Friday, November 26, 2010

In the Sweet Buy and Buy (From Linda Van Slyke)

Black Friday, so-named because it helps change the red ink of debt into the blank ink of profit, has become the high holy day of consumerism.

Worse than that, it has become the ultimate symbol of what Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr. calls “economism” - which he defines as “the conviction that economic values are the most important, and the restructuring of society to express that valuation.” Economism not only encourages consumerism, but also fosters a clinging to wealth (investments, possessions, savings) as a means of insuring security and worth.

Since insuring security and worth used to be the purview (and lure) of religion, Cobb also defines economism as “the first truly successful world religion.” He describes it as “the most powerful and successful idolatry of all time.”

Case in point: Are people rolling out of bed and shivering on long lines in order to catch Sunday morning’s sermon? How about Saturday morning’s minyan? Friday’s noon prayers? Are the masses stampeding the pearly gates the way they are the mall ones? Do they come bearing gifts – or do they leave buying gifts?

A person’s true faith is more often revealed by a checkbook than by an autobiography. Money not only goes where the mouth is, but also where the heart is. The beloved Unitarian theologian, James Luther Adams, claimed that everyone has a religion, many just don’t know it. Religion is focused upon that which people have confidence (faith) in. This can often be determined by where they commit their time, energy, attention and resources.

Mart or heart? For some, there’s a huge theological gulf between the two…



Katherine said...

You know, I don't buy this argument anymore. I got up at 4 this morning to get to a sale where my son's prsent was 1/2 price. I didn't say a prayer to Sam Walton while I was there, and I won't skip church Sunday now that I have this item. A good religious life is built over years, decades, and there's nothing wrong with buying nice presents for kids. In fact, if we do spend our money on Christmas presents, and we do help more businesses go into the black in these hard times, we're saving jobs and increasing both tax revenue and good citizenship in our society. I think it could be argued that it's the most ethical religious choice to buy and give as generously as possible at this time of year.

Linda Van Slyke said...

Katherine, thanks for approaching this from a different perspective. For some,the level of overall consumerism that creates and sustains a Wal*Mart raises a theological red-flag;for others, it doesn't. "Good citizenship" can also be defined in various ways.