We are fortunate to have Carol Friesen with us again for a two seek examination called "Following Christ in a Consumer Society".
Carol began by briefly discussing a 1997 PBS documentary titled "Affluenza". We then watched excerpts from that documentary. If you are interested in the full documentary it can be seen here: << PBS Documentary >>
Affluenza is a word created from "affluence" and "influenza". It has been variously defined as "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more"; or "the bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses", or "an epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream", or "an unsustainable addiction to economic growth". Take your pick.
That PBS documentary was followed later by a 2001 book - "Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic".
In 2007, British psychologist Oliver James asserted that there was a correlation between the increasing occurrence of affluenza and the resulting increase in material inequality: the more unequal a society, the greater the unhappiness of its citizens. Referring to Vance Packard's thesis The Hidden Persuaders on the manipulative methods used by the advertising industry, James related the stimulation of artificial needs to the rise in affluenza.
The week 1 discussion was a lively one. In week 2 Carol will move the discussion to the subject of how do we follow Jesus in such a society.
You can listen to Carol's presentation (audio) of week 1 < here >
Consumer culture can be broadly defined as a culture where social status, values, and activities are centered on the consumption of goods and services. In other words, in consumer culture, a large part of what you do, what you value and how you are defined revolves around your consumption of stuff.
Carol discussed a shared assumption throughout history that most of us are looking for happiness. But we tend to look to the outside world of things, outward experiences, and relationships and try fill our lives with those things.
And in doing so we leave no time for God in our lives. So are there "spiritual disciplines" that can help us change that? There are many. Carol discussed two:
--- Gratitude: make a disiplined effort to realize and express gratitude every day. From the moment you wake up until you go to sleep. One way of doing that is to keep a journal of gratitude.
--- Practice Sabbath: Jesus said ""The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath" ; we need to set aside time for God in our lives, whether it is a time for quiet rest or quiet prayer. If we let all of the external activities of our world, including the constant pursuit of consumption fill our lives there is no space for God.
All of this was accompanied by a lively and vibrant discussion by the class.
You can listen to Carol's presentation (audio) of week 2 < here >.