“Just BUY it.”
“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.
10 responses to ““Just BUY it.””
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Great post David… I can almost see you after your purchase going… “What just happened here….?”
How can we help people imagine and engage with the story of the Kingdom of God? How can we help them to become captivated like you were with the NIKE STORE PASS and draw them away from the enticements of capitalism?
Honestly I think through beauty, art, and stories that spark the imagination towards the present reality of the Kingdom of God as well as the future coming of the Kingdom. This requires creativity, thinking out of the box, and creating better art than is the standard “Christian art” at one’s average Christian store.
Hey David, What a well done post! Thank you.
I love the Kingdom Vision “is a far more compelling story and vision than what capitalism has to offer”
I am curious, do we need money to serve better?
This blog was easy to read and very enjoyable!
I love this and want to save it as a quote:
“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.”
I loved the opening paragraph and how your shared how consumerism ‘got you’. I am sure you look great in your NIKE gear!! Praying for your tendon… healing!! Got to get running again!
David – Now I definitely want to read Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart. Thank you for that. I will taking the idea of “telling a better story – Kingdom Vision” with me!
David, Great post! You did a fantastic job of concisely talking about Miller and Clark’s writing, and then weaving in Clark’s use of Smith and adding Willard. I also appreciate how you developed this blog around “Telling a better story – Kingdom Vision,” adding your own thoughts and experiences to the topic.
Your concluding paragraph is inspiring. Have you had any more thoughts on how to weave this into your current ministry?
I just went to the Nike Employee Store a few weeks ago! I went in for a new pair of running shoes and came out with two!
Hi Jenny! Thanks for the encouragement. I think this is reflected most in how I think about preaching. I have shifted to seeing it more as painting a picture of the Kingdom life to help people find it compelling.
Congrats on the new shoes!
Fun post. I like the way you integrated your Nike context into the reading and thinking about how we live counter-consumerist lives.
You concluding thoughts are thought provoking…I agree that the church often struggles to offer a compelling counter story to the consumerist culture. How might we imagine a Kingdom of God life that can be captured by an inspiring poster? It is compelling that Nike (and many others) can find that image of person that resonates so deeply with just a glance.
I think highlighting the stories of people living out the Kingdom live – especially those who are not at the center of power and privilege. So when I’m preparing a sermon, I try to think of stories of heroes of the faith I can tell, such as Oscar Romero and John Perkins.
This was amazing perspective. Thank you for sharing your shopping story, that has happened to me too! I love the part you write about being a part of a story. This is such a great perspective. When you look at it that way, that we were created as a part of a story and we long to be a part of a story so many things fall into place and begin to make sense in a new way. I will have to read this book and sit with this new idea.