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Archive for the ‘Capitalism’ Category

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The story of stuff is a short 20 minutes infomercial on the consumer model that is trashing our planet. (ht) It’s very provocative and I would highly recommend watching it. It really made me think of how I can begin participating in a sustainable way of living. The thing with the pillow really scared me (you have to watch it).

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This is a book review of Tom Sine’s book, The New Conspirators, by IVP. Part 3 is a review of Conversation II: Taking the Culture Seriously.

In this second conversation, Tom provides insight into a Post 9/11, consumeristic, global economy and the Global Mall. He provides deep insight into some of the more underlying global conversations facing New Conspirators, things such as borderless youth, global consumerism, universal economies and their effects on each other. The conversation is broken up into two sections.

The first conversation was about global politics. To a great extent this section felt like a deviation from the previous conversation, almost a non-sequitur. The conversation is very specific to current world events and he relies on a presentation he gave to Lebanon to shape his views. His concern is that religious views have been sharply influenced by Western McReligion, one that focuses on excess and consumerism.

This first section sets the stage for the second, which begins to look at the affects of that global economy, which he calls the global mall on the Christian story and a meta-theme of coming home. He questions its affect on our eschatology. He asks:

“to what extent have we allowed modern culture, as magnified through the global mall, to define our notion of what constitutes the good life and better future”

It’s a very important question. As the global mall becomes pervasive we as a body find ourselves in direct tension with the story it creates. At what point does the story of the global mall eclipse our ancient stories? He begins to create the very intriguing point that the global mall is deeply influencing our story by creating an alternative, western, secular salvation that uses God’s provision simply as a means to the here and now, a prosperity gospel, mostly defined in economic terms.

He also said one thing that really caught my attention.

“A number of missional church scholars offer thoughtful intellectual critiques of modern culture and the ways that economic globalization influences the values of believers everywhere. However, very few churches that fly under the missional church banner seem to feature discipleship resources any different from those used by either traditional or megachurches”

That’s troubling to me.

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Some time ago, and I can’t really ever recall the moment, someone gave me the obligation to keep up the traditional Christmas tradition. Today I’m letting it go. And in the words of Sara Groves, I simply realized that “I can’t afford it.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas and will celebrate it this year. But I won’t be taking part in the flow that simply does it because were supposed to. I’m doing it because I want to. And there’s a big difference between the two.

I want to celebrate Jesus and engage what it means to live with a sense of expectancy rather than wait until the last moment and wonder, “Is it Christmas…again?” I want to discover what it means to give this year without expectation of anything in return, rather than mindlessly buy something for someone who doesn’t really need it anyway. I want to tell stories to my children about what the traditions mean, rather than just stick an ornament on the tree. I want to wake up on the 25th and realize that I’m celebrating the birth of Jesus, not the arrival of Santa Claus. I want to feast as a recognition of God’s blessing, not because it…because it…well it’s just what we’ve always done.

I think I know when I broke. I think it was standing in line at Starbucks and as I waited for my Chai tea latte, I overheard a woman talking about how she was just getting everyone gift cards this year because everyone complained about what they didn’t get last year. Or it might have been the girl at Chipotle complaining about how many people she had to buy for and how she simply couldn’t afford it this year. She didn’t know what to do. Or it may have been the moment I drove past Valley Fair on the freeway and the line to get into the shopping center was TWO MILES long. Or maybe it was hearing that we spend 45 billion on cosmetics in the U.S. and it would cost ten billion to SOLVE the clean water problem in the world. (I’m not picking on cosmetics. It just happened to be the stat I heard). And as I began to really listen to the people around me I realized that Christmas has become a burden, a thing, an obligation that has lost it’s true meaning. And the weight of that was evident everywhere around me.

Skye Jethani posted this excerpt at Our of Ur blog regarding his Christmas experience,

“Last week my wife and I got all of our Christmas shopping done—in one day. This blitzkrieg approach has become a tradition for us. It’s like pulling a tooth; better to have the whole thing out at once. In the evening we treated ourselves to a victory dinner at a restaurant. While savoring my accomplishment and my meal, I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas on the television above the bar. Ah, Christmas in America—spend all day battling the crowds at the mall and have Luke chapter 2 recited to you by a cartoon character at night.”

I listen to Skye’s experience and I know what that feels like. Somewhere along the way, it just somehow got screwed up. And the cost of that is a really bad credit card bill and a season that no longer is fulfilling. And I can’t afford that anymore.

I don’t really want to tell anyone how they should celebrate Christmas. I only know that how I don’t want to celebrate Christmas the way I used to. I want to abandon it so I can redeem the season. The church seems to be worried so much about how the world now calls the Christmas season “holiday”. And part of me is asking why are we surprised. They don’t know Jesus. And silly us. We’ve followed right along and captured the spirit of consumerism. I’m not throwing stones. I’m first in line of the guilty.

But I recognize that it must always be the church that leads the way to redemption. It must be His children that redeems the season, not the world. I don’t need other people to tell me the it’s okay to abandon so much of the traditions that we hold sacred yet have now become anchors to debt and confusion. I must first take that step on my own.

So I invite you this Christmas to abandon the obligation of Christmas, the vapid spending that provides an instant thrill but eventually leaves us with an empty heart as well as a pocketbook. I invite you to help lead the way to redeeming the season in such a way that the world begins to take notice. For those interested, you may want to check out Advent Conspiracy.

To Read Other Posts in this synchroblog, see below:

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As human beings we live in social systems. Over history the predominant forms include feudalism, socialism, communism, pacifism, capitalism, The list of isms is actually extremely long and categorized alphabetically in wikipedia. As a follower of Jesus I’ve always been intrigued by two: communism and capitalism.

No, I’m not a communist in the Marxist sense but the idea of a shared social system where people are constantly engaged in community and a shared living is eerily reminiscent of the early Acts church.

Acts 4:32-35 – 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

There’s even a category within communism called Christian communism that expresses the idea that I am talking about. The problem within communism is that is has stifled creativity and usually ends up having a ruling party that exploits the system anyway. Cuba under Fidel Castro is an example of this.

But the reality of my life is that I’m bent towards capitalism. I grew up in Silicon Valley with is widely considered a breeding ground for capitalism. When I was young my stepfather, who owned his own construction business, would ask my sister and I questions about how to innovate things and make stuff better. I literally grew up thinking about entrepreneurial activities and by the time I graduated from college I had started my own business. I grew it into a very successful marketing firm. I had clients that included IBM, Sony, and even HP. I saw the rise and fall of the Internet boom and bust in my own backyard. I got to experience first hand a young Internet start-up go from 2.3 millions to bust in six months.

Capitalism has one defining quality that makes it stick. It rewards those who work hard and are diligent with resources, which even Jesus talked about in the parable of the talents. (Matthew 25:14-30) There’s something good about capitalism that is still being defined.

In capitalism, money essentially (but not always) gravitates towards ideas that work and with the constant stream of engineering students exiting the best schools in the 70’s and the rise of the semiconductor, capitalism took off over the last thirty years. With the advent of the consultant and the business book, it learned how to constantly innovate.

Now I realize that capitalism also has it’s flaws. To a certain extent, it needs consumerism to flourish. It needs customers. But this is not necessarily always the case and a great argument could be made for the good outweighing the bad. In fact in the recent Catalyst podcast, Tim Sanders describes brilliantly how the emerging generations will put a serious clamp on business that aren’t socially responsible.

Recently I read an intriguing quote from M. Scott Peck from The Road Less Traveled. He said,

“Pure communism, for instance, expresses a philosophy…that the purpose and function of the individual is to serve the relationship, the group, the collective, the society. Only the destiny of the state is considered; the destiny of the individual is believed to be of no consequence. Pure capitalism, on the other hand, espouses the destiny of the individual even when it is at the expense the destiny of the individual even when it is at the expense of the relationship, the group, the collective, the society.”

He continues a page later,

“It should be obvious to any discerning mind that neither of these pure solutions to the problem of separateness within relationships will be successful. The individual’s health depends upon the health of the society; the health of a society depends upon the health of its individual.”

Peck’s words made me ask if in this postmodern world we are anywhere near creating a system that is balanced between communism and the capitalism, between love and growth. Something like, “capunism”.

What do you think?

 

 

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Today is Black Friday. It’s kind of an ironically appropriate name to the god of consumerism. Black Friday is a reference to today, which is the day after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The term was coined by the press after the stress it causes people and was named after the Black Tuesday stock market crass of 1929. Niiice.

My wife and are deeply wrestling with Christmas this year. To be honest we don’t really want to participate. It has almost completely lost any semblance of meaning for us and we’re looking for alternatives. A friend of mine talked about taking a van load of gifts to a Mexican orphanage this year and my heart leaped. The trip would have meant missing any Christmas with extended family but I really didn’t care. And when my sister told me that we weren’t doing Christmas with the them this year, I had nothing standing in my way. Unfortunately the trip didn’t materialize so I was bummed.

Rick McKinley’s Imago Dei Community church created Advent Conspiracy, as an alternative to the typical consumer oriented Christmas of buying a million gift. I really like the idea and we’re looking into it as an alternative. AC is about giving, not presents. It’s about capturing the spirit of what Christmas is really about by making Christmas gifts and then giving the rest of the “Xmas budget” to a clean water project.

“Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption”

There it is, that word: consumption. Christmas is a big deal in this country. Shoppers are expected to purchase 454 billion dollars in November and December. Consumption is critical to keeping our economy humming. But is all of that consumption producing what we expected? It consumption making us bloated at the expense of something else? It is completely fair to say that I don’t need a single thing I would ever get from UNDER the Christmas tree.

I wrestle with letting go of the Christmas “traditions” because I know some of my favorite memories are of my childhood Christmas experiences. I don’t want to take the value of the holiday away from my three kids. But even those memories, with closer inspection, I realize are more about family that the gifts. The only gifts I can really truly remember as special were a G.I Joe and a bike.

The memories that really stick out to me have nothing to do with the presents. The best ones were hanging out with family. I remember the long drives on Christmas Eve morning to Los Angeles to my grandparents house. I remember hanging out with all my cousins and playing endless hours with people. The presents were fun but it was the people that I remember the most. Even later in life, I remember the 27 person dinner table conversations filled with laughter. One thing my family knew how to do was laugh.

And two things really sticks out to me. The first was that my mom always invited someone to Christmas Eve, which was the big night in my family. And she was so good about making them feel so special and part of our family. When I was young this felt awkward, but as I grew older I began to see that she got what Christmas was really about, the deep need for connection. The second was that the “gift” really didn’t do much for me. Yes it was cool to get the latest shirt all my friends had or the Star Wars collectible set with 367 pieces, but to a great extent the newness wore off very quickly and that thing that I got ceased to become the center of my attention withing days. I see this same process happen in my children.

The more I look at Christmas, and Black Friday, the more I wonder if Christmas has taken on a new meaning. In the endless drive to fill the tree with presents, has it become a way to compensate for our lack of connection as human beings? Do we give the endless stream of gifts as a way of saying sorry for the lack of connection throughout the year? Has it become the only way we know how to connect, through the process of giving gifts. Has it become a forced ritual that leaves us wanting? And in the end, do all of the gifts leave us as sick as when we started?

If you have a really good alternative idea for Christmas, I’d really like to hear it. My family and my soul would really be interested.

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jonathan.jpgYou can find the website here.

You can find where it’s playing here.

From Fandango – Bill Talen is a New York-based activist and performance artist who since the late 1990’s has won notoriety for his character Rev. Billy. Rev. Billy is a wildly charismatic street preacher and self-appointed leader of the Church of Stop Shopping who began his career speaking out against the gentrification of New York City, the forced renovation of 42nd Street and his favorite symbol of the evils of international marketing, the Disney Store. Since then, Rev. Billy has expanded his targets to include a number of firms (including Starbucks Coffee and several fast food chains) who engage in unfair labor practices and exploit Third World resources for profit; he also performs with a full gospel choir and a four piece band as they spread the message of overcoming the consumer culture, speaking with your dollars and questioning what advertising and corporate spokespeople have to say. While Talen’s routines started out as comic street theater, he’s become recognized as an effective (if deliberately eccentric) advocate for economic justice, and filmmaker Rob VanAlkemade offers an in-depth look at the phenomenon of Rev. Billy in his documentary What Would Jesus Buy? Produced in part by Morgan Spurlock, What Would Jesus Buy? received its world premiere at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

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This is from Tim Fullerton, at Oxfam
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November 20, 2007

Dear Jonathan,

Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for Burger King earn 40 to 50 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick, a rate that has not risen significantly in nearly 30 years. Workers who labor from dawn to dusk must pick two tons of tomatoes to earn $50 in one day. Recently, McDonalds and others have agreed to higher wages for these workers, but Burger King has not.

Tell Burger King to improve farmworker wages.

McDonald’s and other fast-food chains, including Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, have committed to increasing wages and enforcing better working conditions in the fields. But Burger King—the second-largest hamburger chain in the world—has so far refused to work with farmworkers to improve wages for those who pick their tomatoes.

Please tell Burger King to join with McDonald’s and others in improving farmworker wages.

Thank you for supporting poor farmers both here and abroad.

Sincerely,

Tim Fullerton
Oxfam America

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