For years, I pored over magazine spreads and home catalogs, made graph-paper renderings of kitchen plans, and daydreamed of white Shaker cabinets, the perfect sectional sofa, and a sun-drenched window seat. I felt guilty for my materialism, for how much I cared about such superficial things, because I believed that a good Christian shouldn’t (not guilty enough to give up the daydreaming, though).
Forget the “prosperity gospel,” the (rightfully maligned) view that material wealth proves God’s favor. My progressive Christian circles espoused a “simplicity gospel,” whereby your faith could be measured in part by how little you cared about material things. In my 20s, I was the best-dressed person in my edgy coffeehouse church — not because I had money to spend on designer fashions (I didn’t), but because I was one of the few people who bought new clothes at all. In that church culture, new-and-expensive anything was spiritually suspect.
One friend regularly spoke, with bewildered embarrassment, of the $900 chair he had once bought, much as one might recall a teenaged shoplifting incident. “Detachment” was the name of the game; I recall a preacher speaking that word with such precision — de-TACH-ment — that she nearly embodied the unburdened single-mindedness with which we were to approach God, free of material distractions. I squirmed in my tailored black pantsuit and thought guiltily of my apartment, with the new sofabed and armchair that I so loved to look at, sit in, and offer to guests.
Just by happenstance, several essays I’ve written for other people/sites have all been posted this week. Continue reading this one at OnFaith.