DMINLGP

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

Tiny Houses and Consuming Religion

Written by: on February 8, 2018

[1]

In the Introduction to Vincent J. Miller’s book, Consuming Religion, the author garnered my immediate attention when talking about the “voluntary simplicity movement” [2] 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.” [3]

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. [4]

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) [5]

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…” [6]

Miller was brilliant in his word choice when describing Christians, “Clearly, there is a serious disconnect in religious belief and practice at work here.” [7]  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.” [8]

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.” [9]

 [10]

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”.  [11] 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.” [12]

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.” [13] Even Anthony Elliott writing Contemporary Social Theory, from our first semester discussions, would probably agree that globalization could benefit from simplicity!

 

[1] Louche, Dan. Tiny Homes on Wheels. Tiny Homes: July 17, 2016. Accessed February 07, 2018.      https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/.

[2] Miller, Vincent Jude. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. p. 2.

[3] Ibid., p. 1.

[4] Barker, Kenneth L. Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. p.518-519

[5] Ibid., p. 1880.

[6] Luther, Martin. The Large Catechism. Translated by F. Bente and W.H.T. Day. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921. pp. 565-773

[7] Miller, Vincent Jude. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. p. 1.

[8] Ibid., p. 2.

[9] Ramsey, Dave. Dave Ramsey Quotes. The Dave Ramsey Show. September 3, 2011. Accessed February 5, 2018. https://daveramsey.com/show/.

[10] Baker, Judith. “62 Best Hutterite Way of Life Images on Pinterest.” Pinterest: August 23, 2007. Accessed February 07, 2018. https://www.pinterest.com/.

[11] Hofer, Jesse. “Summary of Beliefs.” Hutterites. January 3, 2018. Accessed February 08, 2018. http://www.hutterites.org/.

[12] Inbody, Kristen. Hutterites Make Their Mark on Montana. Great Falls Tribune. August 9, 2014. Accessed February 6, 2018. https://greatfallstribune.com/.

[13] Miller, Vincent Jude. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. p. 226.

About the Author

mm

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

10 responses to “Tiny Houses and Consuming Religion”

  1. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Great word Jay. Did you and Jean collaborate on your Tiny House idea.

    I recently “downgraded” from owning a house to renting an apartment and for the most part I hate it. Although somethings have simplified and are much nicer. For the most part I am excited about buying a home again so I can have a nice backyard and so I can have a bigger closet! 😐 yikes! I guess the consumerism has got me.

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      I wish I was smart enough to collaborate with Jean (grin). No, we never talked before posting. Great minds must think alike…

      You cracked me up with your bigger closet consumerism quote!

  2. Great post once again Jay! Your example of the Hutterites was very interesting to me since they have some colonies around my neck of the woods as well. I have heard they are brilliant farmers and their simple, communal lifestyle is inspiring to those who are attracted to the minimalist way of life. I’m curious if you have had much interaction with them and if so what you have gathered from that interaction.

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      The Hutterites come to our town to sell their goods. They are excellent farmers. We interact often. Unfortunately, they are kinda rude to many folks, which I usually observe to be social awkwardness. But, nonetheless, I respect them.

  3. mm M Webb says:

    Jay,
    No fair! You and Jean using the same analogy of Tiny Houses. Where is the outdoor hunting tree stand analogy I am waiting for?
    First off, I believe we were designed and spiritually wired to enjoy God’s creations. Why, because He says so; “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Conditionally speaking; a close relationship with God (thru the Holy Spirit living in us as Christ who intercedes for us) gives us the right standing and the right desires that God will supply.
    Everything outside of this type of close personal relationship with God is tainted with the sin problem and influenced by Satan and his multitudes of demons.
    I like Ramsey’s “daily walk” quote, are you sure you want to be so hard on him in your dissertation?
    I worked with the Hutterites in Washington and they are excellent farmers who use technology, heavy equipment, and drive regular vehicles. Men and women, working side by side in the industry, get the job done on large scale farming operations. So, do they use consumerism, of course they do. I think the Apostle Paul sets the proper consumer example where he provides a conditional principle on eating, drinking, or doing things that cause others to stumble or fall in their Christian faith (Rom. 14:21 & 1 Cor. 8:13). In other words, filter your spiritual marketplace ideas of consumerism through the lens of truth, love, righteousness, faith, and prayer.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      It was interesting that more than one of us in the Cohort has had interactions with the Hutterites. I also have had interactions with Amish and Mennonite, and as I think I understand what they are trying to do, it made no sense to me why they would ban certain things (rubber tires) or ownership of tractors (so have your neighbor buy one for you). I still respect them for taking a stand against consumerism…

  4. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Jay,
    People think we conspired lol! I intentionally never look at others’ posts until mine is written – so I’m not influenced or intimidated by what has already been written. Enough about that – I think your post was great. I appreciate the connection to your research topic and your biblical connections. I did an academic essay last summer in which I did some Hutterite research – fascinating. While I haven’t known much about this population I am certainly familiar with Amish/Mennonite who reside close to us. Like you said, an attempt at simplicity is pleasing to God – I keep that in my mind every day! Well done!

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jay,

    Thanks for your post. They are always insightful and loaded with appropriate scripture references. They are a constant reminder to me that the texts of the scriptures need to remain at the center of my thinking. Your focus on Dave Ramsey brings some interesting connections to this weeks book. I wonder whether you think that the success of Dave Ramsey has more to do with creating a balanced life and having the ability to be better stewards of the resources God has provided individuals or if he has simply tapped into the desire to have more stuff without the ensuing debt. What do you think?

    BTW – I have had the same fly rod for over 25 years and I stand by my statement that it was the best purchase I ever made and continues to bring satisfaction far outweighing its cost. Only another true fly fisherman, like you, would understand. Glad you’re on this journey with me.

  6. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Jay,
    Great post, while reading your post I was reminded of a couple of large churches here in the DFW metroplex. The first is FBC Dallas, a few years back they announce they had paid off their 50 million dollar loan on their new sanctuary, almost immediately they announced a 150 million dollar expansion, contrast this with the Village Church who don’t build new buildings and just renovate old grocery stores for their church. FBC has the highest quality appointments for all their finishes and flooring, The Village uses just what is necessary. I think they get being a good steward as we are called to be, just a thought.

    Jason

  7. Shawn Hart says:

    I know I might sound like the heretic here, but I think there is a point where we can go overboard with getting so caught up in consumerism that we fail to realize that there is a reason God blesses some in other ways than others. When Ananias and Sapphira decide together to deceive God, they are reminded that they land they sold was theirs to do with as they wanted…it was basically the greed that interfered with the offering; not their possessions. There is no doubt that we, as we partake in our higher educations, well-established teaching or ministry jobs, and our homes of wealth, can look upon others as impoverished and ourselves as spoiled. Which, perhaps we should. However, I believe a better way to look at it is this: Now that God has blessed me with so much, what does He expect me to do with it? I do not feel as though we need to feel guilty in the aspect that we have been blessed, just in the fact that we have become greedy and wasteful. How do we as His people remedy that problem?

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