Consumerism Sucks, Please Buy My Book…and Come to My Conference

kinnon —  November 26, 2007 — 5 Comments

Riffing a little further on the impact of Consumerism and the Church – and how we often do not see it’s tentacles wrapped around ourselves – a new meme is beginning around Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change. Or more accurately. The marketing thereof. Triple D link blogged to this post. I read the original post [via Bene D] that post linked to, from Today at the Mission. The blog writer, rhymes with kerouac says

Brian Mclaren’s Christmas message begins with four bullet points, the first two of which are a pitch for his new book, and the CD that accompanies it with helpful links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the CD project website.

He then goes on to say this:

Consumerism is the notion that the more we consume the better off we will be. As I explain in the book..

In order to reach Brian’s Christmas themed informercial, one must pass through the storefront for the book that is entitled, um… ah… oh yes – “Everything Must Change”. On that page one can also access the site for the conference series (tickets $109 a pop) complete with links to the corporate sponsors.

When will we get it? When? And when we do, what will we have to do to get our integrity back? Or our dignity? Everything Jesus did had “self-sacrificial love” written all over it and, here we are, writing Christmas messages that are faintly disguised product pitches while bravely taking a stand against consumerism.

LT from says,

The deception of consumerism runs deep. I see it all over the place as the church drifts towards fee-for-service ministry. Increasingly we have adopted the marketplace as tool to further our objectives somewhat blind to the reality that the marketplace changes us. In this era of ecclesial relativism people buy in to whatever works to bring people in to the building or provide anecdotal success stories.

McLaren has an “everything must change” tour…I don’t know if everything must change but one area to start would be our reliance on profit oriented publishing and distribution. We should be the ones pioneering open source resources and low-cost electronic distribution. We should be taking a different stance than the world on intellectual property and copyright.

In other places of the world where church has almost no “resources” and it thrives. We are inundated with stuff….Jesus junk. We have libraries and libraries of it and has it really made a difference? I don’t think so.

I’m not sure I’m prepared to suggest that writers aren’t worthy of their wages, which is where you go when you want everything open source – but I do believe we need more low-cost electronic distribution – and more open source resources. Please note that Brian makes his living as a writer today – and as a speaker. (And no one is putting a gun to your head to buy the book or go to the event(s).)

Check out what my good friend, Brother Maynard is doing with his new book. Also check out all the free resources that are made available at Allelon, but note that we are updating our store in the hope that the store can help us become self-supporting – and that new store will be up next week.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

5 responses to Consumerism Sucks, Please Buy My Book…and Come to My Conference

  1. LOL … it’s all I got right now. I believe the other word is … um … oh yeah … irony.

  2. If I read this correctly, McLaren should offer his conference for free and pay his own way there, and, get this, sell his book like Radiohead did their album, for whatever the purchases feel it is worth? Isn’t that what Umair Haque is suggesting the edgeconomy should be? Light beats heavy; open beats closed; free beats paid; and, good beats evil. Isn’t that what an unconference should be – light, open, free and good? Maybe I’m just getting old and curmudgeonly, but it seems there is very little new in all this production of new ideas for the church. Maybe we should spend more time talking and less time restating what has been true for at least two generations.

  3. I have no problem with Brian selling books, cd’s and conference tickets. I’ve bought his books. It’s just a little disconcerting to see the first point in his Christmas message being ‘buy my cd for everyone you know’ while decrying consumerism. It might have been less disturbing had it not been a Christmas message – that being the most badly co-opted Christian celebration we have. Maybe it’s only the optics that have got my knickers in a knot but I rather think this stuff matters. A lot.

  4. “If I read this correctly, McLaren should offer his conference for free and pay his own way there, and, get this, sell his book like Radiohead did their album, for whatever the purchases feel it is worth?”

    This isn’t what I’m getting at. I think a worker is worth his/her wages. I question whether it is appropriate for someone to collect a royalty on intellectual property long after they have earned their wages. Is it really appropriate for corporations to own translated bible text and charge me $20 for a downloaded electronic version 40 years after it has been translated?

    I question our use of a system that is biased towards marketability regardless of quality. This creates a profit oriented motive to do “ministry” and fosters the growth of dubious theology. It entices people to compromise on their values and principles to get better sales and/or increase marketability.

    I question whether the growing trend towards fee-for-service ministry is appropriate because it shuts out the poor.
    One of the marks of the messiah that Jesus shared with the followers of John the Baptist was that the gospel is proclaimed to the poor.

    Why we do we use profit oriented publishing companies? The publishing industry has the best marketing and distribution. It is thought that without them you are working with a very limited audience.

    There are other ways to fund ministry. For hundreds of years the local church sponsored missionaries to reach people beyond their local community. Could we do the same for our teachers and authors? If Ron Paul can fund his “revolution” through donations why can’t Christian leaders?

    My frustration is that we aren’t considering the huge risks and temptations that come along with using the marketplace for distribution.

  5. Thanks for the mention, Bill. I have to say I feel like I’m schilling sometimes. (Buy my book, only a $6 download! Oh, er, it’s become a habit now.)

    I wonder if there isn’t a point where “opening up” isn’t nearly as much of an altruistic risk as it appears. I like what Radiohead did, but if “Jimmy and the Stringpickin’ Banjopluckers” did the same thing, it’s a bigger risk over a smaller amount of money. But who gets the press, and the resulting benefit of the “altruism”? Someone cynically pointed out the low average price paid for the Radiohead album… but if the funds are direct to the artist and the distribution costs are negligible, a low average over a huge number of people seems like a good deal to me.


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