Have Christians fallen prey to consumerism?
A research report by McCrindle and Consumed has revealed churchgoing Christians share much the same attitude of other Australians in believing that the ‘good life’ is acquired through the consumption of stuff, experiences and success.
Less than a quarter of Christians reported that having an impact on their communities (23 percent) or the world (17 percent) is part of what it means to live ‘the good life’.
They were far more likely to cite financial independence (51 percent), owning a home (42 percent), being well regarded (32 percent) and travelling the world (31 percent) as defining factors.
However, Christian faith still had a clear correlation with positive impacts. Compared to the Australian average, churchgoing Christians reported higher levels of satisfaction with life, lower levels of anxiety, were less likely to be unemployed and more likely to have a deeper sense of purpose.
The research also raises questions about whether Australian Christians are being captivated by the consumerist messages of Australian society.
Consumed Campaign Director Gerson Nimbalker believes that the collective forces of our capitalist culture – advertisers, multinationals, pop-culture, politics and peers – have convinced too many Australians that the good life is found in the accumulation of stuff and experiences.
“Many Christians are at risk of their vision of the good life being unwittingly shaped more by consumerism than by Jesus”, he said.
“As followers of Christ, we need to ensure that we are reflecting deeply on what Jesus’ way of love means for us – and on His message that it is in following Him that all people experience the fullness of life.
“God tells us that first and foremost we are to be people that love Him with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbours as ourselves.”
The research suggests that there are consequences if we allow consumerism to shape our lives.
Australians who often felt the need to buy something new were more likely to report feeling anxiety (31 percent, compared to 21), loneliness (24 percent compared to 16), sadness (26 percent compared to 16), frustration (36 percent compared to 25) and stress (36 percent compared to 27) in their daily lives.
Christians reported using their time and money on things that gave fleeting highs but drained their lasting contentment, although “faith and meaning” offer some hope to overcoming this problem.
Those with a sense of meaning reported that they were far less likely (one in three) to attempt to distract themselves from their current experience through consumption.
“To go further, people need to understand just how big a problem consumerism is – for us, for our world, and for our faith,” Nimbalker said.
“We think people need to know that there is a better way to live.
“But consumerism is so ingrained in our culture, there will be no easy answers when it comes to breaking free.
“The research highlights the reality that a problem exists.”
For more information on Consumed, visit their website here.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor