A few years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a golf tournament near Celebration, Florida. This entirely planned community was built by and located near the fantasy land of Disney World. After the tournament, the organizers shared the benefits of living in a community dedicated to relationships and then took us on tour of this small town where one could walk to every shopping need and retreat to the days of black and white TV, when the world was perfect – if of course you were a white male – but I digress. One architectural feature however stood out. Every house had a large front porch.
Randy Frazee in the Connecting Church also speaks of porches – spiritual groups built around demographic areas and the importance of cultivating community through – front porches! Porches aide us in developing community – it’s the Single-Family home model.
But – in Consuming Culture, Vincent Miller warns us to beware of “treating everything, including religion as an object of consumption.” Surprisingly, the Single-family home is listed as a culprit! This new form of domestic consumption shows how a “dream” can turn into a nightmare. The single-family home provided the infrastructure to encourage diminishing support systems and insulated us further because of distance. It weakened the impact on parental influence as children moved away to establish their own “homes” and how automated appliances replaced traditional labor which traditionally had brought people together.
My copy of the book was pre-owned, with notes written in the margin by a previous owner. Though the author states that as Christian communities, “we want to identify ourselves against the world; the church simply doesn’t function as a complete culture.” One marginal note written in red asks “why is this bad?” Perhaps the reader is unable to grasp the truth that if we are no different as a culture, what’s the point of coming together in community? Naively we believe we are unique and that we are transformers of culture but Miller leads us to believe it’s just the opposite.
I want the Christian community to stand against consumerism, seeing our faith, symbols and icons through a redemptive worldview lens, rather than through the Dominate cultural lens.
I finished the book while flying back from Mexico. Landing in Houston, hungry, the words of Consuming Religion rang throughout my head. As I passed a kiosk, I noticed Naked Green Juice – All natural, employing “fair-trade” labor rules, recyclable bottle, and good for the environment. I paid $4.99 for one carafe.
I felt good and smiled inwardly – I had fought “consumerism with no purpose.” But then I reconsidered. It’s easy to fight commodification and the desire to fall to the idols of consumerism and immoral low prices when I use the church credit card. But would my convictions hold up next time I’m thirsty – and it’s on my dime?