Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reinforcing the religion of consumerism

During our mission trip to Colorado I was reading Alan Hirsch's wonderful book, The Forgotten Ways.  He makes the case that one of the greatest hindrances to living a life of Christ is not the false religions that we can so easily identify but one that is deceptive yet so prevalent in our western culture, that of consumerism. He writes "This is a far more heinous and insidious challenge to the gospel, because in so many ways it infects each and every one of us." We saw this vividly as our mission team held a sports camp for children at a new church plant in an affluent area in the superb of Denver, Colorado.  As we usually do, we promote the camp by giving away prizes for all kinds of things including prizes for those bringing their friends.  These are bracelets, balls, and various inexpensive items that can be found at the dollar store.

We usually do the camps in poverty stricken areas and the children love the prizes, even the most simplest of awards.  Although the kids here in the more affluent area were not so enamored by the prizes they still desired to compete for them. During our block party on the last night we had set up some simple games where the children won prizes and most of the children played the entire time, winning prize after prize.  One of the girls had at least 15 skinny bands, a couple of other bigger prizes and a very nice soccer ball she had won in a raffle. She still wanted more. She was not satisfied. It was such a clear picture of the ugly side of our consumer culture.   
It hit me the next day that we had unintentionally taught consumerism to the children at the camp perhaps more than we did the Gospel.  We certainly had taught about Jesus and shared the Gospel with the children during the camp but by our actions, we just reinforced the "religion" of consumerism. By awarding the kids with these worthless items, we taught them that these are the things we should strive. Then we turn around and tell them that they need Jesus. We’ve just told them by our actions that worthless stuff that you buy is the real treasure to strive for. Note to self, don't do this again. 

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