Consumerism: The New “Baal?”

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:20,21

Ever wonder, “What’s it all about?”  Our lives are filled with stuff – projects, going here and there, keeping up with societal trends and demands; staying on top of the world’s news, latest fashions, latest technologies (who can keep up with that?); climbing the ladder at work perhaps, books, music, arts, movies, the internet……..the world is a noisy place – full of movement, hustle and bustle, shopping, trending, Facebooking – there is an unlimited source of stuff, things, information to consume and keep us busy – we are bombarded with images and advertising, pulling us in all directions telling us what/when/how to consume

Indeed we are busy.  So busy that most people have no time to stop and ask “What’s it all about?” and ponder what is happening at the root level.  Consumerism is bankrupting us of our time, sanity, relationships, health, and most importantly, our understanding of God, our Spiritual well-being –  in fact it is destroying the very essence of what our lives were to be about – relationship with God (front and center), each other, the planet and the animal kingdom

It will be practically impossible in many ways to avoid consumerism.  We all need to eat, live, clothe ourselves – we need to get to and fro in order to make this happen within the society that exists around us.  But if we are to live in keeping with storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven” and being “in the world but not of it” we do need to understand what is happening in the world around us in order to make choices about what/how to consume that reflect Kingdom values in our use of the earth, animal kingdom, and all of its resources.

Craig Bartholomew said in Christ and Consumerism (Introduction, page 1), “…for God’s people to live effectively as His people, it is crucial that they reflect critically on the culture in which they live.  God calls us to be salt and light in our societies, to restrain evil and to promote good, but we will only be able to do this if we are aware of the forces and ideologies shaping our culture and are starting to see where the real battlegrounds are in western culture today.  This is not to suggest that western culture is inherently evil but it is to deny that it is inherently good.  Like all of life, western culture is fallen and as capable of misdirection as any other culture.  Christians who pray ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ ought to have a keen interest in contemporary developments in our culture so that we can discern what to support and what to oppose in our efforts to do God’s will.”

Greg Boyd, Senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, also speaks on this issue.  In his recent sermons Lab Rats No Longer, Consumer Warand The Chokeyou’ll find a wealth of information on consumerism in church context, and some helpful teaching on how to get off the consumer treadmill.  Greg said in a recent blog post on Reknew.org, “We who are committed to living under the reign of God are called to revolt against the consumer culture and the powers that fuel it. Though Jesus was rich, he made himself poor (2 Cor 8:9).”

It won’t be possible to totally cover this subject in a few short blog posts.  All of us as consumers will need to do our homework.  Christians in particular.  Not only do we as Christian animal welfarists need to understand how to bring the truth to the world as to Whom our Creator is, we need to bring to the world (and often to our own churches) God’s view of our proper relatedness to the earth and animal kingdom; it is imperative that we come to some kind of understanding of this subject matter.   If we do not, we run the risk of remaining ignorant:

  • to the ways we ourselves are contributing to the secular worldview of Jesus;
  • to our own part, even if only implicitly, in the devastation of the planet and animals we endeavor to help;
  • to the ways in which we are not partnering with God and thus ineffectively trying to create change for God’s kingdom and His animals;
  • to the ways in which we need to bring this issue to our churches and ask them to make it an imperative that animals be brought into our theological discussions when addressing any issue concerning doctrine

So while I may attempt to paint an overall picture of this subject, please take some time to do a little study of your own on this subject.  There are a number of resources provided in this post to get you started.

This following short video, “The Story of Stuff,” depicts the model of consumerism at work in the world today.  The fast paced, time impoverished, relationship strained, often peace/joy drained, meaning deprived experience many are having in life that is the hallmark of western society, is not a random phenomenon.  It is by design – the model keeps the wheels of consumerism going by those that designed it.  It keeps people focused on consumerism as a way of life and too busy to find time to question it.  And while the video gives us much to chew on from a worldly point of view and explains the technical realities of the system at work, there are questions and concerns still unanswered.  It does not address the subject with God’s will or His worldview in mind, nor does it address the underlying causes at play – the core values of a culture that are derived from consumption rather than consumption from its core values.  Which will be the topic for the next few posts.

Kent Carlson said, in Renovation of the Church, (page 65, 66):  “For a very long time we have been trained in our country to be consumers.  We have an almost limitless amount of opportunities to consume.  The entire economic system of our country is built on the consumption of goods that we, for the most part, don’t really need.  By the time our children reach elementary school, they are fully formed consumers.  They look at their lives from a consumer perspective.  Speaking to North Americans about consumerism is like talking to fish about water.  It is an all-encompassing part of our daily existence and usually too close for us to even notice its pervasive presence.”

Thank you for reading!   ~Kathy

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2 Responses to Consumerism: The New “Baal?”

  1. Liz Burke says:

    Kathy, watched and shared…I’d seen before and it is astounding how unconscious we all are (myself included), though I recycle, compost and try to reduce and reuse, etc. Nor do I follow trends or shop other than by necessity (vs hobby). Although, I am now questioning my smart phone “need” and doubt there is a better replacement that is easier on the environment, but I am googling to see what best alternatives are. Thanks for all you do to educate and get people thinking about this stuff, which seems so on the margins, anymore. When I was a kid, there were more efforts to get us thinking about walking lightly on the earth, and I don’t see this anymore. (Remember “Give a hoot, don’t pollute?” by Woodsy the owl? Stuff like that on Saturday mornings with our cartoons — it did influence me and life is so different now. How do we reach young people? )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Liz, thank you for your very thoughtful comment. I am glad that our work helps people, and appreciate your encouragement and kind words! I like you recycle, reduce, reuse, buy only what I need, not follow trends, question my “needs”, and so on. We don’t compost – should, glad to hear you do! The phones are an issue – and so many people are careless about products they buy not realizing how harmful they are to the environment nor are they taught proper recycling from the store that sell them (and they should be required to educate people as part of their responsibility as a seller). Laws should reflect our times and require people to turn in old phones and technologies, even paying people a small amount to do so (like some states do with glass bottles). I don’t know what school are or are not doing to educate children, it would be interesting to know. They are our future, reaching them does seem imperative. At the same time, families are more influence on their own children. So many are on the consumer treadmill themselves. I know a family that, being well off, live the “American Dream” so to speak and don’t give much thought to their buying and garbage, don’t recycle, and their children are not taught a thing about their responsibilities for our earth and animal kingdom; convenience is a new “Baal”. Very sad to me.

      I do remember Woodsy the owl! And Smokey the bear and others that tried to make a difference, and you’re right, don’t see these efforts on mainstream television or on billboards – would be good to see a push like these again. Money is definitely a new “Baal” – everything on the earth is reduced to the value it would bring in the way of money. So so sad…..

      Doing our part is so imperative! Being an example. Talking about it with others as much as possible or as they will hear it! At work I pull things out of the garbage cans that don’t belong there and I am not ashamed for people to see it. It’s awful how thoughtless people are! And of course everything we do on SAGC we do to prayerfully raise awareness and inspire compassion to bolster change.

      Thanks for following us and reading our blogs! And for all you do for the earth and animals, Liz! You’re the best!! Blessings in Jesus.

      Liked by 1 person

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