We have a nest in our house. Not the kind that birds have, but the thermostat kind. We got it when we moved into this house a little over 4 years ago. What’s cool about a nest thermostat is that you can be wise with your energy consumption, and you get this little green leaf. When you use energy at off-peek times – green leaf. When you use less than your neighbors – green leaf. We got the nest as a way to be more conscientious of our energy consumption, because as an American living in what is an actual desert, we use a lot. Every time I see the leaf, I am proud of how much energy we’ve saved.
As I am sitting here, drinking warm tea in my centrally-heated house with my little green leaf, the dishwasher running, and Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture in my hand, I realize just how much of the American dream I am living in. I had no idea that because I have central heating, and not a hearth to warm my family, I was playing right into the hand of the modern nuclear family.
In his work, Miller seeks to explore consumer culture changes our relationship with ones own religious beliefs, narratives, and symbols. Essentially, Miller posits that the consumer mentality is so pervasive in Western culture, that we (since I am an American) approach religion as just one more product to consume. Miller points to a significant number of experiences which have led Westerners to view religion as a consumable item, but few are as significant as the shift in marketing to include more illustrations, not just text. Miller goes on to argue that these marketing ploys lead to the viewing of religious symbols and artifacts as consumable items, which results in religious practices and beliefs that function as just products, not significant pieces of tradition.
“Although the world has plenty of selfish narcissists, the real problem with consumer culture lies in the structures and practices that systematically confuse and misdirect well-intentioned people seeking to do good things such as show solidarity with others, find spiritual transformation, and practice their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Tonight, I was at work and I overheard a student who had just been awakened to the idea of fast fashion. She watched a Netflix documentary and was “ruined” because of having her eyes opened to the cost of consumption. My husband, who happened to be with me, smirked at me, because I have been “ruined” because of fast fashion for a long time. I looked at him and with a kind of sad realization said, “I can’t be the expert on everything.” What I meant by that was that I could have sat down and given that student some resources, some clothing companies to research, some things to chew on, but I am so busy trying to hold other things, and “live differently” I just can’t help someone else right now.
Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed it because it definitely made me think deeply about the role of work, and my own personal consumption. But if I’m being vulnerable, I just feel like I can’t be told I’m failing at one more thing. To read that I am not a narcissist, but that I am constantly being misdirected really makes me want to just give up. I want to throw in the towel. I don’t want to read one more thing that points to my own failures and the grand sweeping failure of humanity and our economic religious practices. I just want to see the little green leaf. I know I am doing everything I can to be conscientious of my lifestyle, and I also recognize my privilege as a white American female with a two income, single family home with a central heating system. I do. But how many times am I going to be told that I am part of a failed system that puts me, a Protestant Christian, at the heart of a jacked-up economy that no one can escape from?
My house is cold because my heat cycled off. My tea is cold because I’ve spent too much time typing and not drinking it. My hearts a little cold because I’m hurting. I’m hurting for a culture I so desperately want to fix, and feel called to fix. I’m just looking for the little green leaves showing me I’m on the right track. Will you join me, neighbor?
 Vincent J. Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (New York, NY: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005), 47.
 Ibid., 3
 Phyllis Zagano, “Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture Review,” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 5, no. 1 (2005): 119-122
 Ibid., 119
 Courtney Wilder, “Vincent J Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture,” The Journal of Religion 85, no. 4 (October 2005): 681-682.
 Vincent J. Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (New York, NY: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005), 225.