Christian Education

Consumer Christianity: How Much Money Does It Cost to Be a Christian?

Christianity and money illustration,  design36 and vso / Shutterstock.com
Christianity and money illustration, design36 and vso / Shutterstock.com

Christianity can quickly devolve into caste systems, where faith communities are divided by the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor. Instead of unifying ourselves in Christ, we are dividing ourselves by how much money we can afford to spend.

How much money is required to be a Christian? Imagine how much money we’ve spent throughout our lifetime on “Christian” activities and products (not including tithing or mission-related donations) — now imagine if we gave this money to people who really needed it.

“Consumer Christianity” has turned our faith into a set of costs, and it’s becoming increasingly costly to maintain the Christian status quo. In John 2, the Bible tells the riveting story of Jesus entering the Temple and becoming furious at what He sees: vendors who have turned something holy into a commercial marketplace. Jesus is irate, and he basically tears the place apart because of their sin. But how different are our churches today?

How to ... Find a Social Justice College

Because there are so many different facets of social justice, there’s no one formula for picking a school that values it. “I’m really interested in Latin America, so I focused on international issues,” says current undergraduate Luke Walsh-Mellett, who also “looked at mostly small schools, because they have more of a reputation for being socially aware.”

Here’s a road map for decision-making that starts the summer before you plan to apply:

Consider your goals (late summer). Is it most important to you to have classroom learning about social justice issues? To have your tuition go to an institution that is living out justice values? To be part of a community of students who share your faith and/or social values? Alternatively, to be part of a community—secular or Christian—that needs to hear your witness about the connections between faith and justice?

Ask around (early fall). Walsh-Mellett talked to friends and neighbors a few years older than himself about where they’d gone; he also visited a number of them at their schools and stayed overnight. “Talk to people about what they’re doing, what they’re studying” to get “a sense of what the school is about,” he advises.

Research student activism (fall). Look at the campus newspaper and the school’s student activities Web site to see what active student groups exist. Is there a chapter of Students Against Sweatshops, Amnesty International, or Pax Christi?

To assess institutional commitment to volunteerism, check out the percentage of federal work-study dollars (if it gets any) the college devotes to community service (www.learnandserve.gov/for_organizations/highered/fws.asp).

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2009
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Criteria for Curricula

One key criteria in selecting Christian education curricula, as this article outlines, is the relating of theological thought and everyday experiences. Other criteria are also important in the curriculum selection process:

  • What is the organizing principle of the curriculum? Is it theatrically based? Lectionary based? Coordinated with the liturgical season?
  • How will the organizing principle fit with the educational program?
  • How does the curriculum use the Bible? Are biblical stories presented with appropriate theological emphasis? Are the stories placed within an adequate context?
  • How does the curriculum present the faith tradition, including sacraments, creeds, the history of the church?
  • Does the curriculum reflect adequate developmental and pedagogical understandings?
  • Do the lesson plans make provisions for a variety of learning styles, faith concerns, or questions?
  • Do the projects require creativity and thought? Art activities can in themselves provide a wonderful vehicle for theological reflection and further consideration of a biblical text.
  • Will the lesson plans lend themselves to your chosen educational structure? Is an opening or closing worship included with the materials?
  • Does the curriculum respond well to congregational size and circumstance?
  • Does the curriculum provide adequate teacher background and information?
  • Is the curriculum interesting and creative and does it have the capacity to encourage interesting and creative learning?

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1998
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