Citizenship Confusion: Breaking the Shopping Habit

Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.

I’ve written a lot of criticism lately about how the church engages in politics and culture, and while I stand by what I wrote, I hope to broaden the way I use this space in the future by providing balance to my criticisms and by criticizing less, as I addressed last week (See: Citizenship Confusion: Why I Criticize the Church). What better way to balance my criticism of culture and the church than to offer a little self-criticism, since I seem to be so keen on the value of criticism?

In June 2010, I wrote a CaPC feature on how the practice of shopping as entertainment can have serious consequences for believers titled “When All Else Fails, Shop?” It’s the kind of post I write hoping that, by publicly warning against a practice, I’ll finally be motivated to avoid it myself. I went back and cleaned up the post and added new pictures to make it more compelling (otherwise known as “pulling a G. Lucas” or “Lucasing” an old post).

Here’s an excerpt:

When All Else Fails, Shop?

There is good reason why I and many others find shopping so entertaining  Shopping centers are, after all, designed to make you feel comfortable, safe, enthralled, happy, and discontent. It is in their best interest to make you feel like shopping is fun, a form of entertainment equal to or greater than the pleasure and entertainment you will receive from the things you buy when you shop. But is shopping an edifying way for Christians to spend their time?

Just as we must be thoughtful in the way we watch TV or play video games, we also should be conscientious about other cultural activities we engage in and how they shape our identities. When we view window shopping or hanging out in the mall as a form of entertainment, this can have an affect on how we define ourselves and what we conceive of as the Good Life–the ideal life we strive after. More…

When believers fail to act out their heavenly citizenship, it is not always, or perhaps even primarily our State-citizenship which “confuses” us. I believe that quite often we are subtly lulled into a false and dangerous conception of our identity, allegiances, value, morals, and purpose by our culture and its practices. This feature attempts to address one small way in which our cultural practices might be dis-orienting us from our Heavenly Calling by redefining who we are, what we value, and what we live for.

Please read “When All Else Fails, Shop?” and let us know whether or not you “window shop” and how you think it does or does not affect you.

About Alan Noble

(Co-Founder/Editor/Columnist) is a part-time lecturer at Baylor University. He received his PhD in Contemporary American Literature from Baylor, writing on manifestations of transcendence in 20th Century American Lit. He and his family attend Redeemer Waco, a PCA church. Alan's passion is studying how believers can be a faithful presence in culture to the glory of God and the edification of others. In addition to editing, Alan writes his column, Citizenship Confusion for CaPC.

---Follow Alan on Twitter @TheAlanNoble and on Facebook.

---For questions, comments, or interest in speaking engagements please email me at noble.noneuclidean [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • Larry Prater

    Well-presented and quite relevant. I have been more than guilty of using shopping as not only a form of entertainment but also as a means for “brightening my spirits” (and indulging a more than bit of fantasy, e. g. fly-fishing equipment, when I rarely go fishing at all). Thanks for the article.

  • Kiel

    When it comes to shopping, I’m a pretty typical guy. I have something in mind when I go to the store, I go in, I get it, I leave.

    However, when it comes to music I’m a bit different. I collect vinyl records and absolutely LOVE going to record stores and sifting through crates of old records. My budget is always limited, so I never make huge purchases and have to be selective with what I buy. I do like looking through the records, pulling them out, looking at the artwork and inserts, enjoying the smell. I don’t find this to bring out any sort of sinful desires in me, it’s just something I enjoy doing. I will admit that I probably spend more on music than a normal person, but I find that the time spent listening to records with friends and talking about them in the store with strangers is a pretty great experience and definitely my favorite pastime.

    I guess, in short, maybe certain focused types of shopping can be both enriching and enjoyable without being deemed as something bad or sinful. I could be totally wrong though.

  • Alan Noble

    Interesting. I suspect that thrift store shopping might be similar. Maybe part of the diffence is that record shopping, like thrift storing is about the experience of digging through junk to discover some treasure. The fact that the products are used changes things too. Hrm.


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