Commodifying the Divine

divinecommoditySince we all live lives of irony, there is not much value in wasting time on the irony of  Zondervan’s publication of a book opposed to Christian Consumerism.

Read this book! (If you can’t or won’t buy it, I’ll let you read mine)

Let’s cut to the chase: many Christians in America are more into consumerism than they are actually living lives like Christ. Jethani’s intent is to help us identify the problem, the depth of the hold consumerism has on us, and to offer measures for followers of Jesus to stand in the place between “living in a consumer society and adopting a consumer worldview.”

I appreciate the style his project takes. He weaves together stories from his own experience, snippets from the history of the rise of consumerism, and the life if Vincent van Gogh. ( and I have to say this before I finish – the thing I least appreciate is the regular reference to van Gogh as “Vincent.” This makes reading awkward)

Here is a clip worth pondering:

The reduction of even sacred things into commodities also explains why we exhibit so little reverence for God.  In a consumer worldview he [God] has no intrinsic value apart from his usefulness to us. (p.37)

This commodification of God, and our buying in, lock, stock, and barrel, into a consumerist worldview leaves us “connected yet alienated.”

I think, perhaps, the greatest challenge this book has is to reach to the thousands of active church members who might read it (Jethani insightfully recommends reading it in community) and find it accutrately diagnosing the problems of those ‘other’ Christians. If you are American and Christian, consumerism is your battle, too.

A closing, supremely important assessment: “We have made the scale of our methods conform to the scale of our mission.” (p.168)  While our mission is to go into all the world and make disciples, disciples are not, and cannot be made with marketing programs or succesful brand management.

Which leads me into what will be my next post: where the United Methodist Church is confusing the issue of branding with the gospel.

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