It may be controversial to avoid shopping in supermarkets. And at least unusual to cut down on buying new products in favour of free-cycling…But perhaps the most critical question of all is whether or not the Church has been infected by consumer culture.
The other articles of this series are:
(c) Flickmor - creative commons
Jo Abbess from Christian Ecology Link (CEL) argues that evangelism has been confused with salesmanship.
“CDs, DVDs, books, TV and radio channels. Everything is 'for sale'. Famous guests who charge a premium rate. Perhaps they are selling Jesus instead of inviting people to come together, live together and grow in the Vine?
“Church services are products. You pay for your hour of godly interaction then put money in the plate. Where’s the communion? Where’s the community? You only see people on a Sunday morning."
Jo is also critical of the Church’s dependence on public relations and claims that most churches involved in outreach use PR tools.
“People recognise the call to attend or buy something. It’s a trading mechanism that everyone recognises. Unfortunately this has side effects and it hollows out the call to love one another. If you exchange pieces of metal and paper for God, perhaps you’re not involved with God as much as you could be.”
Jo argues that there's a time and a place for calling consumer culture into question and argues for what she calls “higher values” that go beyond current systems of trade.
Jo wants to encourage churches to tackle society’s problems rather than contribute to them. She cites debt-help initiatives and food cooperatives as examples of churches making a positive contribution.
“Are we looking at a post Christian country? If so, how does church work?" Answering her own question, Jo says: "It [the Church] has to come outside the walls and have community not just with Christians but with everybody. Does the Eucharist become a Sunday lunch for everyone regardless of their faith? How do you do community where you can’t assume everyone has the same beliefs?”
Jo suggests that the UK could be about to hit a “post-consumer peak”, meaning that consumer culture is no longer able to deliver ever increasing quantities of products to buy.
“We have to think about a diminished future and what that means for the prospects for young people who don’t have work and properties. What does the Church say? What’s the ecology that holds the church together?”
It’s a good question.
July 27th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes