Thoughts on Consumerism

I came across a Bible today as I was cleaning house and deciding what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away.

This particular Bible is an extremely slim and portable KJV, with text that is about size 4 font- it’s not my cup of tea; I prefer large print as I’m virtually blind without glasses or contacts.

Anyway, as I thumbed through this Bible, I noticed conspicuously placed in the front matter was this:

Printed in China.

This copy of the Holy Scriptures was printed in a country in which it is not even legal for their own citizens to openly possess their own copy, unless it is an approved version consistent with “socialist values.” Wow. I could get into all kinds of irony with that, but what really got me thinking was our societal consumerism

We have a problem, and we feed it. China is the leading producer and manufacturer of goods because we continue to buy their stuff, use it up, and throw it out.

Everything is made to be disposable. Why? Because there’s more money in mass producing cheap garbage, selling it for 5 times what it’s worth, and then hooking purchasers on a chain of consumption. What do I mean by “chain of consumption”? Cell phones are a perfect example. My first ever cell phone lasted until I lost it, ’round about the 6 year mark. After that, new models were being produced annually, being sold under usurious debt contracts (yes, anything you sign your name to and promise to pay back in monthly installments with interest is debt slavery) that by the time they completely pay it off, (often times before) it has malfunctioned, broken, or otherwise ceased to function and the process starts all over again. Let alone the societal hunger for the next, newest, best thing.

We do it with clothing too. “Fast fashion” has it’s own “anti-” groups who decry the evils of mass producing cheaply made clothing that ends up in landfills. I cannot tell you how many pairs of jeans I’ve mended rather than purchase another pair. If they can’t be mended, I repurpose the material. I’ve started making clothing myself- more out of having higher standards of decency and propriety than society at large- in order to waste less and to have some quality items that will last.

We do it with literature. Most things published these days is done so in either digital only, or paperback format. I actually rejoiced the other day in obtaining a (used) hardback copy of the Risen Motherhood book. So many Christian authors pen books which are written to make a buck, be read once so long as it’s culturally relevant, and scrapped as soon as it’s shown to be dated, and the next one written and so on and so on. Very little holds up over time. The launch of these types of books is such that it costs more to consistently preorder this stream of pulp-fictionesque Christian non-fiction sort-of-commentary  than it would to just invest in a decent set of hard back commentaries from noted and legitimate biblical scholars, and use them to actually study the Bible itself, rather than take in the kitschy blathering of mainstream Christian authors trying to sell books about the Bible. Let alone the fact that the authors only really make money on pre-ordered copies, depending on your consumeristic need to have the new thing right now, as compared to their annually diminishing royalties years after it’s published. Hence the unending cycle.

This is part of the reason my husband and I began investing in classic literature, bound in leather. As Christians, we see this cheap paper and plastic world around us and we long for the immaterial Kingdom of God. We also long for the restoration of the earth and the eternal and lasting creation, untainted by sin and death.

If all this stuff burns up at the end of the age, what does it matter if we use up, throw away, trash everything around us? What amount of significance is one family seeking to invest and save and create legacy?

I’ll tell you.

Because this consumer attitude doesn’t stop with our stuff. It extends into our relationships. The second we are not gratified or served by someone, we cut ties. We sever relationship after relationship, using up, throwing away, and never investing in anything more than surface level. Because with relative truth, who can we trust!? If your truth is not the same as my truth, we have zero grounds for friendship because you inherently deny that which I affirm is true! This is why the coexist bumper sticker is the most infuriatingly, nauseatingly contradictory load of garbage I’ve ever seen. It’s not even pragmatic.

We use and abuse human beings; fellow Image bearers are cast aside, without regard to their immortal souls.

This should be cause enough for repentance among those who call themselves Christians. Especially now, when we view so much as disposable, Christians, and especially you wives and mothers out there, let’s make an effort to prioritize people over things. Let’s focus our time and energy not on acquiring new or better stuff, but on investing in the only eternal things we can on this plane of existence: the people in our lives.

We were important enough to God that instead of “throwing away” the sinful, soiled human race, He ransomed our everlasting souls by the shed blood of His own Son, Jesus Christ. He sought us out. He bought back our lives from destruction.  And that intense level of redemption and salvation should permeate every aspect of our lives and homes, especially as it pertains to our spouses and children.

Am I saying everybody should take up old furniture restoration and become seamstresses? No. But I am saying that being wasteful and consumeristic in our material goods can lead us into an attitude of consumerism rather than redemption in our relationships.

And for the record, the Bible is going in the “keep” pile, likely so that it can be gifted to someone who needs the redemptive Word of God in a culture that would sooner dispose of them.

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