Monday, August 09, 2004

Consumerism and the Church

"The everyday challenge of consumerism is yet to be fully acknowledged by most Christian communities"
- David Lyon, Jesus in Disneyland

This has been a nagging thought ever since I read it (in the Mission Shaped Church report). I think part of it is that I'm so deeply embedded in a consumer culture that I can't always see where it shapes and influences me, let alone where it should challenge me.

My first thought for this blog was to write a short list of five challenges and five ways of resisting. But then I thought a bit more and began to see that approach as itself deeply consumerist - wanting instant answers to questions; wanting problems to be reducible to easy solutions. If consumerism is as pervasive and as intractable as the quotation suggests, then lists and quick answers will fail to get to grips with it. (Worse, they will suggest that I have come to grips with it and hide my failure.)

But there's something inherently consumable about blogging. A piece is written one day, then a new piece is written the next. The tendency is towards new things, leaving behind the old. Short discussions, rather than long arguments. (Nevertheless, there are some arguments that recur - often because they are unsolved in the 'real' world.) Wisdom may be achieved in many ways, and blogs can be part of (but never the whole of) a healthy diet. (Maggi has some helpful reflections on the role of blogging here.)

I think that this demand for 'instant solutions' is part of the way in which consumerism shapes and determines the church. But I don't want to dwell on this for now. I want to give myself some time and space for thought, and so I'm going to try and blog on a different aspect of consumerism and the church for the rest of the week. Let's see where we get.

2 comments:

maggi said...

good thoughts, simon. Finker said recently, after he had taken quite a long break from blogging, that he noticed the same range of issues keep recurring - so perhaps there is a bit more continuity and sustained thought than we fear. Recently (now I've been blogging more than 6 months) I started collecting up various posts I'd written on the same subject to see whether together, they constituted notes for an essay - quite an interesting exercise.

Mark Van Steenwyk said...

Great blog. I've been grappling with consumerism for a while on my blog www.missionthink.com In fact, I'm in the early stages of coordinating a conference on the church and consumerism. Blogging can reinforce consumerism, since it offers instant product with low cost (which is a driving value of consumerism)...it also reinforces the notion that my choices are sovereign, since when I surf through blogs(or the internet in general) I don't have to submit to any information I don't want to. Things like reading a book, developing relationships, engaging in some of the spiritual disciplines--these things counteract consumerism because they cause us to submit to something other than ourselves.