Paid a visit yesterday to the newest temple to Mammon, the '360 Mall'. It's a cathedral, consecrated to the overfed saint of expensive, not necessarily good, taste, available to all, as long as the pilgrims have enough money to pay the tribute. Or, it will be when it's finished. After gawping at the architecture for a while, I found myself asking whether lifestyle consumerism counterfeits Christian spirituality. If I am allowed, to use a 'Christian' syntax, it 'evangelises and makes disciples'. It offers flawed worship, false hope and incomplete assurance since advertising strategies link products with our personal desires and values. So when people feel something is missing, rather than look to God, they go shopping, which can be seductive, cyclic, addictive and ultimately impoverishing. Further, consumerist thinking causes us to have a smorgasbord mentality about the churches we attend and a pick and mix attitude to the doctrines we find there.
I think that a deocentric spirituality has inherent dissatisfaction, the inner voice whispering "There must be more". Consumerism mimics the restlessness of our pilgrimage, keeping us permanently dissatisfied. Furthermore, there's no place for the poor. It used to be said that the fruits of a society were seen in how it treated its poor. Postmodern society structures itself around consumers, so the poor can't compete, they have no function; they are useless in a consumer world.
Perhaps the only way that consumerism can be effectively countered is by developing an alternative world view together with an alternative lifestyle, which might actually shape our character. We are taught as believers that we have the resources to engage with a consumerist mindset and outclass it. The crucial issue, perhaps, is discipleship, which requires teachability, corporate identity and sacramental grace.
I don't think I've quite arrived as Paul did when writing to the Philippians "I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content", but I know myself to travel more lightly than I once did. It might be instructive if my comparatively few worldly possessions were taken from me, or worse, I had to make do with products of inferior quality, bought from the 100 fils shop rather than from Dolce & Gabbana. H'm.