Branded 0.2

I have labeled this post 0.2 because I’m still in the Introduction section of the book and this is my second post on it. Turpin makes the following observations on pages 2-3:

Our desires, our self-image, our taste, our leisure activities, our surroundings, our values, our sense of efficacy, and so much more are fundamentally formed by our participation in the system of acquiring and consuming goods…. There is no way to live in the United States and avoid the powerful and relentless formation that the system offers…. Consumption is at the heart of the way that we shape our lives, ever present and ever powerful in both our conceptualization of the world and the institutions we navigate on a daily basis.


Also, about 10 years ago she began working as a youth minister with parents who held significant commitments to urban ministry and a counter-consumerist lifestyle. However, she found that their kids were very committed to pursuing wealth and acquiring “status-granting goods.” Here is her response:

I had already come to recognize the strength of consumer formation in my own life, but I had been raised in suburban contexts without the influence of parents or church with strong counter-consumptive commitments. If these young people who did have strong models of counter-consumer commitment all around them still fell under the sway of consumer formation, I wondered if any young people could resist the strong formation of consumer culture.


I find her remarks to be very informative and interesting. I, too, find that teenagers easily fall into the rat race of consumerism. However, I am going to make a move that I often shy away from because it seems to be unhelpful most of the time. Obviously I think it is helpful to do it here in this case. If you take the words consumer (and its related terms from her quotes) and replace them with sin… suddenly it makes a lot of sense theologically. By the way, I often shy away from doing this because people use it as a scape goat, as a way of avoiding the specific issue (in this case our consumerist lifestyles), and as a way of beating people up. But in this case, I think it will help us understand why consumerism is so powerful.

Our desires, our self-image, … are fundamentally formed by our participation in the system of sin….
There is no way to live… and avoid the powerful and relentless formation that the system [of sin] offers….
Sin is at the heart of the way that we shape our lives, ever present and ever powerful in both our conceptualization of the world and the institutions we navigate on a daily basis.
If these young people who did have strong models of counter-sin commitment all around them still fell under the sway of sin, I wondered if any young people could resist the strong formation of sin culture.


Theologically, this is a given. Humans are under the sway of sin. Even in communities of faith who strive to be models of a way of life that opposes sin, people are still under the sway of sinful formation. This is why conversion is so necessary. This is why every person needs a conversion experience. We can raise our children in a culture of faith– this is good. But we must alway recognize that even with our best efforts, our children are still formed by a system of sin that infects every institution, every process, every structure, and seemingly our very DNA. In order to resist, individuals must become aware of this captivity and choose to live in opposition to it. We are able to have hope that such freedom is possible because of Jesus Christ. We follow after him, seeking to imitate him, in the hope that such a way, such a life, such a light in the midst of so much darkness, will lead us to a new me, a new us, a new world

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