Slowly trying to get back into the swing of blogging after my trip to Central Asia. I'll post some thoughts about that trip soon. Here are some more thoughts on Albert Hsu's book The Suburban Christian.
We are influenced in our consumption by the flood of mass produced brands surrounding us. As we look around our communities, it doesn’t matter where we live, there are the same brands of stores, restaurants etc. in communities across the nation. It works against the emergence of distinct and unique communities. Hsu quotes James Howard Kunstler who calls suburbia “the geography of nowhere.” This is the power of mass culture. Little distinguishes one suburb from another because larger commercial realities all but require everything to be basically the same as everywhere else. (Think about it, whether you live in KC, STL, DFW or NYC, there are a bunch of big box stores and chain restaurants that you can see in just about any community across the country).
The challenge for Christians living in this consuming environment is for our Christian identity to determine our consumption rather than for consumption to determine our identity.
We need to have more self-understanding and self-awareness. What sense of self-identity or community is shaping how you consume? How are your consumer choices shaping your identity? What magazines are on your coffee table, and what purchases have you made because of them? What brand stories or images have you bought into? On the other hand, has a particular Christian conviction led you to change any of your patterns of consumption? Has your church or Christian community helped you be more accountable in your consumer choices? How might your church wield its collective consuming power more christianly?
Hsu states that we can make a difference by being aware. We can begin by detaching ourselves from the tyranny of corporate branding, repudiating the power of status markers, and understanding how our identity and community shapes our consumption. It is an act of spiritual formation for us to allow ourselves to be shaped by Christian values and virtues rather than consumerist ones. We will then be alert to how our consumption can be beneficial for the sake of the kingdom.