With each visit to the United States, we can never quite predict what will stand out to us.
It’s been different things over the last seven years. I remember one time when I was intrigued by the mysterious new section in all of the grocery stores: Organic. On other trips, my children have had their curiosity piqued by women bus drivers, by vending machines, by the presence of church buildings, by people walking dogs in their neighborhoods, and by the dizzying varieties of Oreos. If a camel saunters along the dune-lined highways at home, they hardly look twice. But if we drive past cows in a field, the little ones ask if we can roll down the windows.
Mundane is relative.
Take, for example, all of the invitations you have received so far today. Did you consider them? On a brief visit to the U.S. this year I lost track of how many invitations I received. They weren’t formal invitations in the proper sense, but they were invitations nonetheless. The flight attendant made announcements about some special programs when the plane landed. There were banners in the luggage hall. Billboards lined the road. Signs peeked out of the corners of the hotel lobby. Leaflets waited to be noticed on the desk in the room. Brochures were placed in my hand out on the street. Stickers stuck to the rubbish bins. Logos were everywhere. And what about the internet? Of course, all of this is white noise to those of us who live in media-saturated environments, but coming from a culture that is rather minimalist in marketing, I was overwhelmed.
How do we discern which invitation to accept? Which to ignore? Whom do we allow to tell us what we need? Do we even make these choices for ourselves anymore?
The Deadly Drama of Consumerism
Invitations to participate in the drama of consumerism are extended to all of us. Consumerism, the idolatrous pursuit of pleasure through stuff, can be worshiped by both the lavish and the simple.
Like all of the other idols, consumerism is just an empty, useless facade. Consumerism is starving, and because we emulate the characteristics of what we worship, its worshipers are unsatisfied and never filled. The idolatrous pursuit of pleasure through stuff works against the way God designed us. So, of course, it leaves us miserable.