The Consumerization of Christianity

This is a brilliant cultural critique by Eugene Peterson.  And it just as brilliantly critiques evangelicals for consumerizing the Christian faith.  We do need to be criticized on this point, since we are consumers!  Notice how the words below have everything to do with celebrity pastors, Christian media, the hype of evangelical Christian books, and church shopping, among other things (these things are all related).  My favorite line is where Peterson talks about Christian maturity thinning out: consumerism in the church has to do with immaturity.  Here it is:

“We live in an advertisement culture in which new products are continuously presented to us.  This is a culture of built-in obsolescence.  Nothing is designed to last.  In order to keep the economy healthy we are conditioned to respond to the latest as the best: a new car, the latest fashion in clothes, the breakthrough model of computer, the newly published best-selling novel [or evangelical Christian book – sl], the just-discovered miracle diet.  We have no sooner bought or tried one thing than we are off to the next.  Quickly bored, we are easily diverted from whatever we have just purchased or the book that we have not quite finished or the church we joined two months ago.  Highly skilled and lavishly budgeted attention-getters target us tirelessly.  Every ‘latest’ is overtaken by another ‘latest’ in dizzying succession.”

“When this novelty mentality seeps into the church, we start looking for the latest in God, the latest in worship, the latest in teaching, the best preacher in town.  Church shopping is epidemic in America.  When religion as novelty spreads, maturity thins out.  The well-established and much-verified fact is that following Jesus is not a consumer activity.  Prayer is not a technique that can be learned as a skill; it can only be entered as a person-in-relation.  Love cannot be improved with jewelry or an exotic cruise; it requires submission and sacrifice and reverence.”

“[In Ephesians,] Paul has warned us that we are perpetuating our adolescence when we indulge in spiritual novelties: “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine…we must grow up” (Eph. 4:14-15).  Brace yourself.  Keep your footing.  Stand firm.”

Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection, p. 254-5.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi