Thursday, August 27, 2009

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Do you have any suggestions about how Christians in the West can avoid the prevailing powers of consumerism?


Patricia said...

That is an excellent question, Greg. Speaking as one of those "Christians in the West", I believe some, if not most, of the answer is in a phrase David Platt has used, "the Word does the work." If I am regularly renewing my mind with the Word, my response will be to avoid the powers of consumerism. I will not be attracted by commercialism, but will give more and get less...whether it is material possessions or anything else.

Greg said...

Thanks. What an excellent response. This is indeed a very useful suggestion. Might we say, in the power battles of the day the Word of God has more power than consumerism, yet we must take and read and live this power renewing our hearts and minds. As we do, other powers and their influence, including consumerism, will diminish.

reneamac said...

Lauren Winner notes the significance of being in community:

But the Bible tells us to intrude---or rather, the Bible tells us that talking to one another about what's really going on in our lives is in fact not an intrusion at all, because what's going on in my life is already your concern; by dint of the baptism that made me your sister, my joys are your joys and my crises are your crises. We are called to speak to one another lovingly to be sure, and with edifying, rather than gossipy or hurtful, goals. But we are called nonetheless to transform seemingly private matters into communal matters....Christians might claim less credit-card debt if small-group members shared their bank account statements with one another (Real Sex 53, emphasis mine).

Greg said...

Thanks. Good stuff here. This is always a hard balance between private and communal, but I agree that there should be a whole lot more communal than there is. It's the penchant for individualism that runs us amok so often.

Would you recommend the whole book?

reneamac said...

I do recommend the whole book. It's really excellent stuff. Winner draws a lot from Wendell Berry who suggests our lives are to be "personal rather than private, communal rather than public."

The book is called, Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity---I read it while at L'Abri.

(I have a review of it here:

Rhett & Valerie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhett & Valerie said...

One idea: Christians could work hard, quit borrowing money (even loans) altogether, pay off ALL their debts, stick to cash, and be generous with one another and others. I really don't think most young Christians bought up in the US have been taught very much about an ethical perspective of money, except perhaps the generalization that wealthy people are evil, and that there is no moral issue with living off of credit. A more nuanced perspective would include learning what it means to live according to your means, instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses. (Also: never consider yourself "above" a certain kind of work). Being debt-free means having the grace-giving opportunity to be generous financially.

I suppose to get these perspectives one would have to be very confident about their personal worth as a human being as being divinely created; that is, knowing and accepting the love of God. Doing that frees us from having to dress, drive, or live to impress others.

Of course, those of us who admire Jesus can also look at the descriptions of him in the Bible:

"He had no form of majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was desiped and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Is 53:2,3)

"'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'" (Matt 8:20)

The "treasures in heaven" passage: Matt 6:19-24

And also: "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men..." (Phil 2:5ff)

Just some thougths... I wonder what the issue of consumerism has to do with the imagination. From your post yesterday I kept thinking about the huge amount of advertisements I see online, even on "wholesome" websites, and it makes me wonder how my exposure to these things affects my image of God. I dunno...


Greg said...

Great. Grateful for the recommendation. Merci.

Greg said...

Thanks. Insightful comments and points well taken.

Sometimes I think Christians are more prone to debt than others. You know, God told them to do it and they want to follow that leading. Why I've even heard it told that many Christians ring up massive debts with other Christians and just never pay back. No moral issues here?

Good selection of verses.

Imagination is bombarded and that's for sure. The effect is sometimes shaping God into a cultural icon who wants us happy, healthy and blessed and then that translates into the rationalization of consumerism. If God's for it, who can be against it.

reneamac said...

Well-said, Val.

And thanks Greg, for the follow-up on imagination--really helpful.

harry coe maynard said...

Well Greg,


Just returned from Ft. Myers and Naples Fl.

One day toured Thomas Edion and Hery Ford winter Homes, ammazed at the Wealthiest not much higher above the ground than anyone. No AC, Iceboxes, no TV or Radio. Had a Model T though. then you look accross the Bay at Yaghts and Highrise Condos, Gated Golf Communities. Contrast was ammazing.

Next day we Cruised Napels Bay where the CEO Houses were $10-20 mill Homes. Boat slips cost $1 mill.

My thought was if they provide a good servce ok. If they give millions to Christian Missions and to Orphans or Meals on wheels like a friend of mine did OK.

K P Yohannan did this, the last hlf excellent.

Greg said...

Harry coe,
Thanks. True. Hard. And the contrasts are striking. I am not at all trying to say that there is something inherently wrong with financial clout. How one uses it, as you point out, is central, and might we stress here an attitude to be generous and share as another key to avoiding consumerism.

harry coe maynard said...


Yes, I think the word is Hard, very, at least for me. But I think it is absolutely nessecary, to find some way, not to feel good as a Christian but for survival.

To paraphrase.

"I'm not going through the eye of that needle without my Cammel. Well if you're determined, let me give you some advice. You ain't gonna make it without God."


Greg said...

Harry coe,
Indeed. Good thoughts on a difficult issue.