Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 15, 2003
Cash in on God
If you are in despair about the ever-growing commercialization of Christmas, stop and think. Christmas is the main feast of the year for the dominant religion in North America. That dominant religion is not Christianity; it is consumerism.
While your parish church struggles with a photocopier that doesn't work or a 10-year-old computer or no computer at all, look at the world of advertising. In 2002, US$444 billion was spent on advertising worldwide, almost three-quarters of it in major media.
The average American child sees 40,000 TV ads a year, designed by some of the most intelligent minds in the world, using the most up-to-date technology. More than US$25 billion a year is spent in the U.S. on marketing to children. How much time a year does your child spend in religion class, praying, attending Mass or involved in other religious activities?
An old advertisers' clich‚ is "An ad's job is to make them unhappy with what they have." By deliberately making us unhappy, advertisers unleash all sorts of spirits in the world. When people overeat to overcome their unhappiness, they are doing what the high priests of consumerism would have them do.
Or when people feed their souls with a shopping spree, they are taking part in one of the highest religious rituals of our culture. Is it any wonder that children who use the most media tend to be the least contented?
One out of five American three-year-olds are already making specific requests for brand-name products. We may teach our children to pray at an early age. But at that age, many are already learning other mantras, mantras that add up to "Buy! Buy! Buy!"
Instead of prayer tables in their bedrooms, 47 per cent of U.S. children have television sets. There, in their most private spaces, children imbibe still more messages that the Promised Land is to found at the nearest mall.
What can a person do to resist this ceaseless religious propaganda? A little bit. You can get rid of the TV. You can teach your children to be doers or creators rather than shoppers. You can tell them how consumerism creates material poverty and spiritual poverty.
And you tell them about a God in whom their faith is well spent.
Believe it or not, Christmas is a great Christian feast too. As the muzak carols drone through the malls, we need to remember that. We need to remember the God who gave his Son, rather than gave to his Son.
We need to remember that God said happiness could be found even in poverty. Unlikely, huh?
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