Monday, September 09, 2013

Christian Discipleship in a Consumer Society

So here's the dilliyo (using that word makes me pretty hip right?) This semester at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, where I'm currently a Senior in their Masters of Divinity program, I'm taking an ethics course entitled "Christian Discipleship in a Consumer Society" with Professor John Hoffmeyer. The 'Hoff is fantastic, as is the course so far... we've talked a lot about how in our modern consumer society (it hasn't always been this way), we don't really practice "materialism" in the strict sense at all... while we keep buying way more than we need, we're primarily doing so to purchase the emotions and experiences we desire. This fact definitely has implications for those going into ordained ministry, as a central part of our job is helping folks discover, learn and experience God's love in loving communities.

One assignment we have throughout the semester is maintaining a journal where we jot down advertisements we encounter, insights we have about consumerism, and the like. I figured why not make this journal public, with the hope that it might spark some further conversation both with my fellow Christians and folks currently outside faith communities as well. So throughout the semester, I'll be posting random snippets, commercials and the like in a chronological blog style on a new journal page, which you can find here or by using the "Site Navigation" box on the right of your browser screen. More detailed insights will be posted as normal blogposts as well. You'll find the first longer post below, where I write about how much I crave "pumpkin everything" each autumn. Thanks so much, and I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, September 9: It's Pumpkin Season!
It's been pretty hard for me to figure out what to write in here... I'm very self-righteous anti-consumerism sort of fellow, or at least I'd like to think I am, so I at least like to pretend I'm not very susceptible to most advertising. A couple days back though when I headed over to the local Wawa for my morning coffee, it hit me that there's one advertising scheme at least that really pulls me in... I love pumpkin everything!

At Wawa for the first time this year, I saw pumpkin flavored coffee, and I absolutely had to have it. While it does taste pretty good, as does most things that are pumpkin (pumpkin beer, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, etc.), I'm of course not really into pumpkin everything because of what it tastes like or what it's made of. I crave pumpkin everything each fall because of the feelings, memories and emotions the taste, smell and imagery remind me of... Trips to the local cider mill as a young kid with my dad, great-uncle and brother, where they had all you can drink sweet cider for free... holding a date close under the stars on a cool October night as we rode a haunted hayride in high school... trying to carve an awesome jack o lantern with my mom and messing up but know she could fix it... that's the sort of thing I'm craving when I buy pumpkin everything.

Pumpkin everything is particularly strong pull for me because I so closely associate it with autumn in New England. Having been exiled away from my beloved region for so long, for undergrad and seminary with only a brief respite in between, pumpkin draws me through idealized images of childhood, and even more importantly, a general feeling of home. In reality, I'm mostly spending money trying to return to place that no longer really exists for me, particularly after my mom passed away in 2008, if it ever did. This sense of denial I feel about 'having a home' fits in with the marketing strategy many companies employ of denying folks pumpkin everything throughout a large portion of the year. But anyway, as a Starbucks spokeswoman in this CNBC article states, "This is a time all its own: Winter, spring, summer and pumpkin spice latte season." Even with all this analysis, it doesn't mean I'm going to buy any less pumpkin everything this autumn.

God's peace,

Dustin is currently in his final year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, having recently completed a year as Vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in New York City. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

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