Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 23, 2009
A simpler lifestyle beckonse
Spiritual focus ought to lead Christians to abandon excessive consumerism
Burch is hosting a weekend retreat, Simplicity and Spirituality, March 27-29 at the Providence Renewal Centre.
A major reason people consume is because they do not know their real purpose in life and consumerism and consumption are used to fill the void, he said.
The asceticism of simplicity should always start from a positive motive. When one knows his or her purpose in life, and knows the things that bring personal happiness and glory to God, anything extraneous from that purpose should be let go.
"When we have greater clarity in life about what matters to us, then the things we give up are the things that get in our way of expressing that purpose.
"This is perfectly in alignment with the Christian tradition of what you give up at Lent. You are trying to give up your sins. You give up shopping, you give up television, you give up luxury consumptions, not just because it's good to give up things to hurt, but because they are getting in the way of achieving something that is better or more valuable," said Burch.
The retreat leader equates "more valuable" with a closeness to God.
While he does not address consumerism as an addiction, he said the two have similar characteristics.
Many adults live with the feeling that someone someplace might be suffering because of the way their shoes, coffee or clothes were produced.
Where there is an exploitation of people and/or the environment there is an emphasis on violence, said Burch. Owning lots of gold and diamonds, eating certain chocolate bars and driving fast cars might be leading others into dangerous working conditions and a life of violence.
"No one wanting to embrace life with gentleness would endorse that lifestyle," said Burch. "I would rather see an end to child slavery than eat my chocolate bar."
Beyond simplifying one's consumer habits, he also propagates a return to basic, contemplative spiritual practices.
"One can be spiritually inquisitive just as one can be materially inquisitive. You accumulate all of this spiritual paraphernalia, your incense, your candles, your prayer books, beads and wall plaques, and all the other stuff. You can also accumulate spiritual techniques, and we question whether all of this stuff is fundamentally necessary," said Burch.
Many movements, both religious and secular, are going towards a simpler lifestyle, with variances in how they practise it. In North America, the Amish, Mennonites, Shakers and Quakers have for centuries practised lifestyles where some forms of wealth or technology are excluded for religious or philosophical reasons.
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