Posts Tagged ‘Consumerism’

Discipleship, and the “American Dream.”

Ancient idol to Baal with some 21st century upgrades

All my life I have heard this verbal icon “The American Dream.” I hear it more often now than ever. You can’t go through an account of the recent fraud and corruption which brought the down our economy without hearing someone invoking that well worn phrase “The American Dream.” But what is “The American Dream” to a disciple of Jesus?
There is no “official” definition, but the phrase invokes the idea of home ownership, comfort and security, and an increasing ability to acquire money and possessions.
Dr. Francis Schaeffer describes this as “Impoverished values” of our culture. He calls these values “personal peace and affluence.”

Personal peace means just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city–to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. Affluence means and overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity –a life made up of things, things, and more things–a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance. (Francis Schaeffer: How Should We Then Live , Ch 11).

What does all this have to do with following Jesus as His disciple? Absolutely nothing. Where does that put “The American Dream” for a disciple? Off the map and out of the question. We don’t need to live for ourselves in such a way. Unfortunately, however, our entire culture is driven by this principle. Nowadays, we call it Consumerism and we are all up to our eyeballs in it.

We must step away from these practices and live differently. This is one of the most radical steps a Christ follower has to make in order to practice discipleship. She or He will have to learn new ways to live and new practices to align God’s ways and get off the consumer treadmill. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get together with fellow Christ followers as often as you can. Support each other in practicing discipleship. Read and discuss scripture together (avoid pre-published pre-recorded studies). Work with knowledgeable people that you know who want to help you get stronger.
  • Get out of debt. Buy only what you need. Repair what can be repaired. Borrow things or rent. Check Craigslist, Ebay and other resources¬† before you go making big purchases. Never shop when you are bored or depressed or tired.
  • Do an inventory and see how many things you bought that you are not using. Is it wise to buy a $300 chainsaw on credit only to store it after using it on one or two trees?
  • Wisdom, understanding and knowledge…get some…get lots of it. Consumerism thrives on your ignorance. It promotes quick fix solutions that you buy without thinking. Know what you are doing and why. Take the time to make good decisions. You can’t buy success.
  • Cut down on your entertainment. You will live longer and better sitting in front of friends than in front of a screen.
  • Use the Internet to learn and grow. Search and research. Use social networks to promote real friendships and genuine connections. Use Skype more.
  • Practice generosity. Shop for somebody else. Shop for needs. Lend or give to those who need. Do this as a group if you can.
  • Practice community. Consumerism isolates us into individuals buying only for ourselves and tending to our own needs. Community is a far more effective way of dealing with the rough spots in life and it is exactly what Jesus tells us to do.

These are Just a few ideas to get us started. The main thing is this: If we are going to “walk in Christ,” then we have to step away from some of the values of our culture. Living free of consumerism is the best way to deal with it. Practice is better than protest.

Please reply and give us some more ideas on the matter.