What Would Jesus Buy?

It’s Thanksgiving! It’s Christmas! Time to get alone in a room and meditate on the spirit of the season, time to think seriously about…shopping!

Just in time to call us away from the gods of consumerism, comes Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. Christianity Today quotes him: “The Shopocalypse is coming! Who will be $aved? Let me exorcise your credit cards! Changellujuah!”

Rev. Billy is featured in the new documentary What Would Jesus Buy?. It’s directed by Rob VanAlkemade and produced by Morgan Spurlock, the same guy behind Super Size Me. It’s based on VanAlkemade’s earlier documentary, Preacher With an Unknown God, which won an honorable mention award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. CToday says:

“The film…takes a unique look at the epidemic of over-consumption in America, most egregiously evident during the Christmas shopping season—which begins in earnest next week. Reverend Billy and his “Church of Stop Shopping” are on a mission to apply the WWJD ethos to our shopping habits—forcing audiences to consider the implications (for themselves and for the world) of what they consume.”

Rev. Billy is the first to claim that he’s not a Christian. He says he grew up Dutch Reformed but abandoned the faith as a teenager. His real name is Bill Talen. And, of course, he’s not an ordained minister.

But renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann considers him a a modern-day prophet. He says “I have no doubt that Rev. Billy is a faithful prophetic figure who stands in direct continuity with ancient prophets in Israel and in continuity with the great prophetic figures of U.S. history who have incessantly called our society back to its core human passions of justice and compassion”.

Dr. Brueggemann says that Rev. Billy has four marks of a prophet:

1) He employs a dramatic “performer” style to call attention to his message. “That style of the prophetic… consists in parody that teases and makes fun of both corporate seductions and the long list of consumers who sign on for lattes and much else“.

2) Rev. Billy uses an identifiable rhetoric. In his case, he uses rhetoric and conduct which are usually found in a church setting, particularly in crusades and campaigns. Use of rhetoric stems from the need to stand apart from, in fact, to be easily identified as opposing, a dominant ideology of the prophet’s time, in Rev. Billy’s case the “totalizing consumer ideology”.

3) His pronouncements are context-specific and appeals to a specific constituency.

4) And, most important of the four characteristics, Brueggemann claims that Rev. Billy proclaims a truth “rooted in God and enacted in society”. Doc Walt says:

“The divine judgment Rev. Billy pronounces concerns a condemnation of religion that has been “hijacked” by the right wing, the resignation that we have “nothing to love but fear itself,” and the self-deceptive illusion that commodities can make us safe and happy. The shopping he assaults is seen to be an ideological practice whereby we keep “the demons in the zoo.” All of that will come to a sorry end for which he uses the term “shopocalypse,” a play on “apocalypse,” that imagined end of the world in a divine judgment as a great conflagration. Like every good poet, Billy has no interest in when or how that may happen, but only a conviction that this ideology that drives our society can only end in failure and raw disappointment.

But prophetic practice is not finally about judgment. It is about hope. Hope for Rev. Billy is the deep conviction that there is a viable, choosable alternative to shopping that will make possible a human community of neighborliness, peace, and justice”.

In this season of giving thanks and remembering the incarnation of the Savior of the world, maybe it might indeed be a good time to pause and think…what would Jesus buy?

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Related posts:

This is OBSCENE!

The Simple Life 

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Note:
Just found out today (Dec. 11 ’07) that the writer of the Christianity Today article has his own blog, also here at WordPress!. Cool!

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This is OBSCENE!

Obscene AND stomach-turning!

It’s incredible that people actually spend time and resources coming up with $1000 bagels and, now, a Guinness-record-setting $25,000 sundae!

This, in a world where 19.7 percent of the population of Europe and Central Asia, 24.5 percent of the population of Latin America, and 31.1 percent of the population in South Asia, live on $2 or less per day!

And where, in the Philippines, an 11-year old girl has committed suicide because of poverty!

 Mariannet (L) committed suicide because of poverty

Mariannet (L) committed suicide because of poverty 

(Here’s a Philippine newspaper’s account)
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The Bible gives a chilling warning:

Woe to you who are rushing headlong to disaster!
   Catastrophe is just around the corner!
Woe to those who live in luxury
   and expect everyone else to serve them!
Woe to those who live only for today,
   indifferent to the fate of others!
Woe to the playboys, the playgirls,
   who think life is a party held just for them!
Woe to those addicted to feeling good—life without pain!
   those obsessed with looking good—life without wrinkles!
They could not care less
   about their country going to ruin.

Amos 6:3-4 (The Message)
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Update  as of February 7, 2008: I’ve just discovered that the video of the obscene dessert is no longer available from YouTube. However, you can still view the obscenity at this Reuters News page:
http://uk.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=70447

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Related posts:

What Would Jesus Buy?

The Simple Life

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The Simple Life

Now that the iPhone has been chosen by Time magazine as the best invention of the year, expect more pressure to own this or something similar, which competes as the latest, coolest product of human ingenuity. Ads already bombard us daily with enticements to buy the latest, neatest, coolest gadgets. We can certainly expect much more this Christmas season. 

Ads also allure us to go out to that place where the family will have endless fun and unbelievable bonding while eating burgers and fries (or fried chicken!). But of course that’s so pedestrian. “In” people hang out at Starbucks or Figaro’s or UCC, or wherever else they sell overpriced coffee with fancy names. “In” people will pay four to five times the amount for coffee which they can get elsewhere, to be seen at these places—and thereby impress the officemates they detest.

And even in the Philippines, where unemployment is 7.8 % and the official average family income is 3,440 US dollars per year, there are TV shows dedicated to showing viewers how to enjoy “the good life”, with guides to spas and reviews of various products for pampering oneself. 

But for now, the gotta-have-it status symbol is probably the iPhone, which is still not supposed to be sold nor usable in the Philippines. But, hey, hacking it (and not destroying it in the process) just adds to the status of owning it. But for those who really want to flaunt that they have “arrived”, the thing to own is the Hummer, which should be usable in about 1/10 of 1/10th percent of Metro Manila’s wide and traffic-free (NOT!) roads*.

The cost of four to five posings at Starbucks can feed an orphan or homeless child for a month. Here’s something to think about: what if we were content to hang out at places with less status, or to buy the cellphone model which may not have all the latest bells and whistles, but is enough to meet our needs?

This is not to say that people don’t really need the top-of-the-line cellphone models or the iPhone. I agree that, depending on the situation, job, context, etc., there are people who would really benefit from such advanced technology and where the benefits and actual usage of features would justify the cost. But what if, as a general rule, we refuse the temptation to buy much more than we really need and instead consistently, deliberately settle for what is best suited to our actual needs and context—and then we give the difference to a favorite charity, church, ministry, school, foundation, etc.? What if Filipinos did not buy Hummers or some such vehicles which are so obscene in the context of the grinding poverty of the majority of their countrymen?

Maybe less people would be hungry, homeless, or suicidally or homicidally desperate, if only those who already have more than enough would say, “Yes, we have enough”.

Here’s a “radical” “omg” idea. How about abstaining from purchases of new gadgets or clothes, or going to the movies or eating out, for a month? Challenge—can we do it for two months? For three months? Six months? For ONE YEAR??? (Wow, omg!) The money we don’t spend we can then share with the less financially blessed. What do you think will happen?

Here’s an excellent, excellent post on giving LESS a chance…
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2007/10/living_with_les.html

I suspect that this type of fasting—from consumerism—would be very good for the soul. Indeed, simple is beautiful!

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(*From my surfings, I gather that, aside from the iPhone, the current obsession in the West among those who love to keep up with the Joneses is high-definition TV. Wait til that becomes available here 😉 .)
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Related posts:

What Would Jesus Buy?

This is OBSCENE!

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