Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture

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Contemporary theology, argues Miller, is silent on what is unquestionably one of the most important cultural issues it faces: consumerism or "consumer culture." While there is no shortage of expressions of concern about the corrosive effects of consumerism from the standpoint of economic justice or environmental ethics, there is a surprising paucity of theoretically sophisticated works on the topic, for consumerism, argues Miller, is not just about behavioral "excesses"; rather, it is a pervasive worldview that affects our construction as persons-what motivates us, how we relate to others, to culture, and to religion. Consuming Religion surveys almost a century of scholarly literature on consumerism and the commodification of culture and charts the ways in which religious belief and practice have been transformed by the dominant consumer culture of the West. It demonstrates the significance of this seismic cultural shift for theological method, doctrine, belief, community, and theological anthropology. Like more popular texts, the book takes a critical stand against the deleterious effects of consumerism. However, its analytical complexity provides the basis for developing more sophisticated tactics for addressing these problems.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826417497
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 8/18/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 262
  • Sales rank: 633,403
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Vincent J. Miller is Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton, USA. His work has appeared in Horizons, U.S. Catholic Historian, and Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium. In 1996 he received the Outstanding Graduate Student Essay Award of the College Theology Society.
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Table of Contents

1. How to Think about Consumer Culture2. The Commodification of Culture3. Consumer Religion4. Desire and the Kingdom of God5. The Politics of Consumption6. Popular Religion in Consumer Culture7. Stewarding Religious Traditions in Consumer Culture

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