24 August 2009

must consume...must consume

The word “consumer” is an insult! That is, the way the word is usually employed by the media, the government, and our society in general makes it an insult.

In his book, Leap Over a Wall (which I mentioned in my last post), Eugene Peterson is comparing “ordinary” people versus those who are “experts.” He makes the observation, “Our culture holds experts and professionals in a regard that’s inflated out of all proportion to reality. The corollary of this is that we regard the layperson as a near idiot, competent only when consulting with or deferring to the expert.” (p. 18)

Including himself as clergy, he notes how this mentality infects the church. We abdicate “the original splendor of a new life in Christ and [decline] into the wretched condition of the consumer. The consumer is passivity objectified: passive in the pew, passive before the TV screen, vulnerable to every sort of exploitation and seduction, whether religious or secular.” (p. 21)

It’s long seemed to me that referring to people as “consumers” is a disparaging command. Especially in America, whether in the church or out of it (sadly, it doesn’t seem to make a difference!), we are given an order to consume. Take the earth’s resources, turn them into all kinds of useless crap, buy them, eat them, put them in off-site storage units, use cheaply-made products which soon break, throw them away, and then consume more in a ridiculous cycle.

But I need to stop now. I’m getting hungry; I need to consume something…

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