Consumerism: It's not about the environment

*This is the second (the first is more of an intro here) post into ‘why I think consumerism should be a big deal for Christians*

It’s quite a headline really, when you stop to think about it. Pretty much everything these days seems to be about the environment. Climate change was one of the themes of the last decade and will be one for the next ten years too. If you’re sick of hearing about it, talking about it, thinking about it then I have some bad news for you, in all likelihood this train is only just beginning to pull.

There are massive forces at work reshaping the way our world works (and some fairly hefty forces resisting any such change), but governments (and importantly most of the big ones) are slowly changing too. Take recycling waste for example, almost everyone in the UK deals with household waste differently to ten years ago, more is recycled than ever and looking forward you’ll have increasingly less choice in the matter. Recycling will be what we all do, what we have to do.

Laws will make your cars more energy efficient, increasing numbers of electric vehicles will begin to appear, hybrids will change our petrol stations. Already incentives are available for households to generate electricity and grants available to reduce waste through insulation and new boilers. These are just a few of the ways your life is changing because scientists and governments believe our climate is changing (and not really for the better).

Tied to all of this political drive are the cultural battles taking place, those preparing for a brave new world where cars are obsolete, travel is restricted and everything gets local. It’s a back to the future kind of approach, a blending of nostalgia for ages past and a hopeful mix of new technology and thinking. At the same time a sizeable majority are appalled at the idea of not being able to buy strawberries in winter or driving to the shops in a 4×4. Development agencies are lobbying, oil companies are lobbying back. It’s grassroots against big business.

At the heart of much of the campaigning for change is the belief that our current way of living in developed nations is unsustainable, we simply can’t go on like this, goes the thinking. We buy too much, waste too much, need so little. This is mostly true. This is at the heart of consumerism.

And it’s at this point that Christians are moved into play, we must change to save the planet. Only it’s not about the environment, at least not for me anyway. I don’t want the Maldives to sink beneath the waves, or the farmers of east Africa to endure greater droughts and hardship but that’s not my prime motivation for taking a stand against consumerism.

It’s disconcerting to me that Christians should need to change the way we live at all. Shouldn’t our lives have been respecting creation all along? To me that says, somewhere along the way we stopped thinking about our culture and got swept up the beach of material comfort, so much so that our way of living is indistinguishable from those not following Christ.

I whole heartedly believe that the way in which Christians live should demonstrate care for Creation, but not for the sake of creation but for the sake of Christ. Colossians 1:16 tells me that creation isn’t for me but for Jesus. So I should live is if that were true. Environmentally sustainable ways of living is not my aim but I believe if I were more fully living for Christ that would be just one of the outcomes, it’s the by-product of a simple life not the goal.

Challenging consumerism then is not, for me, about the environment but it is about following Christ.

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