Consumerism & Disciple Making Pt. 4 - The Demands of Consumers

“Learning is a social shield for smart people. It allows us to seem to be progressing, but learning without application is an excuse not to take action. Simply an endless avoidance of the work in front of us.” -Ramit Sethi

We’ve learned a lot about consumerism so far. Notably, its three tenets, 1. Satisfaction Can Be Purchased 2. Purchasing Power is Found in Systems 3. System Participation Demands Our Identity

Unfortunately, abstract learning is seldom helpful. You must understand the impact consumerism has on you before you can escape its grasp.   

Whether we like it or not, the deceptive power of consumerism has entangled us all.

Instead of bringing fulfillment into our lives, consumerism has made us bored—and boring. You know the feeling that creeps up when you aren’t busy handling other things or consuming media? Boredom is a symptom of living in a consumeristic world.

We proactively push boredom down by staying busy and consuming media. And we’ve become good at it. But the intensity of our boredom has made us demanding.  Our demands are our response to both boredom and to consumerism’s unfulfilled promises. We demand the satisfaction we were promised! 

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Though a series like this can develop an intellectual understanding of consumerism’s lies, we persist in believing them because we know no other way. Our cultural immersion reminds us of “the way things are.” And so, instead of repenting from the sin of seeking life outside of Christ, we turn our helpless feelings outward and make demands of those who sell us the promise of satisfaction. Here are our three most common demands:

1. I must get what I want NOW. Since time is money in a consumeristic culture, don’t waste mine. If I want to buy something, I need it now, not later. Every time we go through a McDonald’s drive-through or expect two-day delivery from Amazon we exhibit this expectation.

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2. I must get what I want MY WAY. Burger King, anyone?! If satisfaction is for sale and I have money, then I must have it my way. Anything less won’t do, despite the fact that system-life demands our individual needs be pressed into one or two composite needs, we still demand customization.

3. I must be able to RETURN what I actually don’t want and TRY AGAIN (at your expense). This expectation is rooted in the belief that the product will satisfy. Since it didn’t the company must be at fault, not me. As such, they should refund my money and let me try again. Our poster-boy for this expectation is Wal-Mart because of their satisfaction guaranteed return policy.

In a consumeristic culture, it’s cheaper for systems to continue attempting to fulfill these demands than it is to tell the truth. After all the truth might awaken consumers to their real needs and free them from pursuing satisfaction through consumption (John 8:31-32).

As the opening quote indicates, learning either aids in our transformation or in our denial. To change we must act. But new action is fueled by new information that we’ve reflected on. 

So, what about you? In what ways are you buying into the lies of consumerism?

Here are a few questions to consider:

1. When I am feeling bored/dissatisfied do I regularly turn to some form of consumption?

2. Do I have more longings connected to purchasing something (product or experience) or relationships and/or time to create?

3. Do I feel unable and unwilling to try things outside of my area of competence?

4. What things do I demand from companies, products, and services? Do I carry that demanding mindset into the way I respond to ministry?

5. How will I move away from the lies of consumerism and towards Jesus as the source of a full and satisfied life?