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?


Related posts:

This is OBSCENE!

The Simple Life 


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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