Monday, July 09, 2007

pangs of consumption

Affluenza n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Jones. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste, and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream (insert U.S. here). 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

this one hurts. not that global warming and environmental degradation or peak oil are fun to wrestle with, but i'm finding out that examining our patterns and rates of consumption hurts to the core because, quite simply, i like buying things. there's nothing like a bit of retail therapy to fix anything.

as geoff and i prepare for forge workshops on sustainability and discipleship, we've dug deep into scripture, books on mission, the trinity, the environment and pop culture books like "affluenza" by clive hamilton. "Affluenza" brings a scathing, prophetic critique against consumerism in the west and how it affects everyone everywhere. the fundamental point hamilton makes over and over again is that the problem of affluenza is not so much with consumption itself, but our attachment to consumption and the ways our very identity is intricately bound to it.

i think this gets at the heart of personhood and ethics. as long as i continue to believe that who i am (or want to be) is tied to what i own or buy, i am a willing prisoner to an unjust way of life. it scares me and recently i've been painfully sobered by this diagnosis. and the only way i see my way out of this insidious state of being is the imagination and life of a community of people embodying a new economy and a redeemed identity. whereas a few years ago i would have been reeling without hope or just stuck in denial, i am confident and somewhat at peace that there is another way.

clive's solution "to mountains of waste is not more landfill sites but fewer shopping centres. We cannot solve the waste problem without solving the consumption problem." these authors have borrowed and composed a "wellbeing manifesto" that begins to get at the problem. he's also got a great website with links to others like this one that offer tangible alternatives and solutions to mass produced capitalism and toxic binging on stuff - check out "living green below your means." fortunately and unfortunately, someone is putting creative ideas and resources out there as the stones are crying out but it isn't the church. issues of consumption and affluenza should be at the forefront of the western church's dealing with itself and part of the message of another Way, for the sake of everybody.

1 comment:

eliza said...

I think consumption is so much about identity as well. I derfinately struggle with this.

I think ‘the Joneses’ are so imbedded in our minds we don’t even know we’re actually trying to keep up with something. Also, I find our identities are choked by limitations that do not even exist.

Should I fit in as to not offend anyone? I hope that if I act in love, LOVE would be the apparent thing. (I’m the first to admit, I need to work on this) I think I’m just tired of apologizing for my treasure being elsewhere. The rest of the world is ready for us to move on.

I was recently inspired to a kind of imagination that lets God breathe freely by something in Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

“Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets…Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea. Reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion” And I say, spiritual exhaustion.

I’m so amazed at the dichotomy of “knowing” yet not knowing. God is infinite; I seem to forget this.

I believe God’s made an incredible fire in each of us. It’s individually unique, but made of the same substance. When I’m not living from this, I choke myself. Either part of me dies, or the fire is channeled elsewhere and nobody wins, least of all my relationship with Him. My hope is that I can learn to let this burn, and that we can help each other channel our God-fires.

Inherently, this takes faith, risk, self-examination, humility, repentance, forgiveness, patience, love, hope, and lots of His mercy.

“…And I found that it was orthodoxy.”