Consume or Create

After reading through Andy Crouch’s talk on practices and purchases, and wrestling with some ideas surrounding church planting, I’m beginning to see a major dichotomy that I hadn’t seen before. The split is now glaringly obvious and I’m seeing flash backs of different things I’m a part of and how this split defines them also. It’s the separation between creativity and consumption.

For instance, I see the split even in downtown Sarnia (warning, these are large generalizations that do not depict the city perfectly). There is a large section of the city (many which are on Front St) who have businesses that are largely retail based and need consumption to survive. Without purchases being made of their products, they would not be there. Front Street in Sarnia mostly depends on consumption. However, if you take a look at Christina Street, there is a large chunk of the street that depends on creativity to survive. There is a ton of art studios that all do not survive and exist because of consumption but because of the creativity that comes from those places.

The feel between the two streets is different. The one based on consumption is much more clean, stylish and they draw you in by their appearance. You might even be there because you were getting a deal or you saw an advertisement or because you needed something they had. The one based on creativity though, is completely different. You walk in and walk out and you don’t receive anything. You might be confused, you might be challenged and you might be happy. There is nothing to gauge your feelings but your feelings themselves and then you walk away. The buildings are much more run down, with not a lot of thought put into advertising, their signs or their effort to draw you into the door. Odds are you are there more out of curiosity or relationship then because of an ad or because you need something.

The main difference between the two experiences is one is based on creativity and the other is based on consumption. Those that are based on creativity do not have gauges that tell us how well people liked the art. We have no idea how people’s overall response was and we don’t know if people forgot about it as soon as they walked out the door or not. In a consumptive place, everything is measurable by products sold. We know if everything was worth it strictly based on how many people bought the product. With art, you just have no idea, because it’s not for sale.

We at theStory on are Christina Street. However, I think that we have a choice to make in the type of church that we want to be. We can be like many churches, offering a product and people can show up, receive something and go home. We can look beautiful with our cleaned up sign, send out advertisements and draw people in by our style. Or, we could be more like the art galleries. Hard to find, full of curious people. It’s more about what is being displayed than what you go home with, and you might leave confused.

The problem is I have no idea how to be a Christina Street church. I am used to measuring success by products sold. I’m used to measuring success at all. I’m not much of an artist. I don’t understand the mentality. I don’t do well in creating things to create. I always want to create so other people consume what I created. But there is something inherently important about being a church that learns to create rather than simply consume and offer products to consume. I want to be that kind of church. I want to learn what that’s like. I want to learn these new sets of values. So we have started. We are starting to spend time with these artists. I already see me getting in the way though. Trying to teach them business tactics and how to make money off their art. I’m infecting them already.

I truly hope we can be the type of church that is creative; because we make room for it and we do it ourselves. I don’t want to measure by products sold or be income made. I want to create for a greater purpose than just selling it off. So hopefully in all this time spend with these artists downtown, they will affect us more than we infect them.

3 thoughts on “Consume or Create”

  1. These are good thoughts, though in America art is also usually made to be sold (it just so happens that the sales are less frequent because the prices are much higher, thus eliminating the majority of the populace from participating in such consumption). I would like to think that in a perfect world, art would be made for art’s sake, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Even artists have to eat.

    The real problem is that we live in a culture that seems to define ourselves economically in terms of scarcity. We believe there simply isn’t enough to go around. The primary thing we need to help people see in the church that there is enough to go around if people would just share everything.

  2. I don’t think you can say that the businesses on Front St. weren’t at some point engaged in a creative process. They had to dream up the idea of their business, were (hopefully) involved in its design, colour schemes and ultimately gave shape to their business. Maybe they are in it just for a buck, or maybe they are passionate about what they do and it just so happens that they think others should be as well.

    I also agree with Danny. Art galleries, at some level need consumers or else they won’t exist. We are all born consumers (we need to consume to physically live)- and die if we don’t. It is not immoral to consume; it is not necessarily ‘better’ to create.

    The Eucharist is fundamentally an act of consumption – take and eat. See Cavanaugh’s “Being Consumed”. I hear he’s good.

  3. Chris, are you comparing purchasing items to the Eucharist, or is this something Cavanaugh does that I’m unaware of? Yes, they started a business, but I really don’t think picking paint colours, putting together a budget and advertising is really the kind of art that calls for the kind of creativity we are talking about here.

    Danny, great points, art is sold, you are right, however, there is quite a bit of “exhibits” that go on in Sarnia, that have no price tag, they just exist and then they shut down. This isn’t to say they aren’t trying to sell some of their other work on the side, but I can name a large number of artists run things that had no price tag.

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