Everyone seems to agree that America's moral fabric is being undermined by the unwise proliferation of consumer credit. We readily believe those who claim that easy credit fuels rampant hedonism and leads many to bankruptcy. Wistfully, we compare ourselves to ancestors who supposedly controlled their spending and never went into debt. We believe that our present affluence is a bubble that will surely burst.
A large majority of Americans consider Sunday the most enjoyable day of the week, according to a 1998 Gallup poll. Few Century readers would wish for a different answer. However, as autumn once again evokes rueful ministerial jokes about ending worship in time for the congregation to get home for the football game, some may think that Sunday has become a little too enjoyable.
I'm a sucker for Christmas songs. I'm not so far gone that I'm okay
with department stores playing some pop princess's version of "Baby It's Cold
Outside" on an 85-degree early November day here in central Texas. But let me
join in on a round of "O Holy Night" or "White Christmas" and I'll get choked
up every time.
The orange Halloween lights went up early this year. And in our neighborhood, there seemed to be a lot more of them—along with tiny ghost dolls hanging from trees, cobweb-like fabric stretched across porches, plastic spiders perched on roofs, and bloody plastic hands emerging from cardboard gravestones.
As a pastor in New York City, I've found myself challenged to think more deeply about “stuff." I've come to believe that the truth about what we too casually name “materialism” is not so simple. It ought to be clear, after all, that God doesn’t hate stuff. Witness the creation story. God invents stuff. At the end of each of six days, God engages in self-congratulation, pronouncing serial evening benedictions on the stuff created that day: “Good!”
Reverend Billy, otherwise known as Bill Talen, sports poorly dyed blond hair blown and sprayed back in a mighty bowl. In his cheap white suit and a clergy collar, he invites consumers to a booth where they can “confess your shopping sins” and be absolved. He is the pastor of the Church of Stop Shopping, and his Shopocalypse tour has been captured on film in What Would Jesus Buy? directed by Rob VanAlkemade and produced by Morgan Spurlock (creator of Super Size Me).
For a while it was expensive watches that most tempted the very rich. More recently it’s been handbags for women, which are intended to be iconic advertisements for designers and to flaunt the wealth of the owners. These are presumably people who survived the dot-com crash and the subprime crisis and have the trophies to prove it.
We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us,” Winston Churchill said to Parliament in 1943 after Nazi bombs destroyed the House of Commons. Churchill’s intuition was that the physical places we construct and inhabit shape the nature of our discourse.