Buying God unites theoretical work on theology, capitalism and consumerism with a scheme of detailed practical action. It examines both theological and secular insights on the logic of consumerism, and explores how Christians should behave in the marketplace, both individually and collectively. The book argues that, while desire is fundamentally human, consumerism can only ever offer illusory satisfaction. Only a yearning for God can truly fulfil our heart’s desire. Christianity happens to be unusually well-equipped to lead the fight against Mammon’s most alluring secular narratives. Consumerism is human action, so it can as easily be redemptive as it can be parasitical. We just need to consume for God instead.
It’s easy to feel utterly overwhelmed by the gleeful global triumph of consumerism, at the sight of the queues for yet another Apple launch, or when the latest Disney film character completely possesses your child’s every waking moment, or when you simply must upgrade your phone immediately, while still the loan sharks circle to keep the purchasing cycle in perpetual motion. Enough. We’ve all had enough of it.
But if we can come to terms with the essence of consumerism, we can loose its power over us. And all the sound and fury is fundamentally about the same thing: our search for self-identity. Consumerism can only ever fail, because it cannot satisfy. It lies, because the latest ‘thing’ soon becomes old news, dooming us to spiralling dissatisfaction in our relentless quest to stay on top. But if we accept that we cannot win, and that we are already immeasurably loved, we can start to ask ourselves searching questions about our Pavlovian response to consumer signals. Do we really need that thing? What do we really think it will do for us, deep down, and could it ever?
Easier said than done. But easier perhaps than we’d thought. We don’t need to fight consumerism. Or hide from it. We just need to see it aright, as a false promise, that is not good enough for us. As a child of God, we are worth far more than that. Of course we will yearn, and we will consume, but that is God’s destiny for us, not Mammon’s. Ours is the gift of free will, to guide our choices heavenwards, to school our desire towards God.
Drawing on the Church’s rich traditions of Social Liturgy, the book calls on the Christian community to renew its confidence and strength in proclaiming this good news. It explains how we can wean ourselves off the material and on to the eternal, through prayer, example, and vibrant social action. It includes a Consumer’s Prayer, a Lent Course, a Consumption Audit, an exercise for a Month of Virtue, and useful resource websites, all packaged in an accessible style.