In the Introduction to Vincent J. Miller’s book, Consuming Religion, the author garnered my immediate attention when talking about the “voluntary simplicity movement”  and my mind immediately went to the “tiny home” movement as a worthy modern comparison. Many folks are weary of needless consumerism and the mindless accumulation of stuff, and are gravitating to the appeal of simplifying their lifestyle, thus they downsize dramatically. I get it.
In fly fishing circles, there are people joining the outdoors “minimalist” movement where they slide away from buying up countless ridiculously expensive gadgets to outrun the fish. Picture in your mind getting rid of a fly fishing vest with 23 pockets and changing to a small fanny-like pack that holds 90% less junk. I more than get it.
In our last Zoom, I believe Dr. Jason Clark asked an amazing question like this, “Has anyone here found any lasting fulfillment from buying things?” I had a good laugh about Dan’s fly pole bringing him happiness, but we all knew the attainment of more possessions doesn’t ultimately fulfill the God sized holes in our hearts. Miller says it well, “Selfish materialism is the belief that human happiness is found in the accumulation of things.” 
I honestly believe the Bible encourages simplicity! It warns of the dangers of material distractions when Scripture says, “Thou shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17) in the ten commandments, and again in I Kings 21, when the rich King Ahab desired the field of Naboth so covetously that the evil Jezebel murdered Naboth to get the land, and was sternly rebuked. 
Scripture further explains that the antidote for covetousness is CONTENTMENT. “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (I Timothy 6:6) 
Uh oh! I just counted pairs of shoes in my closet (nine) and number of pants (ten). Evidently, I’m not taking those Scriptures to heart. Ironically, I actually feel pretty good about the recent downsizing of my closet, until I remember those dear little kids outside Cape Town, South Africa…
I would be remiss, however, if I did not address the second and most important word in our Author’s title–Religion. Is it possible we have fallen into the trap of using our religion to justify our consumerism? It’s a pretty easy answer, we certainly have! In fact, I easily found this convicting quote from Martin Luther in The Large Catechism, “For we are so inclined by nature that no one desires to see another have as much as himself, and each one acquires as much as he can; the other may fare as best he can. And yet we pretend to be godly, know how to adorn ourselves most finely and conceal our rascality, resort to and invent adroit devices and deceitful artifices…” 
Miller was brilliant in his word choice when describing Christians, “Clearly, there is a serious disconnect in religious belief and practice at work here.”  Ouch! We are pretending to be Godly while acting as rascals. Miller points out the opposites of consumerism with the Biblical positives of “peace, charity, forgiveness, and the denial of the flesh.” 
With my topic of Financial Peace University, it’s not at all a stretch to connect Miller’s points to my Dissertation problem. After all, Dave Ramsey closes every radio show with the words, “Remember, there’s ultimately only one way to financial peace, and that’s to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus.” 
Please allow me to close with a Montana example of “Spiritual people” attempting to combat consuming religion. They are called Hutterites (pictured above) and with the 50 colonies that live in my home state, a main tenant of their belief system centers on the word “plain” as being important in their “living out the Scriptures”.  Hutterites do not generally “own” anything, as communal living and shared possessions help foster them to live out in their own way, Acts Chapter 2, where believers shared and “had everything in common.” 
You might have heard of other Anabaptists like the Amish or Mennonites. Obviously, they are trying to be in the world, but not of the world. Although centering on works driven theology, I believe I understand some of what they are trying to accomplish. Social religious identity, through simplicity and solidarity, is not in itself bad.
I think the Hutterite communities in Montana would actually agree with the conclusion of this book that states, “There are three lessons for theology on this consumer topic: We must connect belief to daily life, attend to the lived theology, and preserve traditions in the face of growing capitalism.”  Even Anthony Elliott writing Contemporary Social Theory, from our first semester discussions, would probably agree that globalization could benefit from simplicity!
 Louche, Dan. Tiny Homes on Wheels. Tiny Homes: July 17, 2016. Accessed February 07, 2018. https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/.
 Miller, Vincent Jude. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 1.
 Barker, Kenneth L. Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. p.518-519
 Ibid., p. 1880.
 Luther, Martin. The Large Catechism. Translated by F. Bente and W.H.T. Day. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921. pp. 565-773
 Miller, Vincent Jude. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. p. 1.
 Ibid., p. 2.
 Ramsey, Dave. Dave Ramsey Quotes. The Dave Ramsey Show. September 3, 2011. Accessed February 5, 2018. https://daveramsey.com/show/.
 Baker, Judith. “62 Best Hutterite Way of Life Images on Pinterest.” Pinterest: August 23, 2007. Accessed February 07, 2018. https://www.pinterest.com/.
 Hofer, Jesse. “Summary of Beliefs.” Hutterites. January 3, 2018. Accessed February 08, 2018. http://www.hutterites.org/.
 Inbody, Kristen. Hutterites Make Their Mark on Montana. Great Falls Tribune. August 9, 2014. Accessed February 6, 2018. https://greatfallstribune.com/.
 Miller, Vincent Jude. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. p. 226.