Friday, November 28, 2008

The Advent Conspiracy: A Cautious Embrace...

Well - I've received emails from far and wide referring me to The Advent Conspiracy and I made very brief mention of it at the tail end of my last blog. I'm going to say right up front that I think this is a great idea - a movement with sincere good intentions. And who can argue with the outcome when the bottom line is a shift away from self-indulgent consumerism to an emphasis on compassion and relationship? So why do I have a sense of unease in the pit of my being? It's probably not a big deal, but it's a persistent sense that something could be a little amiss. I certainly don't want to be the Scrooge of Advent Conspiracy, but here's the thing - or things:

1. Christmas may be as good a time as any to call people to a more authentic and accurate representation of their faith, but is there a danger that the goodwill that the Advent Conspiracy generates may dissipate when the trees come down and the turkey settles? After all, come the first of January the Christmas glow often fades and we go back to life as usual - the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is replaced by the more mundane hustle and bustle of our frantic lifestyles - getting the kids to the rink and the pool and the gym and putting in our own 40+ hour work week, plus keeping up (or down!) with the Jones's, the housework and yardwork and - well - you get the picture. We may have done a little bit of good for the global poor, by providing safe water or a bit more food or even houses that won't wash away or blow away, but what if lack of access to food and water and safe housing are only symptoms of much bigger and deeper issues?

2. And, what if we participate in the Advent Conspiracy as a way to alleviate guilt - our own, that is. Maybe it's just me, but I find it's really tempting to fall in line and celebrate the euphoria of our wonderful generosity as we scale back a bit and then use a bit of the money we didn't spend on ourselves to help others. Again, maybe it's just me, but I struggle constantly with this tension between wanting to really live simply, justly and faithfully and the very strong urge to have the things I want that make my life comfortable, productive, safe. I sincerely hope that this is a reflection of MY selfishness and that YOU are actually far more genuinely generous than I am.

OK - so what's the point of this blog? Perhaps it's just me, confessing my struggle with consumerism and thinking on paper about the deeper, darker issues of the global economic and political systems and the injustices that are perpetrated by those systems so that the richest 20% of the world controls 86% of the planet's wealth and the poorest 20% control only 1%. I don't want to rain on the Advent Conspiracy parade - honestly! I seriously DO think it's a good start and I encourage you to check it out, but be careful. Don't let it be a quick fix or a passing fad. Let it be an entry point into a a whole new relationship with people - both near and far - and stuff and the environment and God.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 TNIV)

Be part of the Advent Conspiracy but know this: we may be a whole lot more tied to our consumer culture than we realize and as we follow this path, we will - I predict - discover that the rabbit hole is WAY deeper than we thought! But it's ok - we're not alone and I believe that whatever trouble we find on the way, God will not leave us or forsake us!

Oh - and by the way, if you're looking for a good place to put some (or better still, ALL!) of the cash that you're not using to buy obligatory and often frivolous gifts for family and friends, check out the CBM gift catalogue: and /cbm/giftcatalogue and the Kids Care Catalogue - and give a gift in their names.

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