Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grumpy dispatches from a domesticated American

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and awfully grumpy today. Allison and I moved to Dallas recently, waiting for our overseas training to begin in September. My anxiety has little to do with raising funds for our trip, making a big move to DFW, or even leaving behind my friends and family for at least 3 months. Now that I am out of my normal element--my hometown of Houston--I am seeing things much differently. I am becoming more aware of my surroundings and the many influences on my behavior. I have come to conclude that I am thoroughly domesticated.

While we have been in Dallas, Allie and I have been watching a lot more TV. I say "a lot" because even one hour of TV today is way more than we are use to. Nevertheless, the more TV we watch the more advertisements we see. Whereas I studied commercial marketing ad nauseam (pun intended) and am use to my grandfather muting commercials, Allie's family tries to enjoy them. In many ways commercials are as much a part of the TV experience as the featured show itself.

Maybe its because I am in a different social setting or because I am not use to watching so much TV, but I have noticed one strong theme in TV ads: Buy this and you will be happy! Everything from car commercials to ads about Trident gum to bargain deals at Kohls promise to make us shinier, happier people (see REM). This narrative is repeated over and over again and we have all bought into it.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann once delivered 19 theses at an Emergent Conversation conference in 2004. His first thesis was that "Everyone lives by a script." His fourth thesis statement summarizes one through three and goes as follows: That script (technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism) enacted through advertising and propaganda and ideology, especially on the liturgies of television, promises to make us safe and to make us happy.

It's not as if I have been blind to this sweeping script. I do think, however, I am just now realizing its effects on me. Here I am, grumpy and frustrated about the consumerism that so plagues me and my countrymen and the only thing I can think about is going to Barnes and Noble. Why? Because I am upset and I would feel better if I could buy a new book, something glossy and new for my bookshelf. Something that people could look at when they enter my home and think, "Wow, he must read a lot" or "what a lovely collection of books." This, my friends, is simply idolatry via consumeristic ideology. I can manipulate the system of consumerism to get people to worship me and then I will be satisfied. Consumerism=therapy.

I don't have much else to add because I am still working through this garbage. But let me at least thank God for the Holy Spirit because I would lose my mind without some sort of guidance in all of this. I pray that you are also discerning your surroundings and looking beyond that which controls and enslaves. May we worship the one, true God and leave our idols behind.

No comments: