Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Christian Consumerism

David J. Dunn has posted about the Christian response to consumerism at Eastern Orthodox Consumerism.

Considering the all pervasiveness of the consumer culture Christians have to respond and they usually respond in one of two ways.  Economic asceticism and Economic hedonism.

One spurns the pleasures of the world as sinful. The other seems materialistic, except that consumer materialism is false and temporary. We consumers do not cherish the material world so much as we cycle through it.

He then points to the living out of the liturgical life as a way of transcending these dichotomies.  The Eastern Orthodox liturgical cycle is noted for its frequent fasts.  The fast of course is always a prelude to a feast. 

Our liturgical life is a pattern of feasting and fasting. The purpose of the fast is not to punish ourselves, to deny the goodness of matter, or simply to deny ourselves luxuries. A fast is like an appetizer. When we fast, we anticipate the feast. This temporary “denial” of some matter is actually an affirmation of it. Because the fast anticipates the feast – which anticipates the feast of feasts in God’s kingdom – then what we consume for us becomes a kind of icon.

And so matter, that which is consumed, becomes a means of grace to use a more western idiom.  Though the Eastern Church is noted for the emphasis it places on fasting (and feasting), the Western Church also has its own traditions to which we might do well to attend to once again.  Our calendar also has a pattern of fasting before feasting Lent and Advent being the prime examples.  And throughout the year we had the Ember days in each of the four seasons and the weekly Friday abstinence/fast. Learning to live into these practices can be very liberating.  

According to Dunn
embracing the fast in anticipation of the final feast of the kingdom – is one way to discipline our desires and maybe make us more conscientious consumers. If what we buy brings us into peace with God and neighbor, contributes to our love of others, and brings us joy that lasts longer than the euphoria of the initial purchase, then consumer culture’s grip on us is just a little less secure.   

That is definitely something worth doing.