Thursday, October 1, 2009

Christianity and Consumerism

Recently, I was reading ‘The College Student’s Introduction to Christology’, by William P. Loewe, when I came across the following sentence:

Fourth and finally, we can also ask whether there is not a tendency on the part of the economic sector to spread out and rationalize every conceivable aspect of our human living as a commodity in the production of which a profit is to be had.

It does seem sometimes that consumerism has invaded every single aspect of our life. Whatever we need, whatever we want, whatever we hope for, there’s a product that can either help us obtain it or improve it. Christmas and Easter have practically been reduced to long shopping lists and busy malls. Even something as meaningful and important as the arrival of a new baby comes with a list of ‘things to buy’ – preferably new, preferably expensive – often containing a whole heap of things that aren’t even necessary, but new parents buy them anyway, because the magazines say we need them.

Even Christianity is not safe from the consumer bug. There used to be a time when all you needed was a bible and a church to follow Jesus. (And to be perfectly honest, you don’t actually need that. Many Christians around the world don’t have either. But they sure do help.) Now we have Christian books, CDs, DVDs, conferences, toys, computer games, bible covers, jewelry, t-shirts and even mints! Instead of the one bible, we have a multitude of versions, not to mention bibles on CD, MP3, software and iPhone applications. Not only is every single area of our life reduced to a consumer product, if you’re a Christian, you can find a Christian consumer product to suit every area of your life.

And we are often told we need these products. At the end of many sermons, you’ll hear the preacher urge everybody to buy this or that book, because it will bless you and really improve your Christian walk. You almost feel like you’re a bad Christian if you don’t immediately rush to the stalls. Christians are kind of expected to have more than one bible version, with a bible cover, Christian books and Christian CDs. I remember hearing one Christian say that he had never been to the local Christian bookstore. The looks of amazement on people’s faces. What? You’ve never been to the Christian bookstore. But you’re a Christian. Shouldn’t you be out there buying Christian products?

Now I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. When it comes to Christian products, I have more bibles, Christian books and Christian CDs than anyone I know. Just before writing this post, I was going through a book catalogue circling what I wanted to buy. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. (Well, I hope there isn’t. Because if there is, I’m in trouble.) But I do think there’s something wrong with turning every single little thing into a Christian product. Do we really need Christian mints? Seriously.

It can also become a problem when we think we need to have all these consumer products. There is absolutely no book or DVD or CD that we absolutely must get. It can also become a problem if we think buying things makes us a good Christian. It doesn’t. Nobody is going to be judged by how much money they spend at the Christian bookstore.

And maybe instead of telling people, ‘Oh, you really should read this book,’ we’d be better of pointing to the bible and saying, ‘You really must do what’s in that book.’


  1. Amen. I disliked Christmas for a long while for all its commercialism. Something that I've enjoyed now, though, is the liturgical seasons. I love focusing on the season and disciplines of Advent. It's like something to take the mind away from all the consumerism flying around.

  2. Hi Luke. Sorry I took so long to approve your comment. I haven't been on here for awhile. I agree that the consumerism of Christmas is particularly annoying. I don't like rampant consumerism at the best of times, but Christmas is a very bad time for it. And it's so annoying, because right when people should be focusing on Christ, they're too busy Christmas (or is that Xmas) shopping to do so.

    I have a picture on my fridge that is of Jesus with a line above it, saying 'Where in the bible did I say that you have to buy so much stuff to celebrate my birthday?'



Bookmark and Share

Blog Patrol