Shopping for truth: The Fork in the consumer road
If you have a few minutes, check out this article in Orion Magazine, and compare it to this editorial in Fast Company. If you don't have time to read the articles, here's the summary:
Orion - We can, indeed must live differently than the "gospel of consumption" peddled so effectively by culture. We can scale back on our consumption, and thus scale back on our working hours as well, finding more time for creation, family, friends, and creativity. This is good for our souls, good for the environment, and good for our families.
Fast Company - We won't live differently, because there's always a new product just around the corner that will fuel a new wave of consumerism. Just look at the cell phone. First nobody needed one. Now we all need them. Just look at the i-phone. One high tech creative product creates an entire spin-off industry of i-phone apps. This, according to Fast Company is precisely what Orion calls the "good news" of consumerism: we'll always buy more stuff. And that, we're told, is good for everyone.
Well friends, which is it? And if it's the former, what should we do about it? I've written about this in a chapter on generosity in my book, but I'd like to ponder for a few minutes the contradictory nature of these two paradigms and ask:
1. are these two views of the world contradictory to the extent that they can't be synchronized?
2. if yes, what does that look like? If no, which view more closely embraces the gospel of Jesus?
These aren't hypothetical questions, for the dilemma of our current world is that if enough people start living simply, planting their own gardens, buying their clothes from 2nd hand shops, mending their shoes and cars instead of buying new ones, we're stuffed. And yet, if we continue to shop as we've shopped, live as we've lived, we'll continue to degrade the environment, continue to try and find the cheapest price for products, which means companies will continue to outsource production to places where environmental and labor laws are least constrained, which means....??
If Paul says this, then what should I buy, for I clearly can't apply this literally. And regarding what I buy, and when: Should I bend towards local shops, or warehouse sales? Should I eschew the latest product and keep my stuff 'til it breaks, or should, for the good of the economy, buy new stuff, better stuff? How does discipleship affect shopping?
Our GDP shrunk at annual rate of 6.1% last quarter. People are shopping less, driving less, ravaging the earth less, talking with friends more, AND unemployment is on the rise. Finding our voice as followers of Jesus in the midst of this is important, and challenging.
I welcome your thoughts