Beliefnet
Idol Chatter

wwjb.gifWhen I was in middle school in 1993, a friend and I made up a Christmas carol to the tune of “Jingle Bells” so that we could win movie tickets from a local radio station. Our song was rife with references to how rabid people got during the holidays. We painted a lyrical picture that involved knocking people down, running through malls and rising crime rates. Yet, this was at a time when the hysteria surrounded Christmas was at a lull. More than ten years later, a zany pastor and his choir are employing the same concept but using it to encourage people to stop shopping in favor of finding the true meaning of Christmas in the Morgan Spurlock-produced documentary “What Would Jesus Buy?” in a limited number of theaters starting Friday.
Rev. Billy—Billy Talen—and his choir traveled across the U.S. to spread the message of salvation via shopping abstinence through revivals on street corners, proselytizing in Wal-Marts, and exorcising cash registers at Starbucks. Though he is a faux pastor, Rev. Billy preaches his “stop-shopping” messages with as much passion as a seminary-trained pastor. Throughout the film he makes use of the histrionics used by charismatic preachers as well as spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues and the laying on of hands. Yes, some may consider this blasphemy, but call me a heretic; I just couldn’t pull myself away from it.


But where Rev. Billy lacks respect for sacred things, he more than makes up for it in attempting to take the secular out of a sacred day. True enough, there is no point in this movie at which they draw attention to the sanctity of Christmas–and that’s a point of contention, but whether Rev. Billy and his choir realize it—or not, they are fighting the God-fight. I do believe God can use whoever He wants to get His message out.
Considering this, the movie is worthy of my praise. From the opening scene which flashed the startling statistics of Americans’ spending habits during the holidays to street interviews with people expressing what Christmas means to them—lots of expensive gifts and a reason to max out credit cards, I was convicted within the first 15 minutes and nauseated because I saw a lot of myself in those people.
As a conservative Christian, I know very well what the true meaning of Christmas is. I know it’s not about gifts, Christmas trees, candy canes, mistletoe or any of the other secular icons, but somewhere down the line I got caught up. Caught up in buying the best gifts for family and friends—amount of money spent + number of gifts = quality of love. I don’t know where I got this equation from—possibly the god of this world—but it is a deity and phenomenon well explained in “WWJB.”
I believe the effectiveness of a sermon is measured by the ability to change hearts and minds toward the greater good of an individual and the world around them and “What Would Jesus Buy?” surely does that. Its better to start this dialogue now before Christ has to focus his second coming on making a whip out of strips of leather and driving us out of the malls. Sound familiar?

Watch an exclusive clip from “What Would Jesus Buy?” here.

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