America’s Religion

I recently read an article in the theology blog, “The Huffington Post” that struck me.  Probably because I have blogged on the topic of consumerism numerous times.  The post is titled “Sacred Brands: Consumerism as Modern Religion”

Some quotes that stuck out:

  • Brands are the new religion. People turn to them for meaning.
  • The ad man is the equivalent of a modern missionary
  • Macintosh users bear an eerie resemblance to a religious cult
  • Humans will, either by design or default, end up worshiping some god
  • The money once earmarked for church coffers now pay green fees

The author, Matt Rossano, is a psychologist.   Though I doubt he is a Christian, he ended with the following observation:

“I remain to be convinced that the world is a better place if increasing numbers of people bow at the altar of Gucci, Gap and Lexus rather than Jesus, Allah and Vishnu.”

Secular psychologists and liberal blogs are not alone in noticing these trends.  Consumerism is running rampant today.  It defines Americans.  We have always been defined by our faith.  It was one of the prime motivators that drove our founders to seek the new world.  But long ago, faith in almighty God was replaced by faith in the almighty dollar.  The Christian faith has been replaced by consumerism.  And this is not just “the world”; it is a cancer that afflicts the church as well.

Once upon a time, people actually believed in God – an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being.  An uncaused first cause.  The creator and sovereign ruler of all.  Now, most believe in a different god.  They call him “God”, and they say he’s the one spoken of in the bible, but they are fooling themselves.  The god of today, even for many in the church, looks much like the god Oprah and Glenn Beck talk about.  This God is good and helpful.  He is nice.  He may or may not have started things, but he is pretty much hands-off now.  He may be a myth or a real being, but if he is real he is distant – nearly as distant as Santa Claus.  We pray to him when we need new toys or when we get sick, but that’s it, because we don’t really believe in him anyway.  He doesn’t require anything of us – he just wants us to be happy.

I have to ask:  Does anyone really believe in God?  Does anyone behave “Christianly” (to borrow Jonathan Morrow’s terminology)?  Is it true of you?  Could people really tell by watching?  Real Christianity is a radical, fundamental change of lifestyle.  I know we have all heard it, and we all know it, but we don’t act as though we do.   If we have not been radically and fundamentally changed, then we are something different.  It’s one thing to call oneself a Christian, but behaving as Christ would is a different thing altogether.

The Christian life must be a prior decision.  You can’t make moral choices in the moment if you have not decided ahead of time what defines your morality.  Your life is made up of little choices you make every day.  And those choices have consequences that alter your life.  If we do not decide ahead of time what will guide those choices, we have already lost the battle.

Your faith changes you and it changes the world around you.  When you look at your own life and your surroundings, what do you see?  Is it markedly Christian, or is it marked by consumerism?  Are you identified by the latest iPad, the newest truck, the fancy computer, and the trophy wife?  Where does Jesus fit in there? Do people know you as the guy with the latest smart phone, or the guy who knows Jesus?  What is most evident in your life?

I think Rossano’s parting comment is worth pondering.  Will the world be better for you having been here?  If all people have to see is your life, will they see any purpose in Jesus having lived and died?  I know I have improvement to make in that area.  I think it is something worth keeping at the front of our minds – especially around this season where we look at a baby in a manger, but our minds are distracted by what we will buy and what we will receive.  I think we have entirely missed the point.

Is the world truly a better place because you worship Jesus, rather than Allah, Vishnu, Gucci or Gap?