Materialism

Ride the Curl

Ride the Curl Jesus is cool again! He rides a motorcycle, plays soccer and football, enjoys the occasional rodeo—plus, he surfs! What better reminder that Jesus is with us than a $30 plastic version of him engaged in one of our favorite pastimes? Eric Dyson, president and founder of Fishermen, Inc., wants the figurines to remind people that Jesus is with them in everything they do. It’s not all fun and games, though—there is also a “Homeless Jesus” figurine holding a sign that says, “Will Work 4 Food,” and a “Christian Soldier Jesus” in desert-camo fatigues with a gun and dove. Sadly, the figurines are made in China by the same group of factories that make Mattel toys. Beware: Let not the little children come unto Him.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2007
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A 'Relevant' Conspiracy

A few years ago, the “postmodern memoir” or “autobiographic novel” was all the rage among critics anxious to define new literary genres. In these books, writers mingle personal experiences with flamboyant experimentation in form; the results are edgy, funny, and confusing.

This trend is one starting point for Russell Rathbun’s Post-Rapture Radio, in which a narrator, also named Russell Rathbun, edits the sermons and extensive rants of Rev. Richard Lamblove. Within this odd framework, Rathbun thoughtfully explores the relationship between the church and mainstream culture, the implications of the great commission, and the nature of pastoral leadership.

Rathbun the character—a pastor, like his namesake—comes across a box of Lamblove’s papers and immerses himself in the intriguing sermons, journal entries, and notes of a man he enthusiastically classifies as an “unknown-crazy-preacher.” Lamblove’s actual title is “Vice President for Preaching and Biblical Study”—he’s an associate pastor at a church obsessed with being culturally relevant.

From his first staff meeting (the church calls it “NextLeader: A Gathering”), Lamblove finds others’ interest in his sermons to be nominal and steadily waning. He sees this as a sign of the church’s dilution of the gospel, its ongoing assimilation of a worldly culture of consumption, celebrity, and easy answers. He responds by withdrawing from church life. Lamblove avoids conversations with colleagues and churchgoers. He declines to participate in an “Emergent: See Gathering,” explaining that he feels he “can no longer emerge.” Convinced of a “Contemporary Christian Culture Conspiracy,” he comes to view himself as a dangerous, exegesis-wielding revolutionary. Eventually, he loses his job.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2006
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Catalog Jesus

I confess: I was a catalog girl who grew up to be a catalog woman. We had stacks of them when I was a child: Lillian Vernon and the petite Avon booklet left by the neighbor lady; a bounty of cookware, knickknacks, clothes, and books laid out appealingly on glossy pages. And, of course, best of the best, the Sears and J.C. Penney

Christmas wish books. I whiled away hours, days, weeks flipping the pages, compiling my lists: Lego sets, the Barbie Prom Ensemble, a giant Raggedy Ann. Catalogs were about fantasy and the potential fulfillment (it seemed) of every want, need, and dream.

Now that I am grown, my favored catalogs are most apt to hold clothing or shoes. (Hey, if you wore a size 11EE, specialty shoe catalogs would be your friends too.) The process of catalog shopping is second nature to me: The casual flip-through, noting things of interest (unrestrained at this stage by cost or practicality). The closer look, the discerning of desire or disinterest and the limits of budget. The selection, expression of commitment, the waiting, receiving, the resulting elation/disappointment/apathy. I name size-color-quantity, recite my credit card number, expiration date, amen with the practiced rhythms of one raised in a high church. Best of all, the priests and acolytes of this congregation wear the chocolate brown and purple vestments of UPS and Fed Ex and deliver the blessings right to my doorstep.

HERE'S THE POINT in this commentary where I'm supposed to repent from all that and decry the increasing materialism of our lives. The materialism that is inescapable in the season just begun—the autumn-long festival of marketed indulgence. In the Western world it will build in frenzy and size, like a slow, sure tsunami, and deposit us dazed and battered on Christmas morning, surrounded by stuff and trying to ignore the nagging voice that always asks, "Is this all there is?"

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2000
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Resistance Is Not Futile

Anti-globalization folk hero and sheep farmer Jose Bove has inspired a T-shirt that’s all the rage in Europe. It shows the globe open in the form of a huge jaw; from it emerges the handcuffed wrists of Bove, keeping the teeth from snapping shut. The slogan reads: "The world is not merchandise, and neither am I."

Bove is one of the "Millau Ten," members of the Peasant Confederation recently charged with "a festive dismantling with collateral damage" of an unfinished McDonald’s outlet in the small French town of Auch. They singled out the Golden Arches to protest the U.S. government’s recent tariffs on French specialty products, such as mustard and Roquefort cheese. The tariffs were in retaliation for Europe banning hormone-treated U.S. beef. Bove’s sheep milk is used to make Roquefort. His demonstration was nonviolent, local, personal, and specific.

How can you keep the maw of McWorld from snapping shut on you? We came up with a few ideas. Tell us yours by dropping us an e-mail at sojourners@sojo.net. (Come back to this page to see what other readers suggest.)

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2000
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Branded for Life

"The battle in Seattle" stirred worldwide concern about the impact of the new global economy on our poorest neighbors and the environment. An international coalition of environmentalists, labor union leaders, citizen activists, and church leaders has come together (with the help of the Internet) to challenge the agendas of the World Trade Organization.

But many peace and justice Christians who are a part of this new coalition are still focused on the issues of the 1970s and ’80s. In the ’90s we moved into a new neighborhood, and few in the church seemed to have noticed.

When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union imploded, virtually every nation on earth joined the free-market race to the top. Overnight we have become a part of a one-world economic order. This global boom economy raises issues regarding its impact on workers, sweatshops, and escalating environmental damage, but also a host of new issues that will require imaginative responses.

Money Central. A review of our history books reminds us of the dangers we have faced from those intent on political centralization. But we have never been a part of a global economic order before. In economic centralization, domination is the name of the game. As Michael Quinlan, chairman of the board of McDonald’s, declares, "I am open to any course that helps McDonald’s dominate every market."

Through aggressive expansion and mergers, transnational corporations are achieving domination of their global markets. Power is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer global corporations as these behemoths mate and merge. This is likely to seriously undercut the future of representational government.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2000
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