Consumerism, then Jesus

During the justice section at Cultivate, I sat with a group that talked about political systems. It was a great conversation that talked about how these political systems like consumerism, materialism, welfare, social programs and all kinds of other things labelled political or not get included in our faith like it was part of the package all along. Without even knowing it we start to assume and read into the Scriptures all these systems and unknowingly our faith depends on these systems and not Jesus. Mike Todd shared this story that he heard from Brian McLaren on justice and mercy and the conversation continued.

This conversation got me thinking a lot about these systems, especially ones along the lines of consumerism and materialism. These two are systems that most people in Canada are completely oblivious to and also saturated in. Most would tell you that they aren’t even systems.

Consumerism for instance, is the need to always be taking in something to be satisfied. We want to consume everything around us and by doing that we think we are furthering our spiritual walk. For instance, a good church service is one where we chew on a good sermon, have entertaining and participatory worship and enjoyed the company of people that encourage us and make us feel good. We feel let down now if we didn’t consume a good message, or good music, or good drama or good friendships. Church services are now judged by using phrases like “wow, worship was really great, people were really into it” or “wow, I feel so encouraged after hearing that sermon.” Then outside the church we are consuming even more. Just look at the Christian subculture of books, music, testamints, retreats, concerts and everything else.

Our Christian lives are now based on what we consume to determine the grade of spirituality we are at. If we simply do enough prayer, and enough bible study then we are increasing our spiritual walk. If we can attend more prayer meetings, bible studies and church services then we are doing better. No wonder Christians get burnt out. A strong quality of consumerism is quantity; the more the better. Us Christians think that all the time. The more people that raise their hands to say the salvation prayer, the better off the church is (not thinking twice about how many disciples they are actually making).

Unfortunately, we have gone off on a path that is Anti-Christ. Christ was about being last. He was about giving it all away, not hoarding it all to ourselves. He was about quality, not quantity. He poured his life into 12 people, not congregations of two-thousand. His bible studies were told as stories sitting under a tree, not three point sermons to people who wanted to get their spiritual intake for the day. Jesus cared about the heart, not about the presentation of music or drama you can put on Sunday morning. If we were to bring it back to Jesus’ way, I don’t think judging would be a problem anymore because we are unable to judge people’s hearts. It’s easy to judge people’s outward expressions and their constant desire for more and more stuff; no wonder we are so pre-occupied in pointing out others flaws. We’ve created a culture where stuff means something, and you can see stuff. It’s time that we go counter-culture and remind people that stuff means nothing, and the heart means something. It seems as if we have sold our souls to Consumerism and then tried to follow Jesus. By doing that we try to consume Jesus, and it doesn’t work nor does it align with his message.

3 Comments

  • I think its hard for us to read the bible and not think of it consumedly due to where we live, how we grew up and what we have come to understand. Our way of consumerist thinking added with Old Testament writings can make us easily believe:

    Glory to God, Fear Him You will be blessed with stuff
    Those who lose Goods are not in Gods favor; make it right – get in his favor.
    God wants to bless you by giving you more stuff
    Pray this way receive this.
    Set up structure like this Rewards will follow.
    You will grow old and not be weak with sickness if you follow God Follow God.
    If something is wrong in your life, pray more. You lack faith GET MORE.

    Then Jesus comes along Shit.

    None of those thoughts or actions makes sense anymore. Yet we still like to believe pre-Jesus.

  • I think people assume that the old testament is full of retribution theology (do good good will happen, do bad and bad will happen), but I think they are wrong.

    Read Job for instance, the entire book is based on silencing those that think that way. All Job’s friends were convinced that Job had done something wrong to merit such punishment, but we know that he didn’t. God tells all his friends that they don’t get it and that’s not the way the world works. Karma doesn’t work.

    Read the Psalms where the Pslamists are constantly crying out to God why the wicked live such prosperous lives and while the good get trampled on.

  • I totally back your post Nathan!

    I find myself treating others as Jesus would want, but i am always feeling guilty about not consuming more in the examples you gave. Its hard to find the balance of quantity by building yourself up in studying his word and having a “good service” while at the same time acting out quality Jesus in your heart and the way you treat others.

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