Friday, November 09, 2007


This post is for the Faith+Film blog-a-thon, hosted by RC of StrangeCulture. Hopefully, I’m able to combine the two into a blog post for your reading pleasure!

Christmas is nearing. How do I know? The stores all tell me so.

I’m sure everyone’s heard of the “commercialization of Christmas” and how it detracts from the real reason Christians celebrate, but it’s easy to get sucked into the pattern of buying “stuff” around this time of year. Jon and I had a discussion wondering why we spent designated amounts of money on gifts for people who turned around and spent the same designated amount on gifts for us. Why not donate the money in their name instead? I understand that idea, but it’s hard to not want to shower gifts on people you care about (especially for me, who loves giving – but can’t really afford it!).

I recently received an email about a free screening of What Would Jesus Buy? produced by Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me fame). I doubt I’ll be able to make it to the free showing, but the idea of the film is interesting to me. It’s a “documentary” (in a loose sense) that focuses on materialism and over-consumption in American culture, specifically around Christmas time. This is viewed [per Wikipedia] “through the prism of activist/performance artist Bill Talen, who goes by the alias of "Reverend Billy," and his troupe of activists, whose street theater performances take the form of a church choir called "The Church of Stop Shopping," that sings anti-shopping and anti-corporate songs. The film follows Billy and his choir as they take a cross-country trip in the month prior to Christmas 2005, and spread their message against what they perceive as the evils of patronizing the retail outlets of several different large corporate chains.”
You can view the trailer here:

This “buy buy buy” message sadly rang true for those televangelists caught in another unfortunate scandal that reflects poorly on Christians. This recent news article names those who are being investigated for money fraud and misspending funds to support their lavish lifestyles.

On the other end of the money “spectrum” is one of my favorite Christmas movies, Muppet Christmas Carol. Instead of overspending, Ebenezer Scrooge is a money-hoarder. He views himself as thrifty and frugal, but the world sees differently. As we know from the story, after a few time-warping ghost visitations, Scrooge gleefully gives presents to strangers, embraces relationships, and buys a feast for a needy family.

[In the Muppet version, that part holds my favorite exchange (from how I remember it):
Scrooge, from the window, “I’ll give you a shilling to fetch me that turkey in the window of the corner shop!”

Bean Bunny, on the street, “You mean the one as big as me? Be serious!”]

So. Where is the middle ground of these two extremes? Obviously, generosity is different when you don’t expect a return. And I know we’re instructed to be “joyful givers”, but we’re also supposed to be responsible with how the money is used. So where we’re giving it matters. It’d be easy to hand a buck to the homeless panhandler on the corner and feel like we made a difference in that person’s life. Well, we did - maybe for a minute - but they’re going to continue standing on that corner everyday thereafter still. (I know – I see them there day in and out!) It would be more beneficial to give the buck(s) to organizations that really help those folks – meeting their real needs and helping them back on their feet. So though we feel like Scrooge if we refuse to give them our money at the corner, we should feel rich and privileged that we can afford to support places that are truly making a difference.

Just my two cents. Thanks to RC for the Faith+Film blog-a-thon!

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