services" as George Hunsberger has put it.

Three years ago, I resigned from a my position at the church my wife and I attended. I had moved from part to full time staff over a few years and from Director of Administration to Young Adults Pastor. A year or so before I resigned a small group began putting their talents together in order to develop a worship service that would accomodate those people, mostly young, with a postmodern world view. What I found is that people from all walks of life, whether young or old, are more interested in being "churched" than becomming the Church. Honestly, I had never asked them to be the Church. I was so consumed with making church cool and comfortable that I had forgotten about calling people to discipleship; to be students of Jesus. I was simply adding to our culture's appeal to compartmentalize our lives. But if the Church is God's people who actively participate in his Kingdom and not a flashy person, place or event than it can not be compartmentalized. It is all emcompassing. More often than not I fear we are consumers, not the crucified and here we find one of our biggest struggles in the North American church. Will we simply give lip service to all that Jesus taught or will we dare call people to obey all that He taught? It is in the later that the heart of the Gospel lies.

No longer unemployed by a church, I found another job and my family along with other church leaders that had left their positions started meeting weekly in a home to pray, eat together and discuss what it really meant to follow Jesus. Meeting in such and everyday place began to force us to consider how our discussions impacted our everyday lives. What if we began to take the Lord's Prayer seriously? Did we really desire to see his "Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven?" What about the greatest and second greatest commandment? Do I really love my neighbor? It wasn't the fact that we met in a home that made these questions so heavy on our hearts but the fact we had started normalizing parts of out spiritual lives, bringing it into the ordinary-ness of life that was challenging. We could no longer open our spiritual box on Sunday morning for a couple hours and then pack it back up until next week. We were either trying to live this or we weren't and meeting in such intimate settings made it easy for others to know where you were at with this.

I began to discover how "me" centered my faith was when no one showed up to those meals who could play guitar. "Well, how are we going to worship!?" I had come to a place where worship was simply an emotional outlet through creative expression. The song may have said, "It's all about You" but it was always about "us." My generation has been co-opted into a mindset that says worship is CD's and big concerts... all stuff you have to buy. I began to hear my own heart expressed in the words of friends who were nominal believers, "You're little home gathering has some cool people but the church down the street has some really good worship." Once again, a component of spiritual life had been turned into a compartment. A compartment that media companies have made millions off of. But St. Paul told us in Romans 12 that being a "living sacrifice" was our "spiritual act of worship." The Scriptures were calling me back to a more holistic approach to the Gospel. A Gospel that asked for all of me. I find that others who visit our simple faith communities find this approach to the Way refreshing. You don't find many people who are vegetarian or politically liberal one day of the week. Life choices are life consuming and only Christ is life giving. If we desire to present a whole Gospel to the culture we live in we must resist the temptation to market religious gizmos and gadgets that only lead to shallow answers to life's journey. We are not to be consumers but the crucified. Our culture likes it served with sugar, but we are salt. Westerners would prefer you dim the lights on our misgivings, but we are called to shine from the top of a hill. We define ourselves not by the half truths and realities of this world but by the complete reality found in Him. So, I end with a fitting phrase most often used by musicians critical of other artists who have gone for the money rather than the art form, "Don't sell out!"

Now that I wrote this I realize that this was more 'evans on consumerism' than hirsch. Oh well, sorry for the misnomer... he inspired me.

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