The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani has been one of the most intriguing books I’ve read this year. His thoughts on consumer Christianity are well crafted, and I love the way he weaves in van Gogh’s life and artwork (I can’t wait to act like a complete art snob in front friends now with my recent ‘education’).
Jethani hits hard at how consumerism is the dominant worldview in North America and how it’s infiltrated the church. Religious merchandise is a $7 billion dollar annual industry and he goes as far as saying “shopping occupies a role in society that once belonged only to religion – the power to give meaning and construct identity.”
I was a bit surprised that he named names as he critiqued church growth / branding / marketing, but he also humbly includes his own struggle and journey with a consumer mindset. The heart of it being the outsourcing of our imagination, “Image saturated culture means that the imagination isn’t required the way it once was… we ingest ready-made images like junk food”.
The most affirming and convicting idea Jethani suggests is the abandoning of bigger-is-better strategies and outcomes. This is affirming because I know it’s true, I see it in the life of Jesus, and I know that it was “the Lord that added to their numbers” in the early church. This is convicting because I’m guilty of having a consumer mindset all the time. Something in me still wants the spectacular and the jaw-dropping turnouts, but maybe when it overshadows the simple seeds of silence, prayer, love, friendship, fasting, and hospitality, we’ve veered off the wrong way.
Where do you see consumerism shaping your life and the church?