Redeeming Christmas: Anti-Consumerism in the Media
Ever since Charlie Brown’s struggle to find the real meaning of Christmas, complaints about its commercialization have become an American platitude — an ineffectual counterpoint to the consumer orgy that now begins with the aptly named “Black Friday.” But this year seems a little different: resistance to excessive consumption at Christmas and throughout the year is getting increasing attention and legitimacy in the mainstream media.
American Public Radio, producer of several of my favorite NPR shows like Speaking of Faith, Marketplace, and American RadioWorks has been doing an excellent series called “Consumed,” which asks whether our consumer society is just and sustainable. (You can listen to all of these via the web or podcast if you cannot catch the shows on your local NPR station.) Marketplace did a nice story on Buy Nothing Day, and followed this up with a series of excellent daily stories the week after Thanksgiving raising critical questions about rampant consumerism. Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith presented a show on “Money and Moral Balance” that was filled with insight and practical wisdom about how families can restore sanity and moral integrity to their financial lives.
Of course, love it or hate it, that’s perhaps just the sort of thing you can expect from NPR. So I decided to ask Uncle Google about “Christmas, consumerism” in the news over the past month, and he returned 652 hits (searching 4,500 news sources in .27 seconds! — gasp!). As it happens, the second headline from the top was from a story on Pope Benedict’s condemnation of Christmas consumerism.
Of course, resistance to Christmas consumerism got a big boost from a flashier if less venerable religious figure. I speak of course of the redoubtable Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping, warning us all of the lures of the Demon Monoculture and the looming Shopocalypse — the end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt! Morgan Spurlock, director and star of the indie-hit documentary Supersize Me, follows Reverend Billy on a cross-country crusade to save Christmas in the film What Would Jesus Buy? Although the film has won critical acclaim, being an independent film that skewers the twisted values of corporate America and consumerism, it has had a relatively limited national distribution, so I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but the trailer (below) looks excellent. See it if you can!