Tuesday, October 25, 2011

5 Steps to Prep Your Credit for Holiday Shopping

The coming couple of months will bring cold, crisp, sunny days; a festival devoted to giving thanks for the blessings we have received; and, for Christians, a celebration of the coming of One who was born in obscurity, lived in poverty, and died in humiliation.

Oh, and lots of shopping. Remember the old definition of  a credit card?  "A way to spend money you don't have, to buy stuff you don't need, to impress people you don't like."

Breathless newspaper and magazine articles (like the one from Forbes yesterday whose titled I borrowed) will encourage us to get ready for the shopping orgy; will celebrate or bemoan the level of "consumer confidence" and the resulting sales; will rehearse once once again the consumer's litany: the meaning of our lives is measured by the abundance and fashionableness of our possessions. 

The more "old" goods are discarded to our groaning landfills, and the more "new" goods are mined from the irreplaceable resources of the earth, the "better" we will be told the year has been.

Can Christians find another way?  Yes, the presentation of costly love-gifts is part of Jesus' story (and not just at Christmas). He himself is the costliest gift. Can we celebrate that abundance of generosity in a way that does not involve us in the consumption of an abundance of stuff?

I think we will have to re-learn this together.


PA-IPL said...

My parents gave us a wonderful gift when we were children: they helped us to make Christmas presents for close family. This approach allowed us to participate in the traditional gift exchange, while still focusing on giving of our time and love instead of on the stuff itself. We also received the wonderful gift of their time as they helped us produce our gifts. I've continued with my children, though I have occasionally been heard to grumble about being the "Christmas sweatshop supervisor." This approach is not without its own pressures, but it has worked fairly well for our family. Last year my girls created tiny, fabric-covered pocket notebooks with stitched bindings. They were made from a single sheet of paper (folded in 1/8ths) and recycled cereal-box cardboard. They are so pleased to send their gifts across miles to our extended family.

PA-IPL said...

Also, you might enjoy the documentary movie What Would Jesus Buy? (http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/What_Would_Jesus_Buy/70083117?trkid=2361637 -- streaming or DVD at Netflix) It doesn't have much of a storyline arc that you'd want in a documentary, but the project it documents is quite compelling. I don't regret the 91 minutes I gave it at all.

John Roe said...

This was just published in the New York Times: Against Thrift . From the blurb of his forthcoming book: "In his provocative new book, historian James Livingston—author of the classic Origins of the Federal Reserve System—breaks from the consensus to argue that underconsumption caused the current crisis and will prolong it... If our goal is to reproduce the economic growth of the postwar era, we need a redistribution of income that reduces corporate profits, raises wages, and promotes consumer spending." Seems to me a classic example of mistaking means for ends.