Friday, October 3, 2008

What would Jesus buy - A review

On Sunday morning, in an attempt to help a friend find an item for her business, I decided to bite the bullet and visit both Walmart and Target just in case they carried the item. I don't normally frequent these stores - one, because I don't need anything and so I see no need to shop; and two, they are both normally so full of people that I get seriously claustrophobic. Eek!

Sunday mornings, however, are very different - everyone here goes to church. So if you "HAVE" to go shopping, Sunday morning is the time to do it. I was in a walking mood, so I put on my Nikes and hoofed it over to our Walmart Supercenter. Not having set foot inside a Walmart in - gee, I don't know, have I even been there at all during 2008? - let's say a pretty long time, I was surprised that instead of feeling overwhelmed by people (which of course is not the case on Sunday mornings), instead I was completely overwhelmed by all the stuff. 

Target, though it's on a smaller scale was no different. I bee-lined for the area I needed and tried to ignore all the other isles, but you and I both know how hard it is to ignore advertising. I'm not saying I was tempted to buy anything, but rather I was completely mesmerized by all the stuff. Do people really buy all this? It's not even the holiday season yet, when we all know it gets MUCH worse. Yikes!

With that in mind, and with the holidays not much further around the corner, on to the movie review... Better late than never, I finally got ahold of a copy of What Would Jesus Buy?, a documentary produced by Morgan Spurlock (yep, the SuperSize Me guy) on US consumer habits, particularly around the holiday season (see trailer here). 

The main character is the "Reverand Billy" who in his very televangelistic enthusiasm travels the country with his choir to preach about what they refer to as the "Shopocalypse" - basically the mindless purchasing of things to replace the true meaning of the holidays.

The documentary presents both staggering statistics and the shocking stories of what people will do to get the "must-haves" of the holiday season. It's enough to make anyone pessimistic about the future of the human race. Truly. Their message? STOP SHOPPING!

Now, let me say that my initial reaction was how completely ridiculous Rev. Billy's tactics were. He was in people's faces, leading carolers through neighborhoods and malls to sing re-worded, anti-shopping holiday songs, and by the end of the story, was arrested in the middle of Disneyland. Yeah, this was silly stuff. But then I realized, his methods are no more absurd than American's shopping behavior.  Seriously, you've seen the videos of shoppers the day after Thanksgiving. They practically maul each other to get into Walmart. WALMART, for heavens sake! Pregnant people get trampled. Kids are separated from their parents. Store clerks are threatened and verbally abused because supplies ran out. Um, yeah. Happy holidays everyone. I mean, I don't subscribe to a religion, but if Jesus did exist, I'm sure that's what he had in mind for his birthday celebration, right? Sure.

If nothing else, the documentary should shock you into thinking. And isn't that what we should all be working towards? Thinking. Being mindful - whether it's mindfulness in eating, mindfulness for the environment, or mindfulness in spending. Mindfulness allows us to step back and evaluate who we are and what we really want out of life. Mindfulness is what allows us to step out of the flow that is currently helping to carry this country (and perhaps the world) into economic crisis. 

Despite the entertaining reminder that the holidays are a time to enjoy and be thankful for each other (and not all the loot we fill our stockings with), my favorite part of the show was when Rev. Billy admitted that his "Stop Shopping" message couldn't be absolute. You can't just NOT buy anything. But what he did advocate was buying locally and supporting small business - basically putting money back into our own communities. Who can argue with that? We truly make a great sacrifice when we hit those box stores for the cheapest price. But we can voice our beliefs with our money if we keep it local. We say no to the extinction of those mom-and-pop shops. We say no to wages so low that employees can't possibly live off them. We say no to working conditions that are degrading and life-threatening to people all over the world and that erode and damage the environment. 

I've been on a no-gift kick for a few years. We usually give a little money to each of our nieces and nephews. To other family members or neighbors, I make baked goods. To our parents, we put together gift baskets of local or homemade items like jams and jellies, nuts, honey, granola, etc. But that's it. In fact, this year, we even started making our own greeting cards. We decided enough was enough. 

If you are on the fence or want some background info to talk to someone else who is on that fence, definitely check out this movie. Sure, it's a little over the top, but so is the insanity of running up those credit card bills to have the "best holiday ever" when all we really needed to do was pass out some hugs (and maybe a little homemade cocoa). 

So now it's your turn. Have you changed the way you purchase for holidays (whether it's christmas, birthdays, or anniversaries)? If so, how? 

Are you on the fence and don't know how to convince the rest of the family? 

How do you feel about the title, "What Would Jesus Buy?" In the movie, they actually ask people this. Some people actually responded saying Jesus would have bought an X-box. Really? Would Jesus have even set foot in a mall or would he be in the local soup kitchen? What does that say about our focus?

Are your favorite holiday memories about stuff? Or about the people you were with at the time?


ttammylynn said...

When our own government borrows so much money just to fill the wishes of this agenda or that, while we personally as Americans run up more debt than we can pay in a lifetime and then look for some kind of bail-out...while our SS money gets earmarked for everything but a small stipend at our retirement, while conservative minded people fear to have more children they can afford while others have extra children to get a bigger welfare payout...I'm disgusted, very disgusted.
I'm not perfect, I like things--new seeds and plants, things to entertain myself, a running vehicle, etc. I am in debt. I work to pay bills on a scale that would scare the faint-of-heart. I own lots of equity and very little money(with two businesses almost paid off, four trucks(only one not paid off), two trailers for hauling, two cars for the kids and a house on four acres that will be the next debt to double up payments on after the businesses are paid off in less than two years...oh and a couple of small IRAs. I am trying to be more accountable, but a family means that others needs come before your own. Deceiphering the needs of others is more difficult than just taking care of yourself. I would happily wear a thing until it is holey or worn out, but I would not make my children do the same. To some degree, yes, I don't buy the newest game. I make them wait until the price comes down or the value of the system becomes clear... often, you find that last year's hottest item isn't worth a hill of beans because it was too expensive and nobody bought it, so the games were not made for the system, as an example. I'm very often a wait and see kindda person. Everyone deserves a few perks, but we should think about what we are doing. Might be why we rent video games instead of buying them, lol. No, I am not perfect, but I have been trying for a while now. Heather, honestly, I would still like to try harder...

Anonymous said...

I've started giving out baked goods at Christmas esp to people like the paper carrier, mailman, etc. I used to really resent feeling like I had to give money to the paper carrier. I mean how did that tradition get started? But I love to bake anyways and its a fun old-fashioned kind of thing to do and really gets me in the holiday spirit. And everyone loves it. Most people are really blown away. And its a much more fun way to spend an afternoon than in crowded stuffy mall that's for sure!

Michelle said...

I detest shopping in general, but wandering around in search of a random gift because I "have" to just disgusts me. I want to share joy and peace with my family, not another piece of clutter for them to have to deal with. But, it can be hard when you are dealing with other's expectations around the holidays...

Billie said...

I would love to get out buying gifts for my extended family. Not because I am cheap but because my family and I have everything we need and likely most of what of we want for the amount of money that anyone would spend on each other.

I would much rather take the money I spend on my family and buy gifts for children who get absolutely nothing for Christmas.

This of course changes when it comes to our kids. We were not very extravagant last year and probably will only spend a fraction more this year. I am not even sure if my honey and I will even buy each other presents this year. We have been discussing replacing our TV as a gift.

eco 'burban mom said...

Hmmm, good question. I'm not in love with the title, I believe religion has it's place and shouldn't be commercialized. (That said, I haven't been inside a church in 10 years...)

However, the theory of the movie seems interesting. We have changed our buying habits for our family. We look for thrift store clothing, I haunt places like Game Stop for used video games (sorry, 4 boys require some games!), and I scout Craigslist for bikes, furniture and kitchen appliances. The holidays can be hard, but we try to keep it in check!

sharli said...

I absolutely agree! I have bought fewer and fewer Christmas gifts over the last few years. This year, I will only buy a few modest items for the boys and I will bake for everyone else. Its ridiculous to buy all this crap that just clutters up people's homes. Plus....I have a severe Wal-Mart phobia! Target, I don't mind so much, but Wal-Mart really creeps me out.

fearlesschef said...

We have cut back little-by-little over the past few years and this year we have cut our purchases in half... at least. Instead, I am supposed to be sewing things for the kids or making craft items for them.

We/I always make baked goods baskets (they are recyled from garage sales :D) for the neighbors, my teachers, etc.

And for those who I cannot make a gift or come up with another idea, they are now getting either a donation made to a charity or something that is very "green"... SIGG bottles or recycled glass earrings... you get the picture...

maryann said...

Very interesting post. We've finally managed to get most of the family to stop buying gifts for each other and just buy for the neices and nephews. My mom is the only one I can't get to stop buying stuff and I wish I could, most of what she'll buy is just silly trinkets that eventually end up in the good will pile. I hate the concept of having to buy something just because it's expected. If I do see something I think someone would like, or need or something they've mentioned wanting I will buy it but just for the sake of having a gift , no I don't anymore. It makes things much less stressful. For the nephews we stopped buying toys and junk and now get each one a subscription to a magazine for their interest, the younger ones usually get a book and cash to put away in the bank.

maryann said...
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Heather @ SGF said...

ttammylynn - I know exactly how you feel. I've come a long way, but it always seems like there is so much more I can do. It doesn't sounds like you're the typical american consumer though. Hang in there.

anonymous - I agree and I think many people don't bake anymore, so when a home-baked gift is given, it's a real treat!

michelle - it is hard. We've convinced most of our families not to do gifts. One still does quite a bit though and I struggle with the lack of reciprocation.

billie - when Dave and I started dating, we decided "no gift." We don't do birthday, anniversary, or christmas. My big problem with gifts is the "expectation" part of it. If one person forgets it creates hard feelings and there's pressure for gifts to be better and better each year... too much pressure. I think it's ok to say no to that kind of stuff. Instead, we either do baked goods or a meal out/movies to celebrate.

eco burban mom - sounds like you're doing all the right things - celebrating, but being mindful about it!

sharli - I agree with all the "crap" stuff. Every year after the holidays we make a run to the shelter or goodwill to donate stuff. I'd rather the money spent went to charity or something. But convincing others not to spend is more difficult... So what kinds of baked goods are we talking about here :)

fearlesschef - I love the craft idea. What kinds of things are you making?

maryann- yeah, the holidays are way too stressful. I'm with you, if you see something someone would like, buy it and give it to them. Do we really need an occasion?

Green Bean said...

Pretty sad statement about our society: Jesus would buy an X box?!

Abbie said...

I had a similar clostrophobic feeling when I went to a Bed, Bath, and Beyond for the first (and only) time a few months back. The STUFF goes to the ceiling and there's no room to walk with a cart... I hated it. Ugh.

The Cooking Lady said...

I would give my left boob to stop buying gifts. And for the last few years we have been so financially bad off that we hand out baskets of baked goods, or jellies. No one has complained to date.

And yet I have wealthy in-laws that feel the need to shop at places I am afraid to go in for fear they would charge an entrance fee, purchase things(like clothes) that do not fit us and are not our style.

Why do people do that? I would never even think of buying someone clothes. And yet, how do you tell someone to STOP doing that.

My own mother get my children gift cards to their favorite stores, and they were ecstatic. My daughter to date has never worn the clothes she has bought for her...they just don't get it.

I enjoy the spirit of the holiday, just not all the buying that goes with it.

ttammylynn said...

I used to take lists from my children and then I would purchase the items that I felt we could afford, that I felt they could use. Now they are older(17 and 16), I give them some money and a stocking of small goodies. They buy what they want and that is Christmas. We go over to my in-laws and fix dinner for them, they give us a check to buy things for the kids and ourselves. My in-laws are well, millionaires, but I don't think of them as uppity or anything, they just are who they are. We decided long ago not to give gifts, but I love to cook, my husband used to be a chef(including at a vegetarian restaurant that didn't make it several years ago called Planetary Grub and Organic Juice Bar, of all things) and we really love to cook together. We do a big Thanksgiving traditional meal and then usually a fancy non-turkey dinner for Christmas... a ribeye roast with lots of veggies or two different stir-fries with multiple sauces, as two recent examples. That is our gift to them, extraordinary cooking.
Now, my family is different. They are for the most part, pretty dirt poor. The one multi-millionaire (my aunt)doesn't buy much of anything in the way of gifts--even for her own children(long story but her children were in an accident and she hasn;t worked for years, we bought her remaining children a Playstation 2 the Christmas after the accident(we were grieving too, my son was best friends with her son who died), she bought our children nothing and almost asked us to leave because she hadn't invited us to Christmas(even though we were told to come by other family members, yikes), we just wanted to bring the gifts over to her children, honestly, which were far bigger gifts than she bought for them--it was about making sure that they had nice gifts THAT year), so we pretty much took it down to where we just draw names and buy a couple of gifts after way too much drama over there, yuck. I hate drama. I would rather just do my thing quietly at home. I always want a quiet day off for Christmas, simple as that sounds. I try to buy something small for my mom, grandma and dad, but that's about it.
My husband lets me know what he wants and I just get it for him or we get it together. We let ourselves buy an item we have wanted for a while at holidaytime. I got a greenhouse last year. He got an HDTV. The year before, I think he got a truck he needed...those kinds of things that just wait until later, you know? Things we may have bought another time but dubbed Christmas.

Heather @ SGF said...

green bean - actually several people listed game systems. Uh, someone wasn't paying attention in Sunday school, huh?

abbie - yeah, that's the thing (floor to ceiling). There's just so much stuff. And what's worse... think of all that packaging. Makes me want to run home and hide :)

cooking lady - yeah, I don't know what the deal is about buying clothes for other people. Ok. I mean, if they are like 5 years old or younger - fine. But I'd like to pick my own things out, thank you. Most of our stuff ends up at Goodwill and I feel bad about turning around and giving most of it away, but I KNOW I'm never going to wear or use whatever it is.

Oh, and I think your gift basket of baked goods and jam sound like a better gift ANY DAY than stuff you could buy in the store. :)

ttammylynn - Dave and I tried to do the "buy the gift we needed" last year. We really need a new bed and we were going to take the money that our parents gave us and go buy one. We never made it to the store and it's now October. Oops. The idea of shopping just makes us want to hide. Hmm. Maybe next year :)

Anonymous said...

Reverend Billy was in my area not too long ago. Now I'm kicking myself for not going to see him...

Heather @ SGF said...

jupitersinclair - that definitely would have been entertaining!