Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What, in fact, WOULD Jesus buy?

Connecticut readers: Please stop by Burgundy Books in East Haddam on December 16 at 4. I will be reading from Get Satisfied and answering just about any question you ask.


No one truly knows what, if anything, Jesus might buy if he was here today. But I like to think he would, if he had to shop, center on compassion and justice. Some thought-provoking links:

  • The What Would Jesus Buy site lists several like-minded partners that also weigh the human costs of mindless shopping and unfair labor practices

  • Teenage girls in the movie, clearly fashion lovers, log onto responsible (aka sweatshop free) shopping Web sites for more information.

  • Here are some thoughts on the many nonmonetary rewards employees want. Surprisingly, monetary rewards rank 12th on employee wish lists. Workplace wishes like recognition and the opportunity to contribute are surely a microcosm of the broader life experiences we all crave.

Regular readers know that I had an appearance last week. I had the privilege of reading part of my Get Satisfied essay in conjunction with a movie screening. Director Rob Van Alkemade spoke in eloquent terms at a screening of his film, What Would Jesus Buy. But he didn’t really need any verbal talents: his compelling movie spoke for itself.

I’m already in the “stop shopping” mode, however gradually I approach it. But Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping, the attention-grabbing and often laughter-provoking central characters, made another thing clear to me: there is a global “emperor’s new clothes” mentality that drives the consumer frenzy, at Christmastime and beyond. If those around you are driven to acquire the latest Xbox or designer tag, and you have not managed to center on what matters deeply to you, you may join the crazy, hazy group delusion in which these passing fads are utterly indispensible.

But there is another dimension here that bears examining: the ripple effect. Where you shop and where it was made matters. Look more closely at companies that construct an image of compassion. In some cases, the subtly colored packaging and sweet soundtrack might mask some hypocrisy in their practices. It’s hard to be vigilant 24/7, and even the indomitable Reverend Billy (or was it one of his crew?) admits that they don’t expect anyone to completely adhere to the “Gospel of Stop Shopping”. But a pause before spending, a decision in the right direction might stir some serious ripples. The movie’s laments about big business and values-blind consumers are equaled by the hopes that supporting your local business and buying from ethical manufacturers just might accumulate in a significant difference.

Simple Christmas is an oft-expressed wish and, to many, an oxymoron. Please share your favorite simplicity- and humanity-friendly holiday traditions via the comments link. This is a gift I would truly appreciate.

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At 1/01/2008 4:09 AM, Anonymous simplesam said...

Jesus would probably buy local fish and hand made breads from his village's fishermen and bakers.

We are a UU family that struggles to celebrate Christmas with our 9 year old grandson in a way that we feel genuinely reflects our beliefs around the holiday. Our focus is on family, food, homemade music, and games. After the dishes are cleared and the few gifts are opened, we play music and games that my husband's family played at Christmas in England 60 years ago. The games themselves are becoming the highlight of our celebration w/our collection of 4 grown daughters, sons in law, mom, stepdad, brother and grandchildren!
Also, this year, we made new greeting cards from last year's old ones, and sent them out in simple, handmade envelopes to fit the new cards. A great craft, using recycled cards, and we've had lots of positive comments on them. A new tradition is born...

At 2/27/2008 12:36 PM, Blogger Jason Reagan said...

If the Gospel of Mark is in any way historically accurate (many scholars believe all the other gospels are based on it), the answer to the question "What Would Jesus Buy?" is "Nothing." He seems to promote a lifestyle of wandering and bartering/begging (like some Buddhists).



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