Friday, March 5, 2010

The Story of Stuff (and a bit of a vent)

Oh, where to begin?!  Do you ever seem to get inundated with other people's stupidity until you suddenly find yourself so angry at their ignorance you think you'll explode?  I am amazed to find that there are people in this world (far too many, unfortunately) who do not believe that anything they do has any impact on the world (people, environment, etc.) around them.  Huh?  How selfish can you be?  This is not about whether you believe in global warming or not.  How can you be so small-minded to think that what you do only affects you?  I think I'd better stop reading the stupid comments people post on other people's blogs (I may soon be the recipient of such comments!) and letters to the editor in certain magazines or in response to certain newspaper articles.

Anyway... the point of this post...  The Story of Stuff.  If you have not watched this video, or have not watched it recently, please do.  Or visit  I have to thank Emily, my new favorite blogger at Live Renewed for bringing this to my attention.  I love her philsophy on life and her journey toward a greener life for her family.  Now really, you should watch the video and then go read her March posts, because I pretty much agree with everything she says.  But in short, here's what really hit me, not as a tree-hugging hippie, but as a child of God.

I have too much stuff.  Way too much stuff.  My family has way too much stuff.  We know that and are working on dealing with it.  We have been trying to reduce our consumption of stuff.  We recognize that our choices as consumers don't just impact our lives, but the lives of people all around us.  This is why we choose to buy products and especially food that are as locally produced as possible, and at least from within the US.  When we buy locally, we support our local economy -- the same people, by the way, who happen to be supporting our own business venture, since we will always be a local company, feeding the local community.  We conserve resources by not using fuel, etc. to ship things across the country or even halfway around the world.  This is why we reuse and recycle as much as possible and throw away as little as possible.

We are living on a finite planet!!!  And whether you choose to believe in global warming or not, you cannot deny that we harvest our forests faster than we can regrow them, that farmland to produce food exists in much, much, much decreased quantities than just a few generations ago, that we are using up our planet.  And maybe you don't care, because you'll be dead before the planet is used up.  Well, goody for you!  What about your grandchildren???  We cannot afford to think only of ourselves!  It is a small world!  Such selfishness cannot be tolerated.

But here's where my faith comes in.  I believe that God created this earth and everything in it.  In Genesis, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and told him to take care of it.  In Scripture, God repeatedly gives individuals dominion over things... this means they have responsibility for those things, not that they can do what they want and destroy those things at any cost.  God placed us on the earth to take care of it and preserve it.

But what I find even more appalling as a believer is how our culture defines our value as people.  This video says it pretty succintly.  It hurts a little, made me cringe.  Victor Lebow, retail analyst in the 1950s, is quoted in the video as saying the following: "Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption..." WHAT?!?!?! Rituals? Spiritual satisfaction? Ego satisfaction? Talk about idols and other gods! You wondered what is wrong with our society? There's your answer.

Our culture assigns value to people based on their ability to participate in the consumer good system through consumption.  Is this how God assigns value to His children?  Absolutely not!  We have been created in His image, knit together in our mother's womb, He values us more highly than all His creation.  We have incredible value because God says so!  And this is not true just of Americans.  God places high value on all people, even those living in Third World countries, working in deplorable conditions to mass-produce our goods, people being forced to move out of their villages as the countryside around them is destroyed.  Maybe even especially.  God clearly tells us how he feels about the poor, the widowed, the orphaned and what is to be our response as those more fortunate.  Your spending and consumption reflect the value you place on human life, the lives around you and the lives of people on the other side of the world.  Have you thought about what your consumption says about how you value other people?  If I am called to love God and love others, I need to think about how my consumption reflects my fulfillment of my calling.

We have more stuff than ever, but at what cost?  Maybe it's hard to measure some of it from where you stand, because you don't have a stinky factory in your neighborhood or have to look at people coming and going from the factories.  But one thing I've heard repeatedly is how we have more than ever, but we are less happy as a society than we have ever been.  So we get more and more stuff, because we are seeking "spiritual satisfaction, ego satisfaction," and we are left more and more hungry.  Seek ye first the Kingdom of God...  He alone is the Bread of Life, the Living Water.  Stop idolizing your stuff!  (that was directed at me, by the way)

So what should we do?  Join me and my family in examining your relationship to your stuff.  Think about what you have, what role your stuff plays in your life, and maybe even more importantly, reflect on your participation in our consumptive society.  Really think about the purchases you make -- where they come from, how they are manufactured or grown, the impact those products have on the world around you, both the planet and the people who live on it.

And I'd love to hear how it goes for you.  Have you already journeyed the path of getting rid of stuff?  Are you in the middle of it?  Are you thinking about beginning the journey?

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