Letter from the editor: the gospel of consumerism

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Letter from the editor: the gospel of consumerism
Matt Marciniec
Matt Marciniec, editor-in-chief of The Northerner, asks Christians to consider what their money is supporting. Photo by Julia Andrews.

My current scene consists of a white and gold iPhone 6s charging after a day’s use. This inanimate object stays by my side throughout my day-to-day activities. On the other side of my desk is a 160 GB iPod Classic. I bought myself this little toy immediately after it had been announced that they were soon to be discontinued. My impulses compelled me to purchase something I believed I needed because my lack of portable music storage had become a legitimate concern to me. My array of Apple products is not complete without the MacBook Pro, which I am currently writing this confession on. I am amongst the masses of American Christians who have become bound to a consumerist mindset.

So, as I begin to criticize the disregard for socially conscious purchases within Christian communities, understand that I am speaking to myself just as much as I am speaking to you.

Being raised in a Christian environment my entire life, I have been taught to honor God in all that I do. This message, however, is rarely, if ever, applied to what our money supports or which companies we choose to enable. Popular clothing brands still outsource employment to third world countries, abusing workers who are of the most vulnerable. Sweatshops are places where the powerful enact cruelty on the least of these, all in the pursuit to maximize pro ts to the last possible dollar. Ironically, those sitting in church pews shamelessly emblazon these company logos on Sunday mornings.

One of these companies, Nike Inc., is followed by a horrendous track record of human rights abuses. I have made a personal decision to avoid buying any products from them. How can I love humanity if I financially support the marginalization, exploitation and injustice of individuals outside of my country’s borders? The reason it is so easy to disregard the evil of sweatshops is the distance companies have created, for we will never come in contact with the young abused child who is working long hours for low wages thousands of miles away.

Thrift stores, fair trade coffee and local co-ops are often scoffed at for being trendy and pretentious. But why? Should we not celebrate the push for a more socially responsible consumer culture that has the well-being of people at its core? Convenience and cost have become the driving force behind our culture’s purchasing decisions. Frankly, I do not believe convenience is what Christ called his church to, but perhaps we have succumbed to the marketing that emphasizes materialism above everything else.

When it comes to the clothes we wear, I have heard many messages on modesty. On one occasion, I was asked to not wear a shirt because it promoted a secular band. What I have never been reprimanded for is wearing an article of clothing that is tied to the greed that is deliberately hurting people. I cannot speak for God, but I also cannot imagine God endorsing a human injustice on a global scale that so many Christians are willing to accept. I also have this gut feeling that God cares more about the abuse of human rights than whether or not one’s shirt is too tight or if one wants to show appreciation for the stylings of Bob Dylan.

With all that I have said, I implore you to not take this as a self-righteous rant, for I am not innocent. I have and still continue to make purchases simply for my self-gratification, yet I can only continue to become more cognizant of this. I honestly do not believe it is possible to completely avoid buying products from companies with a history of unethical practices, but it is possible to become more aware of where the products we use are coming from. Perhaps what I am suggesting is “radical,” but I would argue that being radical is just what Christ wants from us.

My request is that we continue to question how we re ect the glory of God through the words we say, the things we do and maybe, just maybe, the causes our money supports.