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#326512 07/03/07 04:26 PM
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A few days after the I-Phone's release, the words of Reverend Billy (of the Church of Stop Shopping) seem more pertinent than ever, or do they? Are we powerless against the rising tide of conspicuous consumption? Is it wrong to suggest that people should in any way limit their purchases or resist their shopping urges? Are the concepts of Christian charity and conspicuous consumption mutually exclusive, or is capitalism the force that drives us ever onward towards equality and freedom for all?

Whatever your take on Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and McDonald's, Reverend Billy does have a point:

Shopper, Repent! (Excerpt by Rev. Billy)

Your thoughts?

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Well, from a Christian point of view, we aren't supposed to spend money willy nilly on stuff or have a love of money and personal possessions.

However, from a consumer point of view, if I need a toaster, I am going to buy one and if I have the money that will toast the image of a flower on my bread, I will buy it.

I don't particularly care for Wal-Mart as they are a predatory business and do not really care for their treatment of the Chinese who make their things or their treatment of employees but if their toaster is a couple of dollars cheaper and their store is closer to my house, then I choose the lesser of two evils and go there, taking into thought the cost of gas and how little money I have.


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There is a traditional conflict in Christianity about wealth, and the use of wealth, whether it was better to live in poverty or to glorify God through beautiful (and costly) works. Think back to the middle ages, the difference between the monastic and priestly orders. Later, there was acquisition of wealth by each, the seizure of the monasteries in England, the destruction of the Knights Templar, the Protestant reformation, etc. The televangelists of the 80's and the modern megachurches certainly take in an awful lot of money.

As far as Rev. Billy goes, I don't really understand him. He doesn't really mean NO shopping does he? I'm guessing he buys white suits and hair gel at the very least. And a computer. Trade in general helps everyone have better, healthier, less wasteful lives. You can raise seafood in Oklahoma and grow tomatoes in Alaska if you want to, but it consumes a lot fewer resources to do things the other way around and trade the surplus.

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Amadeus 1220: You make some good points about Wal-Mart. I dislike the store and usually refrain from shopping there for the same reasons (although I do purchase some of my name-brand groceries there.) I see your point about people with very minimal incomes excusing themselves for shopping there, but the thing is that I think even those who are relatively well off use the very same excuse. Sure, they'll spend $600 on an I-Phone, but they don't want to spend and extra 35 cents on their ball point pens or whatever. And yet they go around complaining about how illegal immigrants are taking away their jobs. It just strikes me as somewhat hypocritical. So although I don't expect everyone to convert to Reverend Billy's brand of thinking, I don't think it would hurt for people to think twice about whether they really need some [censored] new gadget or not.

Nechochwen: I wondered about the white suit and hair gel myself. Maybe he purchased the white suit in a vintage clothing store, and maybe he makes his own hair gel. Who knows? But obviously he doesn't mean "don't purchase anything from a store ever" any more than someone who encourages you to stop eating junk food isn't telling you to never eat anything ever again. His Church, for example, sells books and DVD's but doesn't sell t-shirts, deeming the latter purely promotional in nature. So he seems to differentiate between products that promote a healthier lifestyle and products people don't really need but purcuase because it's the latest new gadget or because we think it'll make us happy for 15 minutes.

To be honest, I personally see the I-Phone as one of these annoying, unneeded products that Apple has somehow managed to convince gadget addicts that they need. I mean, come on: the only people who are really going to go out there and spend $600 on this thing are people who probably already own both a Blackberry and a Laptop. Why do they really need a new toy that combines them together in a single gadget? What's next, a Wii-phone? an I-Pod metal detector? A laptop beer cooler? Give me a break.

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While I totally agree with you re: the iphone (and overhyped apple products in general) I think that Rev. Billy falls into the same trap of most moralizers of "My behavior is acceptable, anything more frivolous/decadent/harmful to the environment is excessive and should be stopped." The fact is that all humans survive by taking other life and using resource. I do believe that there's a limit on how much consumption is appropriate, but I recognize that my limit is arbitrary, and that others disagree with me, from uber-libertarians to Voluntary Human Extinction Movement activists. I would be interested if anyone has any proposed guidelines for appropriate consumption, and even more interested in hearing the justification for same.

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I'm not sure Reverend Billy is as unreasonable as that. I think he's simply trying to raise consciousness levels about conspicuous consumption and urge people to try to decrease their consumption levels regardless of where it is now. In other words, I don't think he has a fixed standard for everyone, just a desire to urge all those who would admit to purchasing things they don't necessarily need without thinking about the necessity of said purchase to occasionally rethink some of those purchases first. I personally don't see anything wrong with that.

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Yes, very little is bought by necessity today. Now it is to be the first one on the block with the new toy.

Let's see I have $600.00 sitting around doing nothing. Do I buy the i-phone or the PS3? What a dilemma. Or I can wait a few months and they will both drop in price a couple of hundred dollars. However, by then they will both be outdated and there will newer, more expensive toys on the market.

I can see it now. A year from today I will tell someone I bought an i-phone and they will ask me if I bought an Atari with that because now the latest thing is the phone that gets the internet but will also transport you to the moon and back.


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> Let's see I have $600.00 sitting around doing nothing. Do I buy the i-phone or the PS3? What a dilemma.

Well, I have a regular phone that works for regular calls, a cell phone available for emergencies, and a dandy computer that I can play games on....

Think I'll save the $600 for something better, thanks! ;-)



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