The Monkey in the Middle of the Room
I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For thoughI am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
In my post “The Dangers of Syncretism” I highlighted the dangers of blending ideologies and religions with Christianity, and the fact that many times the Christian Church has not taken seriously the confession “Jesus is Lord.” Lisa has responded with further clarification on her blog on how to define syncretism and has argued that it has a presence throughout historical Christendom. Lisa comments, "Syncretism as it is understood in the modern Christian theological scene is ‘the incorporation of non-christian elements’ into Christendom. Every Christian culture in every epoch has done it. The western church does it, the eastern Church do it, they do it in Africa and Asia, they probably do it at your church."
I believe that syncretism is a major issue that as Christians we have to tackle. As Christians our allegiance is not to the ideas/idols/philosophies of the day. The danger is that if we do not ally ourselves with Jesus and let him reign present in our lives – submitting ourselves to his rule, we allow ourselves be shaped by the culture and we lose our force..
Hirsh in his work argues that the greatest challenge to the Christian message today is Consumerism. Consumerism has risen as a powerful reality as the power of the free market in our lives has gained a greater grip over our culture in the western world. Big corporations and there marketing brands have found that they can coerce buyers through co-oping religious and theological material to brand themselves. For example, Levis in New Zealand a couple of years ago used the image of a women going into the sea in her undies and coming out “born again” in her levis jeans. Marketers are using the idea that if you have the latest gadgets you will be part of a community and be accepted and loved because of the gadgets you own (Mac Zealots are now even being labelled by many “the cult of Mac”) Gaining more stuff and remaking your life and house has become linked to “improving your life.” Designer experiences to get emotional and spiritual and emotional highs are so common within our society that it isn’t funny. Reality TV shows, home do up shows, theme parks, even our overseas holidays all feed this need within the western condition for something more.
I believe there is a desire for “something more” but we fall short, we are searching in the wrong places. The spiritual highs we get when we buy things doesn’t last and leaves us empty inside, we search for fulfilment yet end up lost in a sea of voices.
Under this excessive influence of the market, experiences, indeed life itself tends to become commodified. In such an economy, people are viewed as mere consumptive units. The suburbs all orbit around the central consumerist temple called The Shopping Mall. Teenagers walk aimless up and down these soulless corridors as if looking for an answer that somehow evades them in the windows. Their parents saunter through the same malls indulging in a dose of “reality therapy.” Disneyland, cruise vacations, extreme sports, drugs, and the like are consumable experiences.
The desire in a consumer society is convenience, safety, and security. We want heaven conveniently packaged to reach our felt needs and wants and desires. Yet what looks so good really is what enslaves us and makes us fall short of the original purpose that God made us to live. By following these desires and these feelings we become enslaved – you can see it at present – people go in debt to own a house they cannot afford, people buy gadget upon gadget, cd upon cd, to keep up with the Jones’ so that they can be accepted. But it doesn’t work.
So how does consumerism infect the Christian community why do I think it is such a large issue
I will hit this on a number ways.
1. It is one of the major conditions of the attractional mode of church.
2. It impedes discipleship
3. Because it impedes discipleship it impedes our ability to be truly missional.
4. Because it is so enslaving we have to identify it and tackle it head on and do spiritual surgery in our own life.
As I write this I feel convicted of this myself, I struggle with the tensions in this world and struggle with my desire to buy and acquire more stuff to fulfil my felt needs. I am living in this tension and still figuring my way through it, struggling and wrestling to break the chains and lies that come from the messages of the culture around me.