Americans search for identity through a stunning and paradoxical pair of passions: spirituality and consumerism. We participate in religion or practice spirituality on the one hand, and are keen consumers on the other. But, as Tom Beaudoin's Consuming Faith makes clear, if we truly seek to put our spirituality into practice, we are called to integrate who we are with what we buy. In our consumer-driven culture what we buy, wear, eat, and drive say much about our deepest values. We buy the products that seem to ...
Americans search for identity through a stunning and paradoxical pair of passions: spirituality and consumerism. We participate in religion or practice spirituality on the one hand, and are keen consumers on the other. But, as Tom Beaudoin's Consuming Faith makes clear, if we truly seek to put our spirituality into practice, we are called to integrate who we are with what we buy. In our consumer-driven culture what we buy, wear, eat, and drive say much about our deepest values. We buy the products that seem to meet our spiritual needs—they make us feel good, offer us experiences of community, tap into our deepest desires, form our imaginations, help us "fit in." But if we stop to think about how we are linked to the rest of the world through our purchases, we are faced with some tough questions: Where do these products come from? Who made them and in what conditions do they work? How does what I buy affect others? What does my faith have to do with what I buy? When is enough, enough? Today, it is more important than ever to pay attention to our economic spirituality. Consuming Faith is an invitation to think about how our purchases affect who we are as individuals and as members of a global community. This breakthrough book offers practical ways that individuals, communities, and churches can practice a more intentional economic spirituality that integrates our values with what we buy.
Beaudoin's first book, Virtual Faith, alerted many readers to the 30-something Catholic's gift for language, appreciation of material culture's spiritual significance and theological acumen. In this book he turns his attention to a topic he confesses he had previously overlooked: the role of economics in the branded world in which young people live, move and have their being. The book begins with a humorous and unsettling account of the author's attempt to find out who, precisely, had made the contents of his clothes closet. Corporations that expended countless sums on building their brands, Beaudoin discovered, are not eager to reveal where, by whom and under what working conditions their products are manufactured. Borrowing from Naomi Klein's No Logo and the spiritual disciplines of Ignatius, this book proposes an "economic spirituality." Beaudoin can be brilliant, as when he retells Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus as a warning for modern consumers. But he can also indulge in flights of postmodern theological abstraction, and a final, somewhat haphazard chapter of relatively practical suggestions bears only a tenuous relationship to his earlier theorizing. Still, Beaudoin has once again put an understudied topic on the Christian agenda, which is more than enough reason to plow through the woolly parts and wrestle with consumerism's challenge to anyone who, like the author, is "trying to become a Christian." (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Two new books address our consumer culture and its relation to religious beliefs, with Beaudoin (theology, Boston Coll., Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X) focusing on the practical and Miller (theology, Georgetown Univ.) taking a more intellectual stance. As Beaudoin points out, nobody knows who makes the cola, fish sticks, jeans, or sneakers found in the average American home. In a telling passage, he recounts his efforts to determine where some of his favorite clothes were made, by whom, and under what conditions. The fruitless results highlight the distance between the corporation and the employees who do its work, a distance that encourages appalling exploitation of workers, in stark contrast to the "economic spirituality" of Jesus Christ. To counter such exploitation, Beaudoin suggests a strategy that includes dignity, solidarity, and community, urging readers to take responsibility for their lives and the lives of others through consumer choices and activism. His reflections on these issues within the Christian tradition and his suggestions for developing one's own economic spirituality are not new, but the work may prove useful to lay readers who want to connect their religion with their purchasing decisions. By contrast, Miller is not so much concerned with social justice as he is the deleterious effect of commerce on the essence of religion itself. Throughout this analytical work, Miller cites numerous examples of the transformation of world religions into commodities to be exploited, such as the sale of Tibetan prayer flags for decorative purposes to homeowners ignorant of the meaning of the texts and symbols thereon, and the use of Christian religious imagery and music by popular recording artists purely for effect. Drawing on the scholarly literature of cultural commodification, Miller examines the cause of this phenomenon and what its significance might be for believers, church leaders, and theologians. In doing so, he draws on a diverse range of thinkers and theorists, from Michel Foucault, John Paul II, and Karl Marx to a variety of pop culture figures. Whereas Beaudoin's book is recommended for larger public libraries, Miller's is more appropriate and recommended for academic libraries with collections in the sociology of religion.-Christopher Brennan, SUNY at Brockport Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Dallas Morning News
Mr. Beaudoin deals honestly with the nasty little secret behind the branding culture. Although Mr. Beaudoin is critical of the economic strategies corporations adopt to remain competitive, this is not an anti-corporation rant. It is a call to faithful living in North America.
Spirituality and Health
A hard-hitting and ethically provocative book that deserves a wide-reading.
He does help the reader understand the theological and ethical issues involved in the disconnect between those who make the products and those who consume them.
Horizons: The Magazine For Presbyterian Women
The author makes an irrefutable case for how economic choices are part of everyday spirituality.
The Christian Century
[Consuming Faith] may play a critical role in helping to shape the theological agenda...In an accessible style sure to have wide appeal, Tom Beaudoin argues for an economic spirituality. Beaudoin helps us understand how the modern economy shapes our imaginations and elicits our commitments.
St. Anthony Messenger
In an age of increasing globalization, where a purchase puts one in contact with people from China to El Salvador (a truly catholic experience), Consuming Faith calls us to a greater sense of awareness and responsibility as to what we buy and consume.
Economic spirituality? Yes, of course. And now with Consuming Faith, we have an examination of conscience about what we wear, eat and watch. You'll never look at a logo in quite the same way again.
Professor Hans Küng
Consuming Faith has the great merit to offer paths towards a realistic spirituality for our consumer society—far from naiveté, moralizing, or demonizing. Tom Beaudoin's call for a responsible attitude in buying and consuming is rooted in his deep concern for the inalienable dignity of all human beings which transcends all economic categories. Although Beaudoin calls for a "spiritual indifference to numbers," I wish his new book a large sales success!
Over the past ten years, writers of faith have reengaged the ancient question of God and Mammon, what is owed God and what is owed to Rome. From Harvey Cox and Ron Sider, to Robert Wuthnow and Jim Wallis, the pressing questions are not only about the just distribution of income and wealth, but the impact of pervasive consumerism on human identity and relations. Tom Beaudoin has advanced that debate with a profound yet accessible reflection on our "branded" culture and the alternatives available to it. Consuming Faith invites us to live life anew, freed of the golden chains which hold so many prisoners. This is a timely, compelling book that deserves a wide audience and debate.
- Father Mark G. Boyer
This book must be read by those who work with anyone 18 to 38 years old, anyone who has been raised in a branded culture like ours.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
- D. Seiple
Beaudoin seems to be finding his own true voice in some of these pages.
- Eric Hurtgen
Consuming Faith is a provocative look into the role that definitive faith can and should play in the realm of finances and consumerism.
Preface to the Paperback Edition ix
Living in a Branded Culture 1
A Divine Economy 15
Today's Spiritual Discipline: The Brand Economy 37
Bodies and Branding 61
Economic Spirituality: Starting with the Body 77
The Challenge of a Maturing Economic Spirituality 91
On Reading Scripture 109
About the Author 121