Acts of Faith: We have become what we consume

Soon streets of Maple Ridge will be ringing out Christmas

The weekly flyers announce the coming of that time of year again – the Christmas shopping season is starting to pick up and soon will be in full swing.

Wish-lists are being made as the so-called hustle and bustle promises to sweep us all off our feet once again.

The advertising is poised to scatter the seeds of consumer desire into each and every one of us. Marketing strategies feed our desires for the things that we don’t have. They even create desires that we didn’t even know we had.

And as we glance through the flyers and walk through the shopping malls, our eyes begin to feast on the abundance of things that we start to believe that we desperately need.

Walk through an electronics store, and we begin to fix our eyes on the latest flat-screen hi-definition 3-D TV.  The images and thoughts linger, tumbling over each other in our minds for days on end. We begin to realize what we don’t have and what we desperately need.

Or take quick walk through one of the many clothing stores at our area malls, and see the latest styles and fashions for winter.  Our minds begin to imagine how great we would look.

As we go home and begin to run our fingers through the clothes in our closets, one item after another, we realize just how out of style we have become.

Our consumer way of life that we live so deeply into this time of year has become something much bigger in our society.

Steven Miles, professor in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Brighton writes in his book, Consumerism: As a Way of Life: “Consumerism appears to have become part and parcel of the very fabric of modern life … Consumerism is … arguably the religion of the late 20th Century.”

The religion of our time?  What a claim.

We have become what we consume.  It is in our consumption that we find ourselves, that we feel good about ourselves. That gives our lives something that completes them.

Writing more than 50 years ago in the Spring 1955 issue of The Journal of Retailing, Victor Lebow looked into the future and described what he saw coming: “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption a way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption.  The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today is expressed in consumptive terms.”

But where has this led us?

Are we happy with who we have become?

I invite you to ponder that question as you skim through this season’s shopping flyers.

Tim Sheridan is senior pastor of Maple Ridge CRC.

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