Tribune Print Share Text

The new idol (consumerism)

Created date

November 22nd, 2011

Having celebrated God s blessings on Thanksgiving Day, and with the Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanza holidays approaching, most Americans are doing what they believe will bring peace on earth and goodwill toward men. They re going shopping. Brian Walsh, adjunct professor at the Toronto School of Theology, warns that consumerism is the new idol in our culture. Our purpose is to be faithful consumptive units to help feed the global economy. Globalization isn t just an aggressive stage in the history of capitalism. It is a religious movement of previously unheard-of proportions. Progress is its underlying myth, unlimited economic growth its foundational faith, the shopping mall its place of worship, consumerism its overriding image. Pastor T. M. Moore agrees: In a society rapidly becoming more focused on progress in science, knowledge, and technology, radical individualism would lead to materialism and consumerism as the highest values in life: The way to personal salvation, health, wealth, and popularity could be achieved through consuming.

A better way

Commentator John Whitehead suggests an alternative to bowing down to the idol of consumerism during the holiday season: Rather than thinking about the height of the selling season, why can t it be a season of reflection and joy? Why can t it be a time to step back and meditate on the original reasons behind the holiday? Last Christmas was one of the most joyous holidays I ve experienced in a long time, writes an anonymous reader. Our family adopted a less fortunate family, something we hadn t done since our own children were little. The hugs and smiles from the grandmother when we delivered the toys and clothes was the best gift we could ask for. Days later we received a desperate call from a friend who could not make the mortgage payment because his wife had been laid off. We had the cash to cover it for him, and the relief and gratitude in his eyes proved that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive. Others celebrate by delivering turkeys so families can have a holiday dinner, or volunteering at soup kitchens, or inviting someone who might otherwise spend the holiday alone to share in their festivities. I pray that these will be truly holy days during which we replace the idol of consumption with rejoicing in God s good gifts, and remember to share them with others. Have a blessed holiday.