Christian Consumerism in a Contemporary American Society

Written By: on Feb 24th, 2011 and filed under Columns, Opinions.

Romans 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

Christian values and beliefs are constantly being tested and tried in the society we live, on a daily basis. The rapacious greed to amass wealth beyond ones’ need has delivered a blow to the Christian faith and value system.

Jesus asked his disciples to leave all possessions and follow Him. Later He sends them to the corners of the world to spread his message of love for one another and asked others to take up His cross, a cross of pain and suffering. The message to love one’s own neighbor has changed now days ‘to keep up with the present media idol, to emulate his style, own his brand possessions and if possible to outsmart him in the list of things you own’. The value of material possessions are deemed as ‘net worth’ and are prized more than the spiritual worthiness. Material possessions offer more prestige in the eyes of the world as well. The materialistic world beckons and by no fault the multitude is drawn toward it, namely, the need to expand beyond the means and the necessities. Thus, large homes with outlandish decorations, expensive cars, designer dresses and accessories have become the fashion of the day and increasingly becoming the model to emulate. It, in consequence, forces people to consume more. To live the dreams out the system provides the means also to buy them. Thus self worth and point systems are introduced to assess a person’s credit worthiness and allow them to borrow more and follow the massive debt trap that swallowed this nation and brought us to the brink of destruction. The real spiritual worthiness of a Christian and his values are constantly forgotten in this loudly proclaimed ‘One Nation under God’ country that is richly bestowed with the potential to enrich the world both spiritually and materialistically.

We find ourselves in a culture that defines our relationships and actions primarily through a ‘prism of consumption’. Consumption has assembled a value judgment for everyone based on the goods we purchase. One’s identity is now constructed by the clothes you wear, the vehicle you drive, and the rich friends- of Wall Street fame you associate with. Consumerism has become the alternative symbol of identification to the Christian gospel. It is no longer merely an economic system; consumerism has become the American worldview – the framework through which we interpret everything else, including God, the gospel and Church. Jesus Christ is relegated to a lower status- from Lord to a label – where money has become the Lord supreme. To live as a Christian no longer carries an expectation of obedience and good works, but rather the perpetual consumption of Christian merchandise and experiences – music, books, t-shirts, conferences, Christian symbols richly adorned in jewelry. Thus the pastor has become the embodiment of a salesperson and evangelism the key market strategy. Thus mega churches and cities are being built that can trump constructions of other denominations and religions which are being heralded on a daily basis. The recent attempt to build a mosque near the old world trade center has created much furor. The proposed Hindu version of mega temple with multiplex cinema in Disney style has raised many eyebrows. The ordinary Christian is indoctrinated so much that this prevailing world view has mostly been accepted without questioning its authority or historical validity.

Consumerism in itself is not to be shunned as it helps to nurture the body where the spirit itself resides; the Jewish tradition always welcomed riches foods and occasions of grandeur but never supported amassing wealth through

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