We are a culture of consumption. Think about it this way. Consuming means putting something into your body (self) which now becomes a part of you. The things we eat become our hair, skin, innards, etc. The things we buy define our identities, our self-image. Why do you buy one brand over another or one style over another?
Consumption is also at the heart of the Christian faith. Christians through history have disagreed and split most often over the two primary rituals common to all: Communion and Baptism. Communion, or the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper depending, involves two elements a piece of food and a liquid. This is most commonly bread and wine/ grape juice, although I think contextualizing this meal is certainly appropriate (how about tortillas and tequila in Mexico? ok, i’m joking…sort of).
Through whatever liturgy or form the ritual takes it involves eating the bread and wine. The interpretation of its exact nature is debated, but the fact of its centrality is not. So, we are also a people who consume. Central to our faith is a ritual by which we consume bread and wine. This incorporates the life, death and resurrection of Jesus into our very bodies. Whether it’s through symbolic reenactment or transmogrification, the consumption unites us with what we consume.
As this veritable frenzy of consumption approaches, there seems to be a different feeling in the air. The economy smells a little rotten and our belts are all a little tighter wondering what the coming months will bring. There are two competing ways to approach this. Our consumer economy (as our President also commanded after 9/11) wants us to consume gadgets, luxury items, gifts, and new appliances. If we’re going to turn this economy around, we’re going to have to buy and spend our way out of it. Debt is the all-loving answer and the market is the all-knowing, all-seeing eye (kind of like Sauron in Mordor).
As Christians our response to a more subdued economy should be to celebrate a return to the meaning of Christmas. Now, I have to be careful lest I associate myself with the likes of Bill O’Reilly and the Christmas wars. I’m not interested in my religion dominating people, states or other religions thank you very much. Perhaps it is a chance for those celebrating Christmas to think about competing forms of consumption.
Do we consume material things or the body and blood of Christ? What’s the difference? Which one is harder to swallow?
This Black Friday (aka day after Thanksgiving aka Biggest Shopping Day of the Year) why not “participate by not participating.” I am a huge fan of Adbusters and their Buy Nothing Day. A mennonite group also started a campaign called Buy Nothing Christmas. NPR’s Story Corps project has declared November 28th National Day of Listening.
Update: I forgot this great website: Advent Conspiracy
So, what will you be consuming this Christmas?