The Hidden Worldviews that Shape our Lives #2 (Consumerism, Nationalism, & Relativism)

The Hidden Worldviews that Shape our Lives #2 (Consumerism, Nationalism, & Relativism) January 26, 2012

For the next few days I am going to introduce you to a book that I’ve found to be a great resource.  It’s called Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories that Shape our Lives, by Wilkens and Sanford.  The rest of the series can be read here.

In the third chapter the authors discuss the hidden worldview of consumerism.  From the beginning they shed light on the fact that all people are consumers at one level.  We were made by God to consume, to eat, to enjoy, to live.  Healthy consumption should take one’s responsibility to others into account.  This is not the case when consumption becomes an “-ism.”  They state: “Consumerism absolutizes consumption by believe that we can find fulfillment by accumulating wealth and everything that comes with it” (45).

This tendency is true in all facets of American culture.  We desire “just a little bit more” of anything that we think will yield satisfaction.  This reductionist impulse creates an alienating force that depersonalizes people as means to goals, displaces God, and shapes our values.  That which we fear losing the most can give us a good idea of what we value, which is why advertisers “are keenly aware of our insecurities…” (56).  The movement away from consumerism begins by taking up our mantle as stewards of God’s good creation, consuming as needed and cultivating for the good of all humanity.

The fourth chapter discusses nationalism. The authors give four ways to answer the comedic statement: You might be a Christian nationalist if…  1) You believe that God’s plan for history would be severely hampered if the United States did not exist in a hundred years, twenty-five years, or even next year (66).  2) You find it unthinkable that a citizen would not be able to pledge allegiance to the flag or sing the national anthem for religious reasons (67).  3) You think that our Declaration of Independence embodies eternal principles or that the Constitution should never be changed (68).  4) You believe that our nation would finally be OK if it would just get back to “how it was” at some earlier stage of our history (70).

These are great indications that one might be a nationalist, allowing an unbiblical view of country to cloud the ethics of the kingdom.  The overall chapter contains helpful materials, but I felt that when the made the distinction between nationalism and patriotism that they may have been a bit too “soft.”  One need not even be patriotic as a kingdom person from my perspective.  They only need to possess love toward all people.

The fifth chapter looks at the hidden worldview of moral relativism.  The authors rightly make a distinction between the philosophical moral relativism of postmodern thinkers and the “moral relativism” of popular culture.  “‘Moral relativism’ finds legalistic truth claims distasteful” according to the authors.  As a result, those who would be legalist Christians are a “major cause” of this approach to life, “which is ironic because such folks tend to think they are the solution to relativism” (85).

The chapter goes on to indicate that relativism does well to undercut the myth of absolute objectivity in moral and ethical discourse, but often fails to make a coherent case for its own validity.  The chapter invites readers to a posture of humility and clarity when engaging people who have this tendency.  My opinion is that if the evangelical church was better at this that many of the culture wars (such as science vs. the Bible) would be virtually eliminated.

How have these worldviews shaped the church in various ways?

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