Black Friday Brokenness: Shaping a Culture of Consumption

It has been interesting to hear stories of conversation and community occurring in lines for the shopping and purchasing experience that is commonly known as Black Friday. What does this “Black Friday” do to us? How does it shape us? Is it valuable for our personhood?

I value financial responsibility and cost-savings at least insofar as consideration and responsibility is granted regarding the expense that my potential “savings” brings to someone else. “Cost and consumption” is an important part of our decision-making process. Within appropriate cost and consumption parameters, is the “Black Friday” phenomenon a healthy part of our individual humanity and communal society?

I continue to fight my own habits of over indulgence and consumption so I avoid Black Friday “deals” not only for my own discipline but also to not participate in the broader metanarrative of addictive over-consumption and expenditure of resources inappropriately symbolizing the coming of God in the form of man. It seems as though our attempt to celebrate God entering into the human dilemma of brokenness is more symbolic of our brokenness than it is celebratory. Perhaps there is some convoluted embracing and enacting of our brokenness that enhances our knowledge and experience of God’s gift to us.

There may be some benefits to “Black Friday” but I continue to wonder how we might reframe the moments when we find ourselves conversating and creating community. How might we reshape our over-consumption culture? Do we embrace it? Do we engage it? Do we reform it? How might we reimagine an alternative reality?

Cost and Consumption

In the context of the popular American celebration of Christmas, the manner is which one consumes must be given high consideration. There is great value in  financial responsibility and cost-savings at least insofar as consideration and responsibility is granted regarding the expense that one’s potential “savings” brings to someone else. It may be worth paying a higher price from time to time. If the consumer’s “additional expense” offers a fair and personally rewarding exchange to the provider and producer of a particular good, the consumer ought to be delighted to communicate his or her value of the product. Otherwise, the consumer could be participating in the dehumanizing action of ascribing inferiority to another.

Generally, I make it a mission to not pay the full listed manufacturer suggested retail price in a standard commercialized retail store as markups in relation to product quality and for overhead expenses are troubling. If a product is apparently well-made, hand-crafted, or life-giving, its maker deserves his or her rightful return unless that right has been deliberately forfeited for the benefit of the consumer.

How might we consume well and purchase responsibly? How should those of us honoring the birth of the Jesus operate in the midst of an over-indulgent, high-consumption, cost-savings-seeking culture?

The Difficulty of Christianity

Is it more difficult being Christian or buying into Christianity?

33 for 33

I’m 33 today… so for this birthday I’m hoping that 33 of you (friends, family, colleagues, readers, and everyone) will wish me an extraordinarily joyous birthday by donating $10 to The Luke Commission — thereby being a part of saving 33 lives.

I’ve been privileged to be a part of fundraising for TLC with MVNU students and other universities. We take seriously our call and responsibility to help curb the AIDS epidemic in Swaziland, Africa. Sure… there are lots of ways to give to missions and other causes but I’ve been able to know about the difference that is happening Swaziland — a county that without help is slated for extinction due to the AIDS epidemic. This fall, I met with Harry Echo VanderWal who are on site in Swaziland. MVNU students have traveled to Swaziland to assist with AIDS testing and counseling. Lives are quite literally being saved and people are being exposed to the love of God and hope of new life.

One $10 gift provides one testing kit for one person. If more than 33 of you are able to give, then I’m hoping to use additional giving to outfit 33 Swaziland children with football (soccer) shoes. The VanderWal boys enjoy playing the sport but the children play without shoes or equipment. 33 players equals 3 teams of 11 and lots of hopeful smiles in a place that needs hope.

To give, you may use the link below or personally give me $10 and I will process the donation. If you give online, please let me know… it would be a great birthday gift!

33 for 33! Let’s do this.

Comment here if you have any other questions.

New Monasticism

“The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the sermon on the mount. It is high time men and women banded together to do this.”

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a letter to his brother

Rome, Meals, and the Kingdom

“In his vehement insistence on the priority of prophetic sacrifice and vision over literal place, Jesus also claimed that his meals with his disciples – which had long been designed as celebrations of God’s kingdom – amounted to better offerings than what Caiaphas sanctioned in the temple. The meal became a visionary sacrifice, with wine taking the place of literal ‘blood’ and bread replacing an animal’s ‘body’ or ‘flesh.’ Jesus’ meals became a prophetic challenge to the temple establishment, which replied with Rome in executing Jesus and dispersing his followers.”

Bruce Chilton. Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Gen. Ed. Baker Book House Company. 2005.

Ecclesiolatry: Missional-mindeness or self-perpetuating campaigns?

In my continued graduate work, my current course instructor posed the question, “Would it be theologically accurate to say that a church that is not on mission is not really a church but something else? Perhaps, a social club? What are the implications of an ecclesiology like this?

My response was as follows:
It is completely fair and accurate to say that a “church” without mission is not really a church at all. Church and mission are inseparable, yet many social clubs of conservative moral interest continue to insist that their weekly practices are necessary and representative of the kingdom of God. If the practices of church communities were evaluated from an outside perspective, I would venture to say that most would need to remove the word “church” from their poorly designed and sadly executed marketing campaign signage ( Sadly, I think many “church leaders” are not aware of their ecclesiology. There exists a blind “ecclesiolatry” (ecclesia + idolatry) that self-perpetuates empty forms and habits that have improperly come to be known as “church.”
Why does the church continue to self-perpetuate non-missional-mindedness? What are the internal insecurities and distractions that promote inwardly-focused campaigns by church leaders for church communities?

Therapeutic Religion on Twitter

I read an article in the New York Times about the popularity of tweets (Twitter posts/updates for those non-users) from Christians who post inspiring or supposedly meaningful phrases in 160 characters or less. The article, entitled “Twitter Dynamos, Offering Word of God’s Love” appeared in the @nytimes June 2, 2012 print copy and online in their technology section.

The tweets that have gained popularity are those that are uplifting or inspiring. Often, popular religious Twitter users, who gain massive amounts of “followers,” quote lines from the Bible that resonate with Christians or really any human who is seeking some type of fulfillment or encouragement. The idea of Twitter and personal fulfillment is quite interesting. What is it that people find rewarding from feel-good and cliche phrases that are often more empty than fulfilling?

Don’t get me wrong. There are short proverbial phrases that are valuable and various social media outlets can be good tools for communicating and networking. I use Twitter and other social media outlets to ask questions, pose thoughts, or connect (as shallow as it may be) with other thinkers and writers around the earth. Twitter is my primary source for links to news, video, information about publications, book releases, direct trade coffee, and European footballers’ contracts, strategies, and statistics. My concern is that the modern, popular expression and understanding of Christianity becomes cheapened to quotable one-liners that promote the acceptance of a therapeutic form of religion that does not represent the person of Jesus.

One other danger rests in the act of reading about Christianity and social justice initiatives and a consequent feeling like we’re somehow involved in the goodness of the world. How might we use social media outlets as a means of connectivity and resourcing while not compromising the call to be followers of Jesus, representing compassion and enacting theology? Is it possible to responsibly engage in Christian formation via Twitter? How might we most effectively shape our culture in a world of instantaneous, mass, online-social communication?

Hello, Vera Quinn Keller.

Infant Invocation

On May 14, 2012 a new human life entered the reality of our tangible earth. Vera Quinn Keller was born at 1:20 p.m. weighing a delicate 7.5 pounds. With eyes wide open only moments from breathing oxygen into her new lungs I held her and spoke what came to mind as most similarly resembling the same words spoken to her sister, Kyla Beth Keller, nearly 5 years ago. I don’t fully remember the exactness of every word. The intimacy and meaningfulness of the moment was too overwhelming. The following is my best recollection of the words spoken over Vera as my weeping, water-filled eyes met her quiet, attentive, receptive, and awe-filled gaze:

“May you love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

May you love your neighbor as yourself. May you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

May you be protected from all evil and may no evil come upon you.

May you be filled with love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.

May you be filled with the presence of God. May his presence be all around you, over you, beside you, behind you, and before you.

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be at your back. May the sun shine upon your face.

May you love God and serve others with your whole being. May you be a maker of peace and be blessed. May you be filled with his love.”

With a cross+ drawn by my quivering finger upon her forehead and with the sign over the cross over her head, heart, and across her chest, which was as wide as my hand:

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit which fills you and all the space between us. Peace be upon you. So let it be.”

These words continue to be spoken upon her everyday. May they be true.


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