The Catholic theologian Tom Beaudoin argues that for many consumerism provides exactly what any (other) religion does for its adherents:
1. It gives us identity – are you a PC or a MAC?
2. It helps us to belong to a community – do you belong to MYSPACE or FACEBOOK?
3. It develops trust – when you buy a MERCEDES you know it is…
4. It helps us experience ecstasy – When I felt bad the other day, I took some “retail therapy” and I felt so much better…
5. It communicates transcendence through sacred images and symbols – When kids (and quite a number of adults) see the golden arches of McDonalds they go crazy.
6. It promises us conversion to a new life – if you would ‘just’ buy this special brand watch it will change your life!
7. It promises us (ultimately) rest for the restless heart. – you know there is something missing in your life, you feel you're not beautiful anymore, you were no longer in love with your spouse… but then you discovered product X and look what a difference it makes!
I think most agree consumerism truly is a problem, not in the least because of its impact on the environment.
But if it is a religion, what should our posture towards it be? How do you not adhere to it?
Do you believe what consumerism offers is true? If not, then what we are saying is that consumerism is a false religion with empty promises and/or destructive solutions. If you are a Christian what is it that you/we are promising with respect to these questions? I've found that not only do Christians (myself included) over-promise when it comes to the questions mentioned above but perhaps more importantly we so often live as if the consumerist story is true. How then shall we live?