Friday, March 27, 2009

The Commodity Culture

Began Skye Jethani's The Divine Commodity yesterday, and I'm already more than halfway through it. Full review and my part in Jethani's "blog tour" for the book to come. But I wanted to share this passage that concisely describes our commodity culture and how it affects the worship cultures of our churches.
In our modern world the rain that falls freely from the heavens and the molecular building blocks of life have become commodities.

Like so many elements of our consumer culture, commodification is not the problem but rather its pervasiveness. In a commodity culture we have been conditioned to believe nothing carries intrinsic value. Instead, value is found only in a thing's usefulness to us, and tragically this belief has been applied to people as well. Divorce rates have skyrocketed as we've come to see marriage as disposable. When a spouse is no longer useful he or she can be abandoned or traded. Abortion, the termination of an "unwanted" pregnancy, is believed to be morally justifiable because an unborn child is not a person. Personhood is a legal status reserved for those who are deemed useful. Pornography, prostitution, and child sex trafficking are the result of sexuality being commodified. Modern people may express outrage at the horrors of the African slave trade or the Holocaust, but in truth the commodification of human begins that made those atrocities possible is more prevalent today than ever before.

The reduction of even sacred things into commodities also explains why we exhibit so little reverence for God. In a consumer worldview he has no intrinsic value apart from his usefulness to us. He is a tool we employ, a force we control, and a resource we plunder. We ascribe value to him (the literal meaning of the word "worship") based not on who he is, but on what he can do for us.

Jethani goes on to connect this infiltration of commodity culture into church cultures to sociologist Christian Smith's identification of the prevailing spirituality of Moral Therapeutic Deism, which is the "religion" Michael Horton surgically attacks as the scourge of present day evangelicalism in his book Christless Christianity.

Really, Jethani's and Horton's books could be read in tandem. They are excellent complements and Jethani's book is already striking me as just as important a read as Horton's.


Randi Jo :) said...

oh man it's so true. value to us. power for us. I truly believe the next people we will start killing off is the elderly. it's showing & being talked about in political circles in our own country right now.

It all comes back to being me me me me me, self-focused right?

and where we think we get our value. the Creator or some worldly standard?

I remember the first time I realized that the Holy Spirit wasn't a power FOR ME... but a BEING. A being *I* was to follow. A being that was to guide me. ouch that one hurt. I had treated Him as such as long as I knew about Him.

thanks PJ :)

Spherical said...

I think this shows just by walking into an Christian bookstore. Look at the Scripture verses we post around us to "motivate" us. So much consumer (and sometimes misrepresented) fluff. How many posters/cards/plaques/etc. that really challenge us? Where is the call to repentence? The call to change? The call to serve? The call to bow before a living God?