What Would Jesus Buy? is a loaded question. I will admit that I didn’t want to see this movie because of its heavy title. I thought it would be one giant reel of a guilt trip, a polarizing approach that would hurt more than it would help. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The film What Would Jesus Buy? is a trip all right, a wild wacky road trip across America by the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir and its leader Reverend Billy. In biodiesel buses of course.
The Reverend Billy is a cross between Al Gore and Elvis Presley with blond heavily hairsprayed hair. He leads his choir on crusade across the country to spread the gospel of the true meaning of Christmas. No big box store is safe. He uses humor to wake people up and help them laugh their way to a holiday filled with fewer cash registers and more fulfillment. What makes it work is that it comes from a place of love, not guilt. His big hair helps too.
The Reverend tries to save Christmas from the
Shopocalypse. He exorcizes the credit
cards of people drowning in debt. He gets thrown in jail. He enlightens the
Mall of America (to the extent possible). He exorcizes a Wal-Mart sign. He even
He booms through his megaphone, “Stop shopping!” Shopping has become a national pastime. People list it as a hobby. Is there anything else to do besides shop and watch television? “Stop behaving like sheep,” he yells on Black Friday as the people crush each other at 5:00 am to get through the doors of Best Buy.
The movie suggests that people are caught in an endless loop of shopping to try to find satisfaction, which fails to produce lasting results, which leads to more shopping. We are told that presents equal love. The more we spend, the more we love the recipient, right?
He encourages us to ask about our gifts – where was it made? He takes us to the brutal sweatshops of India and China. It doesn't feel like Christmas there. To remedy this, we can buy presents made in the USA and put money back into our communities.
There is a joy in gift giving that the Reverend doesn't address. I genuinely like giving presents and suspect many others do also. So what can we do?
- Give less = more (with advance warning to recipients)
- Give a gift made locally or Made In America
- Give a green gift or a fair trade gift
- Give a service or an experience, such as a massage
- Give time and love, this is the greatest gift of all
In short, we are people first, not consumers first. As Reverend Billy says, “let's spend less time shopping and more time living.” Amen to that.