What would Jesus buy?

January.  Post-Christmas sales.  Post-Christmas waistlines.  Post-Christmas credit card bills.  Never is our own overindulgence more in evidence than when that first Visa bill after the big December blowout, arrives in the mail.  If you’re feeling like you might need to do a little consumer penance then What would Jesus buy? might be just the book for you.

Several years ago Bill Talen (or Reverend Billy) set up the Church of Stop Shopping.  Their mission is to fight globalisation, to highlight the sometimes dodgy practises of big-chain stores like Walmart and Starbucks, and to just encourage people to stop buying so much…stuff.  Their goal is to stop the “shopocalypse”.

sho-po-ca-lypse [shah PAW kuh lips] n.
The end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption
and the fires of eternal debt!

Anti-globalisation protesters aren’t anything new but what makes this group stand out is the “performance art” quality of their demonstrations.  They sing specially written hymns.  They crowd into a Starbucks for an impromptu belly-dancing performance.  They get their message across by being disruptive but with wit and humour.

Reverend Billy and the church have been the subject of a documentary produced by Morgan Super-size me Spurlock and this book is, I think, an offshoot of the sudden fame that resulted from that media exposure.  As a book it’s not the easiest read.  It changes from one thing to another.  Sometimes it’s a sermon, sometimes it’s a “how-to” on protesting/performance art, sometimes it’s memoir.   But it does ask some fairly interesting questions about why we feel compelled to shop so much (it’s all about Love apparently), what ideas like “brand loyalty” really entail, and whether you can truly share a sense of community with someone just because they shop at The Gap too (in short – no). 

But you have to admire the chutzpah of an activist taking that oh-so-American idiom of evangelical preaching and turning it on its head.  Plus, if you’re going to read a “don’t buy so much rubbish/stop killing the rainforests/all your clothes came from a sweatshop” book with a social conscience isn’t it a bit refreshing if the sermonising is in the form of an actual sermon?  Well, I thought so.

Reverend Billy probably wouldn’t approve of you buying this book but surely borrowing it from the library would be okay?  For related info check out –

2 thoughts on “What would Jesus buy?

  1. Lisa 8 January 2009 / 11:50 am

    This was one of my holiday reads too. I found it really tricky tyring to explain to people what it was about, like you said, it’s a sort of sermon, philosophical, memoir, hymn book hybrid. The thing I liked most about it was it’s emphasis on authentic interaction and community (though not formed through consumable goods). The most disturbing thing I found about it was the fact that Christmas Day is one of the busiest at Disneyland – is nothing sacred?!

  2. Michael A 12 January 2009 / 9:12 am

    Can anything be sacred to a Godless nation?

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