A Culture of Consumption Versus a Life for Purpose
We live in an age of wanton consumption, where we are kept busy, distracted and consuming, discontent unless we have… It is so deeply pervasive that it is mere impossible for the common 1st world person to stop, reflect and consider that it is even remotely not a healthy or sustainable life, much less maybe not the best option, or even much less, not healthy! In fact, for Americans (I cannot speak authoritatively for the rest of the 1st world – though I have much experience in Europe and the Antipathies – but I suggest it is exactly true & possibly in places, more true), it is now near impossible to even conceive or imagine that the life “we” experience and “how” we define it (consumed with mass consumption of entertainment, stuff, distraction, noise, materialism, consumerism, unaware of what our life of distraction costs others to provide for us, cheaply) is not Godly… we even, as saints, interpret what a healthy Christian lifestyle is through our American affluent (even the poor in the US are wealthy and consumers contrasted with the 2/3’s world) lenses.
What is it God calls us to? Who are we called to be? Are we not called to be imitators of him, ambassadors, co-laborers, sent ones (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, Phil 2.5ff for starters only)? What is out life to be when we face trials and difficulties? In our consumptive paradigm, any trial/suffering is bad – not God’s will… “for God wants us happy, safe, comfortable and consuming (with the rest of society)”.
May I suggest two things? First, space, silence and reflection. Second, maybe we are formed more from how we navigate, endure and allow God to transform us in trials than from any other event in life?
Reflection. In the romantic comedy, Kate & Leopold, Kate inquires of Leopold (transported to the late 20th century miraculously from18th century France) what he misses most. His reply was poetic and simple… He missed time, pace and space to reflect. Nice touch by the screen play authors. They got it! In our crazy consumptive life (which kills mercy, love, charity, gentleness as the primal value is greed – me consuming endlessly). We need to intentionally embrace, seek and determine through disciplined action to seek space, silence, quiet, absence of distraction and …”reflect”. This is part of our pace and life in Communitas. From weekly, to seasonal retreats, to annual and even jubilee seven year cycles, we build in space to reflect and take stock of what has occurred, what is occurring, and what God is doing, has done and wants to do and amazingly, what He has to say about all of this. We’re not perfect, but I would have burned up (not out – but burned up) a long time ago with out this intentional habit.
2. Maybe we should not run from the painful times, the trials, the minor persecutions, or major for that matter. For in these come the deepest transformation seasons where we are transformed to be more like Christ and used the loudest as ambassadors for him…even if we don’t know it at the time. Ever hear of Radegund, Austria? Ever hear of a poor nobody from that town, named Franz Jägerstätter? Me neither. Read on;
Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943) was a humble peasant born to a poor German farm maid in the small town of Radegund, Upper Austria. He was baptized, married and worked as a sexton (person who keeps the church prepared for services, maintenance, assists the pastor, etc) in the same small parish. Though he was never part of any formal resistance groups Franz was his village’s sole conscientious objector to the annexation of Austria to Germany under Hitler. He felt deeply that his Christian faith could not permit him to fight in Hitler’s army. Even under pressure by local priests and bishops (??? !!!) to conform and serve in the military, Franz refused. He was imprisoned and beheaded for his refusal to serve in the Nazi Army.
In our world of consumption with the value being about me being satisfied “now”, to suffer, endure, trans navigate through a hard season is beyond consideration. Hence why marriages, careers, relationships, commitments of all types, even our kids are disposable. Sad, but we don’t even bother committing anymore but literally accept whoring ourselves out repeatedly for a night’s sexual gratification, a new relationship… A few months ago, I sat at a café table waiting for a friend. The two young women next to me chatted away, not loudly, but our close proximity made it impossible to not overhear. The one shared how she was leaving New Orleans and the other lamented. The first said she had met a guy, no commitments (but she was moving up the Atlantic seaboard in case it might work out…the sex was good…so they must be a good match for each other…no kidding, her reasoning) and that it just didn’t work out in New Orleans… She had had sex with twelve men in her two years there through grad school at Tulane, and while some lasted two months or so, they never had any meaning, depth or real lasting romance and the guys moved on though she longed for a deep relationship. Wow. Yes, that’s accurate, not on iota made up. Maybe, that deep image cast within her longs for meaningful, lasting, committed, deep, but she lives out everything that is a) more common than most readers of this might ever, ever conceive, and b) everything I wrote above.
Possibly, God calls us to a life of purpose, commitment, sacrifice, and the grit to stand (humbly, but unwaveringly) for Him. We’re not part of an ideology, a religion, or an association, but lovers of, subjects of, servants of, princes & princesses of the King. Maybe real life, beyond consumption is about something more tacit, more earthy, more costly than consumption. Maybe?
“Through his bitter suffering and death, Christ freed us only from eternal death, not from temporal suffering and mortal death. But Christ, too, demands a public confession of our faith, just as the Führer, Adolf Hitler, does from his followers.”
~ Franz Jägerstätter (1943)