Why Christian Activism is Not the Solution to Christian Consumerism

It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t think the American church has significant problems, but in the last few years one problem has been getting more attention than others: consumerism. I wrote a book about the intermingling of consumerism and Christianity about 5 years ago. The Divine Commodity¬†looked at different way consumerism manages to distort our image of God, the church, worship, mission, community, etc, and then prescribed various spiritual practices to begin transforming that which consumerism had malformed in us. Since The Divine Commodity’s release numerous other books about Christian consumerism have been published and some have even become best-sellers. In some way they each deride the self-centeredness of the consumer American church. While I am pleased more church leaders are recognizing and addressing the harmful influence of consumerism, I have been disturbed by the solution being proscribed by many of the books and leaders tackling this problem. In most cases I hear them calling Christians away from self-indulgent consumerism into radical activism. Some define this activism traditionally–mission and evangelism. Others broaden the call to include social justice, poverty, and compassion issues. In one form or another the message is the same: “Stop focusing on yourself and get out there and change the world.” In July I was invited to address the national gathering of staff workers with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Colorado. The event brought together 6,000 people who have dedicated their lives to the mission of the gospel. These are activists by any measure. Having been involved with Crusade as an undergraduate myself, I was familiar with the culture of the ministry. So I decided to speak about the hidden danger of combating Christian consumerism with Christian activism. The video of my talk is now available on the Cru website. You can watch the 20 minute talk here followed by 10 more minutes of Q&A.

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