DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I want to be cool not normal!

Written by: on March 2, 2017

Coolness is a positional good, it’s not something that can be bought off a shelf. Some people are cool because others are not.” [1]

There are those that assert that within our current culture there is a dissatisfaction with consumerism because everyone wants to be cool which means someone has to be uncool. Distinction and competitive consumption is propelled by being a rebel against consumerism. Therefore, rebellion is a powerful force behind what drives capitalism. It is thereby members of our society who attempt to establish social norms that enforce uniformity and conformity that, someone who identifies as a  rebel, would seek their own individual identity through distinction from consumer culture. The unfortunate reality is that the rebel attempting to be other only creates a new pathway for others to assemble and unite in how they choose to live out their association with culture. Sure there are those who use their purchases to make a statement of their class, privilege and importance. Then there are others who appeal to the ideals of counterculture, they seek to do everything in opposition of the consumer culture in hopes to shift the way society engages and participates in our consumer culture. In Rebel Sell or Nation of Rebels depending on which country/version you may have purchased this book, authors Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter seek to prove that mainstream idea that desire drives us to conform to status symbols and is a core reason to perpetuate the ails of consumer culture is in fact a myth. In actuality, according to Heath and Potter we choose the alternative. Most find a dissatisfaction with the social norms of our culture. In order to be cool, one must become other and go against the grain.

As the rebel searches for more and more less co-optable means of expressing themselves, they seem to be in a search for the purely anti-social behavior. Your friend’s mother gets a tattoo? Why don’t you get Balinese ear plugs, you won’t notice those in the suburbs!“[2] This quote embodies so much of my youth. I remember growing up in the suburbs and witnessing many youth attempting to make a statement by using  their hair, earrings, body art or clothing as a means to show their dissatisfaction with the social norm. In the same vain, one of their parents wanting to conform to what they believed was also making a statement but yet also desiring to relive their youth attempts the same gesture only to have their act negate the very purpose their child and other youth were attempting to achieve.  What bothered me the most is that they never took the time to understand the rhyme or reason for the initial act. They just used their privilege to insert themselves in a counter cultural movement just to say they were associated.

In reflecting on our readings on capitalism, consumer culture and consumerism, one thing I have recognized that there are so many variant discussions about what makes our culture consume. Whether we do it for status and privilege. Whether we do it out of pure humanistic desire and want only to find ourselves dissatisfied or we do it as an attempt to become counter culture and rebel against the social norms of our culture. For me, either way you slice it we have to own the fact that we are driven to consume. Our culture is inundated with marketing and advertisement that compels us  to act either in seeing the value presented or purchasing as a means to protest the value it presents. I can’t say that the Eucharist is the solution nor can I say that being counter culture helps in any regard. Personally, I think what is missing from these discussions is the inner workings of the the Holy Spirit in our lives. What is missing is the element of community that doesn’t require a forced spiritual practice but a daily engagement cooperatively with the Holy Spirit as we live out our faith each and every day. Sure the temptation and enticement of our culture and our world may prove in some cases to demonstrate patterns of humanistic activity within a capitalistic society;however, we have to ask ourselves can  Cavanaugh’s proposal of the Eucharist resolve this? I would say in and of itself NO! Can our attempt to be counter culture in our engagement bring awareness and resolution? I would say awareness possibly depending on the audience/individuals that you have influence over but it can only go so far. I personally think we need to gravel and wrestle more with the questions in community and contextually (yes I brought in Bevans and Garner) in order to fully give a proper assessment to begin to identify actionable steps on how we engage further in relating and understanding how we as believers truly reflect Christ and shift the narrative within our consumerism social plight.

 

[1] Coralie McCormick, Quicklet on Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter’s Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture (Hyperink, 2012), Kindle Location, 272.

[2] Ibid, 240

About the Author

Christal Jenkins Tanks

9 responses to “I want to be cool not normal!”

  1. Beautifully said! “What is missing is the element of community that doesn’t require a forced spiritual practice but a daily engagement cooperatively with the Holy Spirit as we live out our faith each and every day.” It starts individually in our daily talks with God and asking His spirit to change and grow us. Then we go out and influence and encourage others. We can’t give what we don’t have, and if we don’t take the time to fill up, we can’t be “filled to spill” to others. Great reminder Christal, thank you.

  2. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “Personally, I think what is missing from these discussions is the inter workings of the the Holy Spirit in our lives.”

    That is what makes our faith in Christ more than just a religion. The answer to consumerism is not a ritual, it is a relationship with the indwelling Holy Spirit. The true rebellion against the “machine” can be found in our identity as being citizens of Heaven.

  3. Geoff Lee says:

    You cannot serve God and mammon – you will love the one and hate the other. The disordered and reordered loves of Augustine point us in the right direction – the telos of knowing and being satisfied with God. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”.

  4. Mary Walker says:

    “I personally think we need to gravel and wrestle more with the questions in community and contextually…”
    Thank you, Christal. I felt like the last two books were sort of opposites in their solutions to the problem.
    Cavanaugh – More ‘church’
    Heath and Potter – More ‘state’
    Those two systems weren’t always opposites in history. ‘Christendom’ is an example. I can get positively wired up as I try to sort out which way is better. ‘Christendom’ or ‘separation of church and state’. Great discussion material here. What do you think?
    I like your answer – “begin to identify actionable steps on how we engage further in relating and understanding how we as believers truly reflect Christ and shift the narrative within our consumerism social plight.”

  5. Jim Sabella says:

    Christal, you captured a core issue of our western culture—”we have to own the fact that we are driven to consume.” The two important words for me in that sentence are “own” and “driven.” Driven is an excellent word! Most don’t understand the driving force of consumerism. Consumerism is so forceful that it drives many to be in such debt that they will never get out. Along with consumerism, debt has become a way of life. It’s so familiar that we just don’t notice it. But when we not only acknowledge it and then “own” it, I think we are in a better position to make a change. Your final sentence is powerful: to gravel and wrestle with the idea of what community is. I think community is the God ordained norm. But you have to be willing to be, as you say, “normal” and not necessarily cool. I for one, choose normal. Thanks Christal.

  6. Hi Christal,

    This statement caught my eye “In order to be cool, one must become other and go against the grain.”
    Because we are different from their projections of how we should be, we are considered others. In my reality, they are the others. I am the original. smiling

  7. mm Katy Lines says:

    “What is missing is the element of community that doesn’t require a forced spiritual practice but a daily engagement cooperatively with the Holy Spirit as we live out our faith each and every day.”

    Yes! In fact, in researching for my academic paper(!), I came across this, which speaks strongly on being fully alive… only through community in Christ:

    “Like Jesus being the vine on which we are grafted, our membership in Christ is life-giving and vital. Unless people participate organically in, rather than merely associate with, Jesus’ life, they don’t really know what it is to be alive. To be fully alive is to live sympathetically within the membership that the community is called to be, suffering with those who suffer and rejoicing with those who rejoice. It is to extend Christ’s self-giving life in the world as the model for how life should be (Gal. 2:20). Paul is making the point that life at its best is a Christ-inspired membership of self-offering. Though people may exist as individuals, they do not become fully alive until they are intimately joined to others and committed to their well-being.” Norman Wirzba, “Food & Faith: A Theology of Eating”, 151.

  8. You raise an important point, Christal, that none of what we have read this semester matters if not dealt with in community. History of Evangelicalism? Cool info, but how does it affect the community now? Choosing to live life with the ethical/moral “end” always in view? How will we teach that to our community? Living counter-culturally by bringing Christ into our capitalism so that we can change the system from within? What’s the point if we do it individually? We need to do it as community.

  9. “As the rebel searches for more and more less co-optable means of expressing themselves, they seem to be in a search for the purely anti-social behavior. Your friend’s mother gets a tattoo? Why don’t you get Balinese ear plugs, you won’t notice those in the suburbs!“[2] This quote embodies so much of my youth. I remember growing up in the suburbs and witnessing many youth attempting to make a statement by using their hair, earrings, body art or clothing as a means to show their dissatisfaction with the social norm. – As I was reading this book, and your post, I kept thinking of the Don Henley song ‘Boys of Summer’ that has the lyrics ‘I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac’ ……thought that song and your quote summed up well how ‘counterculture’ – especially of the young – gets co-opted and mainstreamed…. Thanks for thinking about how and why this happens

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