I have recently read your paper "Television and the Media," and I have also read the book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider. It seems that both you and Mr. Sider argue that we as disciples must recognize and challenge the social evil embedded in societal systems. Mr. Sider writes in his book, "We have a moral obligation to do all God wants us to do to change them. If we do not, we sin." One such social evil is consumerism, which is driven by the bombardment of advertisements in television that communicate the idea that material possessions bring personal happiness. This in turn drives people to work incessantly to earn more and more money (often at the expense of the poor and oppressed) in order to pay for these luxury possessions. I have been a disciple for several years and, until reading your article and Sider's book, have never given much thought to social systems -- much less questioned them. While I do not produce television advertisements directly or indirectly, I have a business that generates revenues from providing a medium through which advertisements are aired and reach an audience. I also know of other brothers who are in some way or another directly or indirectly involved in producing actual T.V. advertisements. Am I in sin for helping advertisements reach an audience? Are the brothers in sin for helping to produce advertisements? Are we to quit our jobs/career? What is the proper godly response for someone in my situation? Also, where do we draw the line? After all, are not many of us in some way or another participants and beneficiaries of an American economic system that oppresses the poor in third world countries? More importantly, how do we become part of the solution? -- James Smith
Excellent questions. It is not possible to escape the culture or society in which one lives, moves, and has his being. And yet we do have certain scriptures to obey and a conscience to consider. This is your decision, and theirs. I would suggest you study the topic further. Here are some possibilities:
* R. J. Sider's book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005). Very good.
* Robert Wuthnow's Poor Richard's Principle: Recovering the American Dream Through the Moral Dimension of Work, Business, & Money (Princeton University Press, 1996). Superb.
* Craig Blomberg, Neither Poverty Nor Riches (Grand Rapids: Intervarsity, 2001). A thorough and scholarly study, with many practical ideas.
* Chapter 14 of my book, The Spirit, which addresses consumerism and how it opposes the holiness of the Holy Spirit. It is entitled "The Spirit of the West: the Curse of Consumerism."
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