Christian ethicist James Nash has provided a useful catalog
of some of the main reasons for overconsumption in present-day culture: a
social ideology of rising expectations; technological developments that create
new perceptions of what is needed to function effectively and decently in the culture;
higher discretionary income for many people; shopping as an addictive practice;
cultural encouragement of pleasure-seeking impulses; consumption as
compensation for social isolation, powerlessness, and insecurity; conformity to
the values of one’s reference group; and competitive consumption that is based
on comparisons with others. The countertheology of consumption is so pervasive
that some have argued consumerism has become our culture’s religion and that
shopping malls have become suppliers of meaning as powerful as any church.
Discipleship calls Christians to life characterized by
responsible use of resources for enjoyment of both oneself and the world. It is
the task of the church to heighten communal awareness of the countertheology of
consumption and to offer spiritual direction and practices that cultivate the
cruciform life. Frugality and voluntary simplicity are among the practices the
church can offer. Regular,
firstfruits giving is another.
These practices are not aimless acts of restraint. They are transformational.
Through these spiritual practices and others, the disciple encounters God in
ways not possible through other means.
What spiritual practices have helped you or others live a life not ruled by the desire to spend or consume? Or, what other reasons are there for American consumerism?