Culture At Large

What do you consume?

Chris Salzman

Scot McKnight over at Jesus Creed is doing a chapter-by-chapter review of Paul Lois Metzger’s new book Consuming Jesus, which is being lumped with McLaren’s Everything Must Change as one of the current crop of must-read books. The basic premise seems to be that

"The evangelical church has a ‘disordered vision.’ That vision is consumerist…. The consumerist mindset entails giving consumers what they want, when they want it, and at the least cost to consumers themselves. It also creates in consumers the desire to want, and then to want more, even to want things they did not originally want — programming them to buy a given product in the free-market system.... It all appears to be benign; yet it is very divisive” (40).”

Divisive, because

“This consumerist mindset leads to a blindness to a “trade triangle”: consumerism, upward mobility, and homogeneity in the church.”

His solution is to consume Jesus instead of constantly consuming new buildings, ideas, music, etc. Few Christians would philosophically debate for anything but this in their churches; however, what we say and what we do often are misaligned.

I’d like to discuss the last item of that 'trade triangle,' though: homogeneity. I’ve been involved in a few different small groups over the years. Of the successful ones, one worked because we were all male and the same age and another because we were all twenty-somethings living in suburban Chicago. And the churches I’ve called home have been lead and attended by people who generally look, talk and act like me. Ditto goes for the university I attended. In the past eight years I’ve regularly attended four churches from four denominations, all of which in reality were all pretty much the same. I’ve lived a rather homogenous Christian life. I’ve always felt slightly guilty about that, but reading about Metzger’s book has me thinking.

He has this to say as well:

“We fail to grasp how evil and dehumanizing the consumer-market forces can be… the market mind-set means that the gospel signifies an exchange between God and us rooted in satisfying our untrained needs.”

Since as McKnight puts it, “race and income track one another,” this tendency towards a market mind-set leads to a both classism and racism. Scary stuff.

So my question for you: Is this desire for a comfortable homogeneity a function of our consumerist mentality within the church? Clearly no one would really argue that churches should be wholly consumerist, but would you agree with how destructive he thinks that mentality has become? Or better yet, how have you seen this type of consumerism--for good or ill--in your own churches?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church