19 April 2007

I want my MTV

Remember that song? If you do, it'll date you a bit. ;-)

Alan Hirsch has a great blog going based on his book "Forgotten Ways". I've been pondering this topic a bit, so it seemed more than coincidence that I read it in the book and saw this link on his blog by Ben Cheek.

I agree (how can one argue with Hirsch?) that for Western Civilization, it's not the New Age Movement, or other religions, or atheism, or liberalism, that is the great threat to Christianity; it's consumerism.

"I want my MTV."

And my I-pod, and my SUV, and my house, and my promotion, and my clothes, and my vacation, etc, etc, etc.

It's so clear that this god of consumerism, let's call him "Consumerigon" has infiltrated our churches.

"I want my MTV."

And my high energy children's ministry, and my 30 minute message to help me get what I want, and my Starbucks, and my perfect worship team, and my theater lights, and my Media Shout, and my womens retreats, and my mens retreats, and make sure service gets over before the big game.

And please please please don't let God in on my life except Sunday mornings, maybe a midweek home group, and if I'm really spiritual; a 'quiet time' for 10 minutes in the morning.

I admit, I am guilty.

I've moved out of a 4 bedroom house on a corner lot into a 2 bedroom apartment complex near Colorado State to reach students.

I sold my second car (which was falling apart anyway) to save money and be more 'green'.

I spend most of my extra money now (when I have extra) in Revolution, giving and feeding and blessing.

I don't have HDTV, but I want it. I have surround sound from Bose speakers that are 10 years old, but I'd upgrade in a heart beat.

I drive a Hyundai with duct tape holding the drivers side window up, and I'd trade it in if I knew I'd not be going oversees in a couple years.

I have digital cable with 400 channels and only 10 that I watch...usually only 3.

I have an I-pod. We got it free, it's the Nano. My wife has a better one and it was a gift I gave her.

We try and live simply but we love going out to eat and out for drinks.

I am completely guilty of consumerism.
I am richer that 90% of all other earthlings.
I rarely go hungry.
I rarely am cold.
And if I want it, I can get it, if I want it bad enough.

"I want my MTV."

I want to give 10% and not more. I want to veg in front of the TV watching sports or Jack Bauer interrogate people. I want my Sunday morning latte (although NOT from Starbucks).

And by golly, I want church over in time for the Broncos football game. And don't let God come into my schedule. I work at a Christian company, God is already there. I don't need to pay attention to that.

"I want my MTV."

Don't you?

Did Jesus want his MTV? How can we be the soul of community, in the community, and rail against the very thing that is the idol of our community? How do we stop consumerism, and begin communitas?

I keep hearing, "God wants you to be rich." Or, "God wants to promote you."
My questions is, "Does He? Does he really?"

So I wrestle with this for a bit - and then I go see if there is anything worth watching on my 400 channels of digital cable.

"I want my MTV."


paul said...

interseting post, i just had the fun of proof reading a book review for Jason of 5 books all on this very subject of how are age consumerism/capitalism is the big crisis - so far from reading everything he has read and commented on it would seem that all 5 authors are long on diagnosis and short on cure...

Possible ways:

- practices of denial, fasting etc

- practices of giving

- practices of grounding rather than just borrowing ideas/practices

- better christian education

- justice/forgiveness

it's great to read but they all have drawbacks/problems - mostly around consumerism creeping in.

Maybe rather than rejectin the system, it's about reforming it? After all the free market is supposed to thrive on freedom of information - so what if clothes labels told you who made and how much they got paid for making your jacket? would that make us aware of our own consumerism impact?

Would we care?

the best quote i read in Jason's review was "we don't have to teach people to consume just like we don't have to teach fish to swim."

When the going gets tough... the tough go shopping.... ;)

sonja said...

Yeah ... we all want our ____. And I agree with you that it is anti-thetical to just about everything that Jesus taught us. We ought to set our entire beings against it.

BUT ...

We are not creatures born into a vacuum. We are the result of the specific histories of the families, communities and cultures into which we were born and raised. Our culture of consumerism has been finely tuned and honed for about 300 hundred (10-12 generations) years now. This is not something we are going to be able to overturn in a couple of years or with a few prayers. It's going to take a generation or two (or a serious miracle ;-) ).

It begins with repentance (and I love your post for that) and learning how we've failed God and ourselves. I also think there's quite a bit in Paul's list.

~fwiw ...

David said...

Yeah, good comments...
I wonder what we do to confront this practically?
We are in the world. We can't go live in the forest with bows and arrows...
Although the idea of Robin Hood could be fun!
So how do we relate to culture, and at the same time be separate from it?

Paul was able to do it. He was all things to all people, but he regularly confronted the 'god' of the day, which was Ceasar. He contiually proclaimed Jesus as Lord and live a life that explemplified that, thus debunking the idea of the Roman Emperor being as God. Yet we was a gentile to the gentiles.

How do we confront the Consumerigon today?

Makeesha said...

and how do we do it without being just another "kooky hippie sub culture" that is already pretty well represented in America? because that's not going to "catch on" either. Not that it's all about catching on, after all, it's called "subversive" for a reason. But still...it seems like we as christians should have something to offer...or is that just consumerigon whispering in my ear?

E. R. Dunhill said...

Well-said. I recently “right-sized” my living arrangements, as well. At the risk of sounding like so many others who want to conflate Christianity with flavor-of-the-month politics or philosophy, I think the answer may be green ministry. A hard truism of economics is that for one to be wealthy, another (or more commonly, many others) must be poor. It’s hard to reconcile gluttony with the central Christian tenet of treating other people with more than an ounce of decency.
This principal of economics is similarly applicable to our own lives and psychology. All the time one spends consuming and coveting is time not spent actively pursuing all of those central goals of Christian philosophy.
I think paul raises a good point with his notion of “practices of denial, fasting etc”, although there is a tendency to associate fasting with self-flagellation. Instead, pursuing fasting as a “virtue of enough”, we create usable space in our own psychology, and create opportunities to produce tangible benefits in the lives of others.
As for Makeesha's concern, alas, leaders and visionaries are often initially seen as kooky hippies, or down-right dangerous. The effort remains sublime.