Consumer culture is a profound problem for contemporary religious belief and practice. Beyond the excesses of consumerism lie cultural dynamics that incline people to engage religious belief as if they were consumer commodities.– Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (link)
Miller’s is a profound book with predictable content and conclusions. I don’t say that because it’s simplistic or banal, but because it outlines what most of us in ministry already know, namely that commodified church threatens to derail the journey of a disciple.
The author goes on:
When consumption becomes the dominant cultural practice, belief is systematically misdirected from traditional religious practices into consumption. (…) When members of consumer cultures sincerely embrace religious traditions, they encounter them in a fragmented, commodified form. Beliefs, symbols, and even practices come abscracted form their connections to one another. (…) Thus, religious belief is always in danger of being reduced to a decorative veneer of meaning over the vacuousness of everyday life in advanced capitalist societies.
I read this and feel immediately compelled to repent of anything I’ve ever done in ministry to promote, whether by accident or to build something, a consumer culture. I also realize the work ahead of us in a post-Christian nation that may finally have the revival that we’re all praying for — as long as it’s not a decorative veneer, right? Revival for any other reason than personal holiness is nothing more than a new experience for bored consumers like you and me. If we could buy Christlikeness… would we?
Thinking and praying about this. What are your thoughts?