In American culture, we are constantly being told to buy products and be discontent with our current situation. Like lab rats, we are constantly stimulated and tested to change our situation. Greg speaks to how we are called to step out of this consumerism rat trap and find a different way of living.
If you want to boil a frog, you have to slowly heat up the pot while the frog is in it. This is because a reptile is cold-blooded and therefore will acclimate itself to whatever temperature is around it. A sudden change will cause the frog to leap out of the water, but a slow boil will make it think everything is fine. And, while we don’t believe in hurting animals in this way, we do think it is a good analogy for how we are being changed by culture.
In western American culture, we are very afraid of sudden changes that will affect our faith. But, like frogs, we are slowly boiling, and this is our greatest threat. This slow boil is consumerism.
Consumerism is alive and well in western culture, and it even affects a lot of theology in America. Consumerism is built on the premise that we need something else to make ourselves happy. We need the next new gadget, toy, book or entertainment. Otherwise, we are missing out on something. Our theology can mirror this consumerism need. Whether it is the health and wealth gospel or our own desires for more, we see a drive and normalization of consumerism within Christian circles in western culture.
We are culturally conditioned to chase this American dream, and it’s hindering our growth in living outrageously, generous lives. It’s not a recent phenomenon either, as it was predicted by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835. And this conditioning is so important that companies are taking the best and the brightest in neuroscience to figure out how to best manipulate the consumers to buy their product. Hundreds of times a day we are hit with messages designed by brilliant scientists to brainwash us.
Jesus calls us to not be like pagans who chase after stuff. We are to put the Kingdom first. Jesus is telling us to not consider anything our own. Now, Jesus did own things. He owned his clothes and he bought food and had money. His disciples as well. But Jesus never considered these things as his. For Jesus, they were God’s to do with as he willed. And, we are to manifest this exact same posture towards our things. Our house, cars, clothes and all possessions belong to God. We can enjoy them while we have them, but if we ever feel that God is asking us to give them away, then we need to obey.
Affluenza is described by social scientists as the bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. We are conditioned to feel unfulfilled, and we spend our entire lives chasing this elusive dream where we will never be fulfilled. And this is reflected in the debt in our lives. The average family credit card debt is $15,159, which has tripled since 1990. Part of the American dream is to buy now and pay later. Not to sound conspiratorial, but there are forces out there that are wanting to reduce us to mere consumers influenced by their products. We’re like lab rats being toyed with on a moment by moment basis. And it’s time that we finally stopped being lab rats.
First, we need to wake up to the way we are being brainwashed. Second, we need to realize that what we are really hungry for is God. Third, we should carve time out for God in our daily lives. Finally, we need to be in prayerful conversations with others. These steps will allow us to wake up to the boiling water around us and begin the process of fighting back against consumerism.
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