“Just do buy it.”
Living in Portland means visiting the Nike employee store at least once. Nike is based in Beaverton (a suburb of Portland). Many of the congregants at the church I serve at work are Nike employees.
About a year ago, I got my first Nike Employee Store pass. I entered the store intending to purchase some running shoes. I left with a lot more than I anticipated. I’d like to describe myself as frugal and self-controlled. Overspending is rare. What changed?
It was the picture at the end of the running shoe aisle. In this picture were several runners decked out in Nike gear. They were fit. They had the latest running styles. And I wanted to be them. In this picture, I saw who I wanted to be and who I could be. The vision for my life was clear. The Nike Running brand was my brand. And, of course, to live out this identity required the proper attire. Capitalism’s insidious branches caught me.
Summary of Clark and Miller
Dr. Jason Clark’s diagnosis and reparative of Evangelicalism’s entanglement with capitalism highlights why this entanglement exists as well as a proposal for a way forward. The “why” behind this entanglement is that “There is competition between the body of Christ and other social arrangements in the world, and those social bodies are created through habits and practices around imaginations for life.” The interrogated social imaginary is capitalism. The desires of the soul find their location in the materialism of society.
Vincent Miller, author of Consuming Religion, writes about the insidious nature of consumerism and how it dislocates the spiritual practice and beliefs for the sake of consumption. Removed from community and context, this dislocation “weakens” such spiritual practices.
When we have our antennas up, we could exhaust ourselves and surrender to despair when seeing the plethora of ways the Church in America has become tied with capitalism. But there is a way forward to faithful living in the midst of our capitalist environment. I will now highlight Dr. Clark’s proposed solution while including my own (to supplement, not replace).
A Way Forward
Dr. Clark, in utilizing the work of James K.A. Smith, writes, “For Smith himself proposes that what is required is a counter vision of life, i.e., the Kingdom of God, to unmask this situation and provide an alternative vision, around which Christian worship might retrain and form us differently and more affectively.” Clark continues by highlighting that Smith’s reparative lacks an adequate pneumatological involvement. But for the purpose of this post, I want to bring together Clark, Smith, and Dallas Willard for proposing how to move forward.
Telling a Better Story – Kingdom Vision
Humans are moved and shaped by the stories we tell and believe. Smith writes, “Christian formation is a conversion of the imagination effected by the Spirit, who recruits our most fundamental desires by a kind of narrative enchantment – by inviting us narrative animals into a story that seeps into our bones and becomes the orienting background of our being-in-the-world.” Story provides us with a vision for what we can live into provided we believe the story to be true and worth living into. Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart writes about how people are changed by a compelling vision for the kind of life that is possible, with the intention and the means to make that life a reality. When there is competing desire found in capitalism, the invitation for us as Christian leaders is to tell a better story, the Kingdom of God story, that has relevance for our present lives (not just our future deaths). It is a story we need to help people picture and move them towards action – just as the picture at the Nike store provided me with a vision and moved me toward action (buying more Nike stuff).
What could it look like for us to become so familiar, yet captivated by the story of the Kingdom of God, and help people to imagine the possibilities of the Kingdom life? This, I would argue, is a far more compelling story and vision than what capitalism has to offer.
 Jason Paul Clark, “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship” (2018). Faculty Publications – Portland Seminary. https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/gfes/132, 196.
 Vincent J. Miller and Vincent Jude Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2005), 7.
 Clark, “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship.” 226.
 James K.A. Smith, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Cultural Liturgies. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2013), 15. Cited by Clark, “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship.” 228-229.
 Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ – 20th Anniversary Edition (NavPress, 2021) 82-91.