It’s that time of year when we bust out the credit cards and drop all sorts of cash on our friends and loved ones. Or, if you are like me, you shop all year round. Maybe you even shop as a reward for a job well done, or even a job not so well done. Maybe you look for any excuse whatsoever to go shopping.
On this subject, I just came upon this wonderful reflection on the ethics of shopping by Michelle Gonzalez Madonado, a professor at the University of Miami who I met once at a conference of religion scholars, partly through a friend, but also partly because we were wearing the exact same Diane von Furstenberg dress–she had the red version, I had the blue. Needless to say, she was wildly stylish.
Anyway, in her article, “A Meditation on Shopping and Desire: Theology comes to terms with consumer culture,” over on Religion Dispatches, she argues that, not only is shopping a political act, but also, a religious one, and that, of all spiritual teachers, Augustine is very helpful as we reflect on our shopping habits:
“As a Christian theologian Augustine will ultimately argue that ultimate satisfaction is found in God. As he writes in the opening lines of his Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” We can fool ourselves into thinking that material goods and wealth are the path to happiness, but ultimately Christians argue that true human destiny is the sacred. Oddly, the culture of consumerism relies on a similar logic–its underlying assumption is that there is always something, bigger, better, and more satisfying out there.”
Gonzalez does not come down against shopping (she freely admits that she loves to shop), but she is taking a long, hard look at this habit. And, happily, I found out she wrote an entire book on theology and shopping, which I can’t wait to read. Maybe her wisdom will be helpful during my favorite time of year which is just around the corner–the biannual sale at Barneys.
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