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DON’T LET THE JONSES GET YOU DOWN

Written by: on February 16, 2017

CONSUMING RELIGION – CHRISTIAN FAITH AND PRACTICE IN A CONSUMER CULTURE

Don’t let the Joneses get you down was a popular song and phrase during the 70’s by the Temptations. It spoke about people trying to possess more assets than the other just to appear to be in a particular status in life. A sample of the lyrics: “stop worrying about your neighbors and the fancy things they got. Cause if you do you’ll find it sure, you’re gonna wind up on the spot. Don’t let the Jones get you down. The people you’re trying to keep up with are trying to keep up too. Remember that old saying, ‘All that glitters ain’t gold.’ Take heed, don’t ignore it until your money time will hold.” [1]

Consumer culture a concept or theory on how our lives are viewed based on our consumption of products. Somre believe we have value based on the value of the products we purchase. Miller wants us to understand that the “consumer culture has one set of values and Christianity has another.” (Miller, Kindle, 30) Cultural is defined by the people’s way of life according to Kathryn Tanner and Wendy Griswold. (Miller, Kindle, 31) Miller believes Marx’s influenced capitalism. Marx’s recording of the “shifts in industrial capitalism in the first part of the twentieth century, Miller believes it contributed to the foundations for the commodification of cultures.” (Miller, Kindle, 39)

Being a Ford owner, my eyes stopped on Miller’s views on Ford’s influence on consumption and capitalism.  He referenced Michel Aglietta describing the effect of Ford on the historical shift in production and consumption as “Fordism.” He invaded his employee’s personal lives to ensure the success of his automatic processing plant in Michigan. Miller believes “Ford’s values exemplified Weber’s Protestant “worldly asceticism” among the bourgeoisie, then among the workers themselves.” (Miller, Kindle, 42) Ford exercised its right to go into the homes of his employees to check on what they were purchasing and consuming (alcohol) to control their behavior which he believed would affect high production. Ford as well as other employers gave pay increases and reduced their employees hours in efforts to increase the consumption with no prevail. They realized that their employees were content in their lifestyle and therefore did not increase their buying. (Miller, Kindle, 43)

Miller addressed the effect of the religion (church) has on the believers and those in the world. These days, I believe Christianity focuses on sharing the gospel of salvation where religion focuses on the rules on how to receive salvation. Religion promotes Christianity by rules of tradition and rituals one must employ to maintain one’s membership in the church. Miller speaks on the influence of the media on the religious community. There are sales of Christian music, sermons, movies, etc. There are televangelists globally selling their products and their worship service DVDs. They are “selling healing or blessings in return for money.”(Miller, Kindle, 78) He even included the idea of how “sexy a cross is because of the naked man on the cross.” (Miller, Kindle, 79) There are many reprints of the Holy Bible designated for certain genders, marital status, culture, age, and more. Churches are in completion with other churches regardless of their denomination. It’s about the number of members and the number of dollars to be collected. I remember a moment where I had a meeting with the senior Baptist pastor in Dallas about taking the youth to a Youth Retreat sponsored by a Catholic church. He quickly denied my request based on it being sponsored by a Catholic church. I pursued his thoughts on this and was met with this statement. Yes we all will be one in heaven. There is no separation, but we are on earth and while we are Christians, I preach to get people to join the Baptist Church, the Methodist preach to get people to join the Methodist Church, and the Catholics preach to get people to join the Catholic church. I was floored by that comment and angered. I was in my early 20’s on fire for Jesus and passionately working with youth.

Boeve points out in his review of Miller’s book that “the point of the difference in ‘religious establishment’ (Roman Catholic): the lack of it in the United States when compared with the strong religious institutional presence of Christianity in European societies. Because of the separation of church and state, from the origins of the United States as a secular political entity on, such strong religious institutions are absent in the U.S, opines Miller.” [2] The Roman Catholic is a strong organization and does not have any competition. It has a strong history, traditions, and impact in Europe and other countries. There is a string of new “non-institutional or soft-institutional religiosity, and the rise of religious pluralism,” which challenges Christianity.[3] In America, there is on the up rise of the same or similar non-institutional structure presenting a fresh view of Christianity. Their worship services are free of formality, their attire is casual, the music is modern and less traditional, the rituals in the traditional church are few, and their congregation is diversified. What are they churches/preachers selling to the consumer/believer? They are offering nonconventional ways to worship and serve God. They are reaching and receiving the unchurch and the millennials. They are missional driven and allows the believer to establish their relationship with God individually rather than through traditional rules.

The churches today must consider the change in culture and their wave of consumption. They must redirect their appeal and focus on what Jesus instructed. He commanded us to share the gospel, help the least of those, and the captive. Jesus’ teachings fit the culture rather that using a cooking cutter or traditional style. With that style, he was able to reach many lost souls.

[1] Temptations – Don’t Let The Joneses Get You Down Lyrics .., http://www.metrolyrics.com/dont-let-the-joneses-get-you-down-lyrics-temptations, accessed February 17, 201799.

[2] Lieven Boeve, CONSUMER CULTURE AND CHRISTIAN FAITH IN A POST-SECULAR EUROPE Individualisation, Critical Agency and Reflexivity,  https://lirias.kuleuven.be/bitstream/123456789/176398/2/6.101.pdf, access 2/15/2017.

[3] Ibid.

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

6 responses to “DON’T LET THE JONSES GET YOU DOWN”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    “These days, I believe Christianity focuses on sharing the gospel of salvation where religion focuses on the rules on how to receive salvation. ”
    Lynda, having been raised Roman Catholic, I can agree with you. The RC’s see themselves as the one true church (as opposed to the Holy Spirit created body of Christ). There is not much room for individualism. Having been told that I would go to Hell if I didn’t attend Mass, you are so right about the rules.
    I guess the question is – Can we all choose which makes us more comfortable – a top-down hierarchical church, like the Catholic Church, or a more open individualistic church? Some like the comfort of somebody making all the decisions for them; others do not.
    But I agree with you, it’s about taking the Gospel to the lost. If a Catholic can bring people to Jesus, ok, but please without all of the unbiblical, legalistic rules.
    No one else talked about this. Thank you for bringing it up. It was the one really glaring weakness in the book for me.

    • Lynda, I like the post and Mary I like your thoughts…. Half of my family is catholic so I have a lot of experience with the RC church… I have certainly seen a lot of people still in the church and those that have left it rebel against the legalistic, strict and sometimes seemingly random nature of some of the rules……and I completely identify with that. At the same time, there is a danger, isn’t there, in letting everyone decide whatever works best for them?
      I am not suggesting that is what either one of you are saying, but I think that the issue is there has to be authority placed somewhere – how do we do that, who decides, etc…. these are important questions and I think that the commodification of our culture, which in turn also makes it more individualistic I think, only serves to complicate that

  2. “There are many reprints of the Holy Bible designated for certain genders, marital status, culture, age, and more. Churches are in competition with other churches regardless of their denomination. It’s about the number of members and the number of dollars to be collected. ”

    I remember as a child having a children’s bible, as a young adult having a women’s devotional bible ( NKJV Woman Though Art Loosed Bible) I still have it. Now I have the bible on my phone with every version at my fingertips by a click of a button.

    I have seen churches advertise on all media streams while I would like to think that they are attempting to reach the seekers but I do have to defer to Geoff’s post. He talks about how we are so enamored with the idea of this glamorous and perfect church and worship experience so much so, that we obsess over it like ecclesiastical pornography.

    The glitter with no gold quote you posted at the beginning of your post applies not only to the Joneses but the Church as well.

    Great post Lynda! 🙂

  3. Mary,
    I agree that some people work better under rules and others are self-discipline. It amazed me to see believers not wanting to attend church. Then years later I meet up with them and they are attending a church with strict rules and tradition where they are told what they can or cannot do. Some need structure.
    As God spoke on his children – some need milk and some are ready for meat. In these times, there is a church of many variations of worship and preaching available to the many levels of believers.

  4. Chip,
    Being a part of a church denomination and under a specific convention that allows autonomy I must say there are some disadvantages. The pastor says they are under your umbrella but doing his own thing that does not remotely reflect Christ teaching can be alarming for that convention. Thats why the baptist have multiple churches on every corner. But
    We as a religion group of believers are no different that the political groups. Man controlled rather than God control The people fail to see the God is not who we serve and worship but he is also the only one that can forgive sins – not the priest. I believe churches have taken Paul’s word to a level that God did not intend – everything must be decent and in order.
    When Jesus preached and taught I don’t remember reading that he send them to a specific religion – he always pointed to God. We are free to make our own decisions, God gave us free will to choose. Man seems to always want to capitalize on it. There is no hierarchy spoken by God or Jesus as his direction, only the Trinity.

  5. THIS Lynda:
    “These days, I believe Christianity focuses on sharing the gospel of salvation where religion focuses on the rules on how to receive salvation. Religion promotes Christianity by rules of tradition and rituals one must employ to maintain one’s membership in the church. ”
    Nowhere is consumerism and commodification more evident in the church than in the formulaic salvation message that is designed to save more “lost souls” but then performing the old bait and switch method of perpetuating rules to maintain membership or even salvation. We love to tick the tally board about how many people are “won to Christ” but we don’t do our job of introducing people to what life with Jesus really means. It’s like those shows that convince people to get married based on one kiss and then exploit their floundering relationship. We may have better intentions than those producers, but we are still in our own way exploiting the people who took a leap of faith to perpetuate their need for us. It would be lovely if we took seriously the initial introduction (courtship?) to Christ as the early church did.

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