It's a lot to digest and some of what we've been talking about really hits close to home for many of us - if we let it this could become a really transformational conversation as we gain freedom the spirit of consumerism and the hooks it has in all of us and find instead the community and culture of the Kingdom of God.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," - Romans 12:2.
Below are the slides from our first week's discussion together. I'm unpack them a little bit on the other side of the link...
The problem is that we are born inside a world of consumerism. It's the water we swim in, the air we breathe. We haven't known a world without it and as a result we don't realise how deeply ingrained in it's culture we are. This is why we need to be born again - to unplug from the Matrix - because, as Jesus said, unless we are born again we cannot begin to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
God tell us that he has already given us all we need and that he is holding us accountable for what we do with the resources we have been given.
The lie of consumerism is that we do not have what we need - that we are not young enough, beautiful enough, rich enough, slim enough - and that a fulfilling life is ultimately something that can only be bought.
If we listen to the world's lie, we end up - as the saying goes - "buying things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like." All lies lead to prison and the particular prison the world of consumerism creates is one of dissatisfaction. It robs us of our God-given contentment.
Have you ever been perfectly happy with something you had - a car, a toy, your computer, your house, your partner, your job, your church - until you heard an advert or someone's story about a better, newer model...and suddenly you are no longer satisfied with the one you have? You were perfectly happy with it a moment ago but the machine of consumerism stole your contentment. That's it's power and that is one of the many ways it is at odds with the way of God. It's an old trick...the devil did the exact same thing to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
It began to gain momentum in the 1920's following World War One. America in particular began to believe they'd reached the limit of how far they could grow their economy by meeting people's needs for housing, clothing, food, transport and basic goods. The industrial revolution has solved most of those problems. The other problem they had was that people were saving their money, rather than spending it. This was great for households and families, but not so good for shareholders.
This was captured in 1927 in an article titled "The Problem of Need Saturation," and between this and other similar writings the idea began to take root that people could perhaps be convinced that, no matter how much they had, it wasn't enough. But, the article argued, "to gain further growth, we need to find ways to release our tied up capital." That capital was people's life savings! As a result, the marketing machine that you and I have never known a time without was born and, with it, our industry took a transformational shift "...from fulfilling basic human needs to creating new ones."
1. Where has dissatisfaction been sown in your life?
2. How has consumerism influenced your ambitions & your view of what fulfillment looks like?
He summarises some of the lies of consumerism that we often buy into. Each item in this first set represents something that everyone would have previously assumed they could derive from their local community and the relationships they had in their neighbourhood/village/town.
Today these are things we think we have to buy from someone else.
Here's what consumerism wants us to believe:
- Health is in a hospital.
- Entertainment is on the TV.
- Marriage is a contract in a registry office.
- Mental wellbeing is my therapist's job.
- Mobility is in a car.
- Meals and hospitality are in a restaurant or takeaway bar.
Or, how about these: questions and answers with consumerism:
Want to be safe? Buy a home in a nice suburb with a good alarm
Want your kids to succeed? Send them to a private school away from your community.
Want to be well cared for? You need a good doctor, therapist, and nursing home.
Want financial security? Build a passive income so you don't need to work anymore.
Want environmental sustainability? Buy more products with 'organic' or 'natural' on the label.
In our discussion the question came up: Isn't this just being responsible and living responsibly?
In the end we agreed it's the responsible way to live when community has broken down - when you live without community. It's become not only a necessity but a norm - so much so we've forgotten what community looks like. The advertising world is desperately trying to stop us depending on each other - because we would then realise if we have each other, we don't need them!
Becoming independent and self-sufficient shouldn't be our dream. Becoming the people of God in this world is what we need to chase after: "Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God" 1 Peter 2:10.
(The Abundant Community).
He goes on to add: "People [who buy] this belief system are not a family in community. They are actually a group of consumers living in the same house."
What are you producing in your life?
Are you creating something more than just waste?
What will you leave behind?