John Harrison (Part Time Preacher…), one of my Twitter pals with a memorable tag (@tragic_pizza–don’t know what it means, and probably don’t want to), preached a message last Sunday which focused on consumerism. Part of what he said has to do with the advertising industry:
‘In an article titled “Jesus is a Pair of Jeans,” Jean Kilbourne writes that, while advertisers have long promised us a better relationship via a product: buy this and you will be loved, they’ve more recently gone beyond that to promise us a relationship with the product itself: buy this and it will love you. The product is not so much the means to an end, as the end itself.
‘She says, “We are surrounded by hundreds, thousands of messages every day that link our deepest emotions to products, that objectify people and trivialize our most heartfelt moments and relationships. Every emotion is used to sell us something. Our wish to protect our children is leveraged to make us buy an expensive car. A long marriage simply provides the occasion for a diamond necklace. A painful reunion between a father and his estranged daughter is dramatized to sell us a phone system. Everything in the world – nature, animals, people – is just so much stuff to be consumed or to be used to sell us something.”’
All this was to emphasise the radical nature in today’s culture of the words found in Psalm 23: ‘The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.’ You can read the rest of his sermon here.
I couldn’t help but think about the title of that article ‘Jesus is a Pair of Jeans’ and what that may look like in my life. Do I see a difference between a ‘want’ and a ‘need’? Do I ‘want’ Jesus more than understand how much I need him? Is Jesus just like that new pair of jeans which I buy because I like the cut, the style and (most importantly?) the label?
I want to feel good about myself so I drive a certain car, wear a certain brand of sneakers, buy the right aftershave. . . . and read the right Bible, the most popular Christian authors, and listen to the right radio station. [Actually, I read the NRSV, Brian McLaren and really enjoy Triple-J, so this may not be so true.] But yet my deepest desires are often affected by what will make me look good, feel good, and see myself as important, loved, and complete.
My deepest being screams out against commercialism, consumerism and advertising. Yet I find, in many ways, I am a consumerist and a sucker for advertising. Especially when it is tied in with my emotional needs. The psalmist says God will provide my deepest needs, but do I believe him or that million-dollar slick ad with buff bodies trying to sell me a new razor? He says God will be my nourishment, but does what he provide taste as good as a McDonalds Dinner Box? God says he will clothe me in righteousness and truth, but does that bring the same status as Nikes or a pair of Levi’s?
So the battle continues . . .