The Story of Stuff

According to Kevin Hargaden I’m always banging on about consumerism, so here I go again.

Anyone see this brilliantly done animation of The Story of Stuff?

Whatever you might disagree with, it is very clever and exceptionally well communicated by Annie Leonard. It’s 20 minutes long and worth looking at. I find the overall thesis – that global captialism as its presently configured is obviously and horribly unsustainable – convincing. I used it in a class on consumerism yesterday and it sparked a good discussion.

One astonishing claim she makes: in the USA after 6 months, only 1% of goods are still in product or use after date of sale. This is what I call hyper-consumerism, waste on a truly momentous scale.

From a Christian perspective, followers of Jesus need to be aware of and making a counter-cultural stand against the idol of consumerism at which western culture worships. What that looks like could form a long discussion – I’ll prove Hargaden right by coming back to this I’m sure!

But seriously, as one of the great moral, economic and environmental issues of our time, what Christians and churches stand out to you as those who have been making a stand against the destructive cycle of hyper-consumerism that has overtaken our world in the last 50 years or so? Or is consumerism so embedded in our culture, so ‘normal’ that Christians have been as seduced by its promises of happiness and endless wants being met as everyone else?

I loved another animation presentation she does on the COMPLETE INSANITY (my description) of paying for bottled water. Our family doesn’t – we just fill an empty bottle from the tap. She unpacks it as a mini-story of consumerism gone mad with the poor paying for the impact of an artifically created and unnecessary market. If you have the time here it is


5 thoughts on “The Story of Stuff

  1. Patrick the Cape Town Commitment (document produced at the end of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in October 2010) includes this:

    love for God’s creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth’s resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility. We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action and those committed to godly fulfilment of the mandate to provide for human needs from the abundance of God’s creation. We remind ourselves that the Bible declares God’s redemptive purpose for creation itself. Integral mission means discerning, proclaiming, and living out, the biblical truth that the gospel is God’s good news, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for individual persons, and for society, and for creation. All three are broken and suffering because of sin; all three are included in the redeeming love and mission of God; all three must be part of the comprehensive mission of God’s people

    Now whether anything is actually done to reflect these powerful words remains to be seen. In my view the area of consumerism (and creation care in particular) were something of a sideshow in Cape Town and many participants will get a surprise when they see how central it is to the understanding of mission expressed in the final Congress document thereby pushing a lot of buttons in areas such as priority in mission, eschatology etc.

    On the theme of bottled water, in Cape Town Rich Stearns of World Vision said that this reflects how many Christians apply Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:
    “I was hungry while you had all you needed. I was thirsty but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes but you needed more clothes. I was sick but you pointed out the behaviours that led to my sickness. I was in prison and you said I was getting what I deserved.”

    Also check out this facsinating relationship between US Christianity and obesity:

  2. Kevin – what can I say. The Holy Spirit must have had his reasons.

    Thanks Richard and welcome – both quotes are brilliant. Is that Committment like an updated Lausanne Covenant or something else? (I have Stearns’ book ‘The Hole in our Gospel’).

  3. Sort of. The Cape Town Commitment ( in the stream of the Lausanne Covenant (1974) and the Manilla Manifesto (1989) but it was not one of those “all the delegates who collaborate in its creation sign off at the end of the Congress” documents. Instead it was created by a team of theologians, led by Chris Wright, who tried to reflect the proceedings and took counsel from others (I helped with the HIV section which is coming in the, yet to be published, Part 2). Therefore we are still to see how it will be received both by the bulk of the participants in Cape Town and those who did not attend. So it will be intersting to see how this progresses particularly in relation to sections like those quoted above.

  4. Thanks.
    That section you quoted sounds very Chris Wrightian. I’ve just read over Part 1 and really like it. Good theology should lead to doxology and this one does imho.
    I linked to an article by Joel Edwards on Cape Town the other day and he made ref to it commenting that some will get very excited by it and others will sort of shrug. I tend to like and value written docs like this – they can have real staying power and influence if they capture how the gospel addresses the big issues of the day.

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