Renewal –something I have to buy

Posted: 26 January 2016 in Cultural, On the Pilgrim's Road
Tags: , , , ,

John Lewis wellbeing

New Year – new me. Well the Church calendar of set readings had me preaching last Sunday on Good News to the Poor.  Jesus opens his work with “Good News to the Poor. Liberty to the Captives. Sight to the Blind. Freedom to the Oppressed.” Goodness, that’s strong stuff.  Meanwhile, on the same day John Lewis sends me a booklet with another vision, and not a bad one either.  RE:NEW.ALL.  with the message “Time for renewal – feel healthier in your mind, body and spirit”.  Well – I’ll say yes to that too.

It is an odd choice.  Just compare

  • “Good news, liberty, sight, freedom”
  • “Time for renewal”
Fronted by
  • Fronted by a yet another religious crazy from the Middle East (no shortage of those!).
  • Or some svelte young androgynous being.
The costs
  • Will cost you everything.
  • Costs a modest amount of money from a quality department store.
How to pay
  • Up front.  It is all or nothing.
  • In easy instalments, pay as you go
Product guarantee
  • Will last a lifetime
  • Replace with next year’s model, or till the summer fashions
Disposal policy
  • Eventual destination great, fully inclusive
  • Hot, but suntan lotion factor 50 will not suffice

Easy to have fun with this sort of stuff.  Poor old John Lewis is not alone. There’s Patek Phillipe, the luxury watch maker who reassures me that I will be only keeping the watch for my son. And Barclays Wealth Management who sooths me saying their services will allow you to spend more time with the daughter you are playing with. Etc. Etc.

At this point Christian preachers like me often make full frontal attacks up the heights of consumerism.  “Idolatry.” “Consumerism.” “Greed.” “Covetousness.” And it is not as if these barbs are not right to some extent.  But they do not penetrate.  They hit and just – bounce off.

We may denounce, even rant, but make little progress with congregations, and just seem laughable to the wider public.

The reason for this, is that the products being flogged to us have been made by advertisers into badges for higher values.

  • New year – new start, John Lewis will help you.
  • “Think Different” Well of course,, but Apple tells us to in 1997
  • Spend more time with your children – because Barclays Wealth Management is worrying about your money – for you
  • “It’s good to talk” we’ll all say amen to that.  And BT will help us (1994)
  • “Say it with flowers”. C’mon guys, just say it in the first place! (Interflora 1917)
  • “Because I’m worth it” L’Oréal Paris.

“Because I’m worth it” is a great, well known example.  Forty years ago, it shifted the focus away from the product to the purchaser.  The Women’s Movement was moving into mainstream, and self assertion was becoming personal.  Self worth and the power of the woman’s pound was being expressed.  Later L’Oréal made it “Because you’re worth it”, as the baseline of respect and recognition was to come from now on, from others.

So there we have it.  Christians will happily gallop off to the left or to the right to assault the grossness, crassness and selfishness of consumerism.  In the meantime, the High Priests of modern consumption march down the middle and tell us it’s all because “Because you’re worth it”.

The decline of common narratives leaves the scene clear for not much besides shopping and *******.  Yet we all know this goes nowhere in the end.  Even Rupert Murdoch is still looking for love, at 89.  Our critique must point people to the long term. To our families, to long term friendships, to our children and grandchildren, the society we live in, the purposes we live for, to faith, eternity, God.

“Because you’re worth it” is irredeemable because it puts a money value where there should be none. “God is love” and others like it point in a better direction


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