DMINLGP

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

Inside Out

Written by: on February 21, 2019

It seems that, without our consent, we have been undergoing a transformation from the inside out. Over decades of time, our consumer culture has changed the way we think, feel and behave. At least, this is what Vincent Miller proposes in Consuming Religion. In this book, Miller begins by explaining, “This is not a book about religion against consumer culture; it is a book about the fate of religion in consumer culture.”[i] Admittedly, his words caused me to consider things I haven’t given much thought to. I like the way one review summarized Miller: “It’s a book that might explain why, at Easter time, we more easily ‘crave’ Cadbury chocolates than ‘crave,’ well, the passion of the Christ”[ii] I found this to be painfully insightful.

“When consumption becomes the dominant cultural practice, belief is systematically misdirected from traditional religious practices into consumption…Traditional practices of self-transformation are subordinated to consumer choice.”[iii]

This conversation regarding commodification in religion places me in a tension. On one hand, I am sickened to see the work of believers, who have acted out of a genuine sense of divine calling, be used as general marketing tools to promote the agendas of the many (Miller refers to Mother Theresa t-shirts). However, isn’t it possible that good can come from the message, no matter the vehicle? Could the exposure to the message not lead to practice, or is it doomed to be monetized and then forgotten?

I appreciate the fact that Miller does not leave us in despair with fear of the hopeless demise of Christianity. He invites us to first, name commodification as the problem it clearly is. After this, he challenges the church to increase awareness about consumerism and the human plight it causes. He invites us to draw stronger connections between our doctrine and symbols to give meaning to our faith.[iv] Essentially, he invites us to practice behaviors that are counter-cultural.

Fortunately, I am reminded that there is an answer to the “inside out consumer transformation” Miller talks about. Paul discusses in Romans 12:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”[v]

I am grateful to Miller for pointing out the potential dangers for the Christian faith. I look forward to reading insights from my cohort-mates as I raise my own level of awareness on this subject. However, I do not despair. Culture is not the greatest source of formation. God has promised to renew us from the inside out.

 

____________________________________

[i] Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (New York: Bloomsbury, 2003). 1

[ii] David Taylor, “Review of Vincent Miller’s *Consuming Religion*,” Review of Vincent Miller’s *Consuming Religion*, n.d., accessed February 21, 2019, http://artspastor.blogspot.com/2010/03/review-of-vincent-millers-consuming.html.

[iii] Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. 225

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Romans 12:1-2, The Message

About the Author

mm

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

8 responses to “Inside Out”

  1. Hi Rhonda. Thanks for your post. Toward the end you wrote, “Culture is not the greatest source of formation.” What do you see as an alternative? And that thing you might consider, would that be something outside of culture or other?

  2. mm Rhonda Davis says:

    Harry, it can be heartbreaking to watch people around us attempt to draw formational truths from a dysfunctional cultural milieu. The church has a challenging opportunity to engage the chaos and partner with God in the renewal of the imago Dei.

  3. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    I love your blog, Rhonda. Trusting God to renew us from the inside out is what faith is all about. Miller’s challenge to increase awareness of consumerism is a positive direction for all church leaders. Certainly, consumerism is something that we should keep our eyes open to, but I think the gift of serving others helps to take our eyes off the self-serving power of consumerism. Your post was enlightening and powerful. I know that the light that reflects from within you, Rhonda, is a gift to so many and reflects God’s love to others. Thanks for being YOU!

    • mm Rhonda Davis says:

      Your words are kind, Nancy! I agree wholeheartedly with your idea that serving helps us rid ourselves of selfishness. You demonstrate this so well in your role as a hospice chaplain. Lately, my husband and I have been looking for ways to nurture a sense of “others first” in our sons. We are raising revolutionaries! 🙂

  4. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    Your highlighting Cadbury eggs at Easter got me thinking about practices the beauty of ancient practices. The Catholic tradition of ‘giving up’ something for lent some how made it’s way into my prodestant upbringing in a transformative way. Connected to fasting, there is the opportunity for an external action/behavior to reform the inside in a way that prepares me for Easter. I’ve come to long for Lent. To know that I will walk through a season of intentional denial, culminating in Good Friday, so that I’m better positioned to receive joy on Easter Sunday. Maybe if the T-shirts with Mother Theresa could be reconnected with the habits that made her who she was, they could indeed be redeemed as you suggest. What strategies might we implement for such a task? And would we be ready to swallow her whole story and practice? Bless you Rhonda in your faithful wrestling!

    • mm Rhonda Davis says:

      Oh, Jenn, I am tracking right along with you. A few years ago, I invited some college students I was leading into a Lenten experience that was very new for them coming from classical Pentecostal backgrounds. We engaged “sacrifice” in new ways each week. It completely transformed my life and theirs. I have never been the same!

  5. mm Mary Mims says:

    Rhonda, thank you for the hope-filled post. It is easy to read these books and look at everything we are doing wrong. But as I engage with the children and youth, I realize it is not really what I am saying that makes a difference, but the love I am showing them. God changing us from the inside out, giving us a heart to love others is what makes the difference. This does give me hope.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *