This is a fascinating book: Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age by Tyler Stevenson. If I remember correctly, one of our readers recommended it several months ago. Anyway, I just finished it this morning. I’m not going to give a full review here, but I do want to say that it is a worth-while read. I have a few minor critiques (i.e. I disagree with a few points of his interpretation of Romans, the book seemed to ramble at times, and it could have been a bit shorter) but overall I believe the book is a good one for serious Christians to consider.
In this book, Stevenson basically describes how and why Christianity in America has been watered down by consumerism. Stevenson talks about idolatry, money, marketing, trends, politics, t-shirts, and other such things that have to do with consumerism and Christianity. In part 1, he discusses the history of consumerism. In part 2, he goes through Romans 1:18-32 and parallels Greco-Roman culture and ours. In part 3, Stevenson focuses on the church and its failures. Part 4 is full of details about consumerism and Christianity. The final part is an encouragement for Christians/churches to stand against consumerism. I appreciated how Stevenson did not call us to conquer culture or redeem it, but instead live solid lives of discipleship.
Here are some quotes that captured my attention.
“Like it or not, in our society, we are what we buy. Savvy stores do not sell products, but self-image. The racks brimming with a dizzying variety of clothes do not offer a variety of products nearly as much as they offer varieties of potential me’s” (p. 19).
“To live in a consumerist world means that who we understand ourselves to be is deeply and significantly related to what we buy/consume” (p. 27).
“The problem with idols and brands is not that they are ineffectual, but that they cannot effect what we want them to effect. They cannot give back according to the measure of transcendent devotion we give to them” (p. 105).
“What does it mean to be an evangelical in America today? …The reality, unfortunately, is that American evangelicalism has become primarily a marketing demographic” (p. 132).
“The NOTW consumer aspires to be ‘not of this world,’ even though there is hardly anything more of this world than proclaiming one’s identity through the clothing one buys” (p. 153).
“…When secular retailers are forced by Christian interests to bend the knee (i.e. in the Christmas war), they do not bow to honor the name of Christ, but the dollars of his self-proclaimed followers. They are willing to change their marketing tactics in order to get Christian business. Does this bring any honor to Christ’s name? The very thought that it might is theologically bankrupt” (p. 161).
One more – and this one is brilliant. Don’t miss it.
“…Now that the market has discovered evangelicals as a target audience, we should expect that the Christian marketing effort will start playing a significant role in defining how and who evangelicals believe themselves to be” (p. 163).
This book will certainly make you think. I especially liked the sections on how marketing is very much related to Christian clothing, Christian politics, and the plethora of individualized Bibles for sale. There are some hard-hitting parts of this book! If you’re interested in this topic – Christianity and consumerism – you’ll certainly appreciate the book Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age.