It’s starting. I am getting asked by family members and friends that famous question that always comes this time of the year. Yeah, you know it: ‘what do you want for christmas?’
Weird question isn’t it? Weird to me that it has become such a fixed one in the rhythm of our lives. Like going to a good liturgical church where you say the peace to one another. If you’ve gone there long enough, you expect and get accustomed to hearing, ‘peace be with you’ without really reflecting on what the words actually mean. That you are actually praying that the peace of God would be with that wandering friend or foe or relative no matter what instability exists in their lives at that very moment. That even as you say it, they would sense it. (as a side note: anyone noticed how ‘saying the peace’ was replaced by a ‘greet your neighbor’ time in most non-liturgical communities? Was peace too much?)
I have to be honest though, I am a consumer and I have the excuse (thanks mr chapman). I like getting presents and I receive and share love often times by gifting things to people. So answering the question isn’t really an issue. The issue for me is similar to the ones that many bloggers (jason, paul, josh, more!) have been asking for a long time: what is this consumer culture doing to the church? What has the question, ‘what do you want’ done to our way of being community together? How have people’s response to this very innocent question shaped them in every aspect of life?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to make consumers, or even consumerism the devil. I am not ready to go that far; however, something weird is happening. The commodification of faith is everywhere. You can buy rosaries in the accessories section of H & M. You can buy statues of the Buddha in most home deco shops. You can even get crosses in just about every shape, color, and gold that you want. And why? Because religion has become a melange. It has become a buffet where people can come along and snack a bit of this and choose a bit of that and get fat on eating one too many crab triangles. Something is going on!
I do not know what the answer is. Afterall, one of the central unifying aspects of the Christian community is consumption. Consumption via rememberance at the Eucharist. But the Eucharist, like most things when just consumed, does little to transform. No, consumers think little about what they are consuming, and more about how they feel with their consumption. Was it satisfying? Does it look good on me? Who else is buying this product? Is this the best deal for my money?
Again, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a plea for the unilateral separation of or removal of religion from the public sphere. Not the discussion I am trying to have. I am a friend of most pluralists. But, my question is: are they pluralistic because they need/want to have a very diverse belief/thought system or, did that first someone who asked the question ‘what do you want for christmas’ set off a domino-train that we are still feeling to this day? Again, I am not sure I know the answer…but I hate it when Christmas becomes about me.
Here is video I have enjoyed from the first time i heard the song. You ask me what i want this year, here’s a taste. And I am not refering to a goo goo dolls cd! Listen:
what do you want for christmas?