Consumerism is the antithesis of contentment. If we wonder why we are not content or happy or satisfied, in his book “Enough: Contentment in the Age of Excess” Will Samson explains that we have only to look at the advertisements and media messages to explain why our houses and cars are never big enough or good enough.
Samson posits further that consumerism has infiltrated our relationship with Jesus Christ in the opposite way. We see jesus a low-cost, low-commitment counter to culture rather than the truly counterculture that Jesus represents.
Samson makes several damning points in his book that are relevant to even events in the past few months (long since the book’s publication). Today, we worry about Swine Flu and other communicable diseases. Samson points out that the way we live our life can be a disease on our bodies, minds, and indeed our very souls:
…as nations gain wealth, they increase in the risk of major health problems…perhaps lifestlye disease is communicable. You catch it through prosperity. (Enough, 101)
Our lifestyle of consumerism affects our theologies by making Jesus into a low-cost alternative and everything else into conspicuous consumption.
But why isn’t our church doing more about it? Why aren’t we more involved in opposing this Tower of Babel-Stuff that we create? Perhaps because the church communities are too enmeshed with the ruptures of its seams. Samson points to our multi-cultural world that breaks our assumptions of Christian community that the past few centuries have found socially easy. Community is no longer something we are socially pressured into; it is something we must now earn. What would it look like? Samson says:
It seems to me that in order to move from mindless consumers of stuff to fully participating members of eucharistic communities, we must find the actions and language that can bring those communities together and allow them to interpret the power of Jesus to provide broad meaning for our lives here and now. (Enough, 143)
I enjoyed the book and, gold for a pastor, I found several sermon ideas and examples. However, I can’t help but wonder what Will would write today about our movement away from the Age of Excess. His blog is long dormant. But people are saying the Age of Excess is over, dead. I disagree; I think it is just taking a breather, waiting on the wings to jump on the bandwagon again. Will the Church be ready to respond when it does? Or will we continue to buy more stuff?