Vincent Miller reveals how consumerist ideas have crept into our religious activities, by putting more of an emphasis on consumerism than on a deep spiritual connection. This commercialization of religion has the potential to be detrimental. Miller states that people must give up the materialistic ideals embedded in their beliefs if they are to completely experience God’s love.
“We consume not only products and services but also rituals, images, and stories.” (1)
The Commodification of Culture and Consumer Religion
Consumerism has entered our culture and ideas to the point where it is now almost ingrained. In order to regain spiritual progress, this type of commodification advises seeking for alternate answers both within ourselves and within each other. It is easy to assume that in some contexts focusing on the consumerism of religion as a whole has taken away from spiritual practices that would establish a deeper connection with God as a whole.
Clark states that, “In Miller’s theological anthropology and soteriology, such human nature prefers the liberation of the self, where the deepening of agency is likely to be always seen as a restriction on the self.” (2) This means that, through the commodification of goods and services, late capitalism appeals to simplistic desires that conflict with Christian identity and agency. As a result, these desires frequently result in the rejection of any form of Christian identity or autonomy.
Desire and the Kingdom of God and The Politics of Consumption
Desire and God’s Kingdom and Political Economy of Consumption religious ideas have changed as a result of materialism. He discusses how the acceptance of worldly needs as part of religious rituals has obscured the underlying spiritual message of faith.
“Religious experience has become increasingly commodified through religious marketing and the emergence of such forms as ‘religious entertainment.” (3)
Popular Religion in Consumer Culture
Contemporary consumerism and religion have combined to build a culture that glorifies material prosperity. Miller believes that this way of life is motivated by an agenda established by the more privileged few and creates an environment where people are encouraged to place a higher value on financial goals than spiritual ones.
“Religious consumption contributes significantly to our understanding of what religion is today, shaping beliefs and practices as much as it reflects them.” (4)
How can we protect religious customs in modern culture?
Miller claims that the overall ambition of the privileged, encourages people to place a higher priority on worldly purchasing than spiritual growth. This frequently results in negative effects on the economy, society, and religion as a whole. Miller provides insight into why ancient faiths may still be relevant today and how they might help us prioritize spiritual progress over worldly gain by looking at how certain religious beliefs and practices impact our modern lifestyle. An example of this would be living a life of serve to others… It is still to this day seen as a noble pursuit that promotes spiritual growth and values meaningful relationships over material wealth.
“Conspicuous consumption becomes a way of demonstrating virtue, status, or group loyalty in addition to its more obvious economic purpose.” (5)
Overall, Miller’s writing aims to both remind us of the ways in which particular religious ideas might influence our modern lifestyles and to provide light on the reasons why traditional religions are still relevant today. He encourages people to prioritize spiritual progress over worldly gain by utilizing spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, and spiritual discipline, which can increase self-awareness and gratitude for life’s blessings as well as meaningful interactions with others.
(1) Miller, Vincent. “Chapter 1.” Essay. In Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.
(2) Jason Paul Clark, “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship” (dissertation, George Fox University, 2018), 227.https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/gfes/198-236.
(3) Miller, Vincent. “Chapter 4.” Essay. In Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.
(4) Miller, Vincent. “Chapter 6.” Essay. In Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.
(5) Miller, Vincent. “Chapter 7.” Essay. In Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.