Thursday, December 23, 2010

commercialism at Christmas? postures worth pondering (part 2)

Further to my commercialism at Christmas? An ancient story worth pondering, I came across this quote:

“Christmas celebrations …[are the] embodiement of consumer culture,” according to Russell Belk, 78.

So Christians need to be thinking carefully about how to respond to Christmas. As we plan, is our Jesus been co-opted, consumed even, by the marketplace? In the midst of canned carols, what’s our posture?

Anti: We choose to stand with the Gringe and moan. We wring out hands at the consumerism, the secularisation, the hype, the excess.  Despite such rhetoric, we will all continue to shop over the next days. Such is the enmeshment of the consumptive system we part of.

Alternative: “The very fact that consumerism continues to draw upon and inhabit religious ideas and events for its own ends also means that religion continues to quietly peddle its countercultural message … the sentimentalizing of the nativity story at the height of consumerist indulgence creates alternative spaces for different meanings.” (Martyn Percy, Engaging with Contemporary Culture, Ashgate, UK, 58)

In other words, we see a sort of symbiotic relationship, in which the very consumerism of the culture in fact opens up a space which makes elements of the Christian story more appealing, more present. In practical terms

  • the earlier the carols, the greater the importance of Advent themes, candles, resources
  • the more the stress, the more the chance for churches to provide quiet, reflective spaces
  • the more the pressure to spend, the more the chance to offer simplicity in card-making workshops or home-made gifts
  • the more the hype, the more the chance to offer community meals on Christmas Day
  • the more the family emphasis, the greater the chance to offer Blue Christmas services or carol sing to the elderly and lonely.

Such a posture still leaves us open to the charge that we are tilting at the surface, and not dealing with the systemic injustices of global consumerism.

Affirmation: Much exists in Christmas that Christianity might want to affirm. Charitable contributions peak at Christmas, while far flung families connect and reconnect (Russell W. Belk, “The Human Consequences of Consumer culture,” in Elusive Consumption, 67-86). All of these are reflections of God’s goodness in and through humanity and surely reasons for Christians to affirm parts of Christmas.

In a Western world, awash with consumption, what other “Christian Christmas” postures are you seeing?

Posted by steve at 12:10 PM

1 Comment

  1. Thought you might appreciate this book. Used it through and through for our Advent/Christmas series this year “Making Sense of Christmas”.

    Christmas: Festival of Incarnation by Donald Heinz

    blessing on the new year with the eyes of your children and the wrappings all around.


    Comment by LInda — December 31, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.