“Your relationships will fail.” -Our Culture

Updated: 8/5/13, 8:45am

Question for you. True or True: Consumeristic is an adjective that describes our culture well.

If you guessed true, congratz! You’re not necessarily smarter than a fifth grader, but you’re correct. If you guessed false, please click the refresh button and try again. Also, punch yourself.

I’m not sure if you’ve looked around, but you are being marketed. Like probably even right now.

It’s not a coincidence that Facebook is hitting you with ads for Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin Robbins, and TCBY frozen yogurt… at the same time! It’s not a miracle. It’s not a sign from God. It’s not your lucky day. It’s called targeted ads. I mean let’s just be honest, you post about ice-cream way too much… like waaaaaayyyy too much (just ask your friends). And the Facebook gnomes have taken note!

How angry were you last week when Target sent you a text message? First off, No! I’m not interested in your “Back to School Selection” for high-schoolers. And second off, how’d you get my number!?

A day doesn’t pass when my apartment mailbox isn’t stuffed with local coupons. A day doesn’t pass when we aren’t forced to watch some painful low-budget commercial from a used-car dealer down the street. A day doesn’t pass that our appetites and desires aren’t constantly being instigated by the consumer-driven advertisement-saturated culture we live in.

We live in an environment that enables and caters to consumers. And if you aren’t careful, it’ll go straight to your head.

As vendors vie for your service, they focus primarily on delivering the two Q’s (QUALITY and QUICK) at an acceptable price.

They promise to get you your product quick. Because “I know what I want and I want it now!” “No I will not hold!” “You got it, I want it!” 3G. 4G. 100G, in the palm of my hand. Just give me the pill. Give me the surgery. Fix it quick. Botox please. Google search it. Hit the drive-thru. Fast-food. Open 24/7. Free shipping. Overnight it. Credit cards accepted. Now! Now! Now!

And they promise to bring you quality. Because “We live in America, and we deserve the best!” A bang for your buck! It’s real-life tested. Kid approved. 5-star safety ratings. Made in the U-S-of-A. 3-year warranty. Durable. Best of the best. The one celebrities use. 4 out of 5 dentists agree. The latest technology! The newest upgrade. Fresh ingredients. #1 in the city! Your taste-buds won’t be sorry.

If you haven’t noticed, such a consumerized cultural climate cultivates (how’s that for alliteration) a variety of destructive traits in the consumer. The following words come to mind: instant gratification, extravagance, egotism, self-absorption, entitlement, selfishness, near-sightedness, greed. But more dangerous than any of the others, and more contrary to the cross-shaped life some of us try to live, consumerism cultivates self-centeredness.

A consumeristic market creates a world that revolves around the consumer. But nothing could be more opposed to a worldview founded on the cross.

the world

Now what’s sad, and really quite scary, is that the evils of consumerism don’t just stay in the marketplace. They reach their slimy tentacles into our everyday lives. And paying the price more than anything today are our relationships with one other.

I believe that consumerism is destroying community. In our culture, your relationships are set up to fail because consumerism has turned relationships into a commodity.

Because we have been trained to expect quality, quickly, at an acceptable price in the marketplace, we take this very mindset into our families, friendships, workplaces, neighborhoods, even churches. And just as a consumer would, we make decisions about real life people with the same mindset we use when choosing between auto-insurance companies.

“My relationship with you lasts as long as you play the role a good vendor plays. As long as you are meeting my needs at an acceptable cost, we’re cool. But the second I feel like this deal is requiring more from me than I’m actually getting. Or the second another vendor offers betters services than you. Or the second another vendor delivers the same services at a better cost. Nice doing business with you. But I’ll be taking mine elsewhere.”

In a society overrun by a consumer climate, people perceive MY needs as supreme. The good of ME is always more important than the good of the relationship, because “I’m the consumer and you’re the vendor.”

So why would I get involved in the mess of your life? It might require something of me. It might require me giving more than I get. And that’s bad business. Nevermind I’m like ten-times more messed up than you. You’re just not worth the risk.

This is why social media, texting, and the likes are thriving. Because you don’t have to get too involved. You can keep intimacy shallow, publish a filtered self-image, and experience some of the surface level perks of community by making surface level connection. It brings convenience to community, ensuring that relationships never require too much of us or take too much from us.

This is why people are bailing on marriage way too early for all the wrong reasons. Because “He offered me better services than my husband.” Or “The price I have to pay being wed to her is more than I can bear.”

It requires very little of you to love a person who is pulled together and happy. -Dr. Tim Keller

The cross-shaped way is different. The consumerized way says the needs of the individual should take precedence over the relationship. The cross-shaped way says the needs of the relationship should take precedence over the individual.

And it is the cross-shaped way that leads to authentic community. Real relationships. Lasting marriages. Worthwhile intimacy. True love. The paradox of the cross is that self-giving is the key to salvation. Not just for your soul, but also for your life.

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15 thoughts on ““Your relationships will fail.” -Our Culture

  1. Hi Tyler, I usually enjoy reading your blogs because of the insights you share. I have also appreciated how you remained respectful even when others dissented – dramatically. Your tone in this blog, and the response to the first post who disagreed with you, was so dramatically different from your other posts that I actually looked for a guest-blogger.
    I’d like the chance to point out that the demand for better service from poorly performing companies has afforded millions of entrepreneurs the opportunity to start their own businesses. Those small-businesses owners are able to be present with their families in a way they couldn’t be when working for large corporations. Social Media also has an upside which you didn’t credit – it has saved the lives of people, a few were even Christian missionaries.

    • Thanks for your response Leah. I believe you misinterpreted my tone previously. I simply wished to present Richardo with a few of the respected “sources” that inspired my thinking. It is unfortunate for me that I did not make my tone clear. I apologize. I ask you go back and read the comment through the personality that you have grown to appreciate from me. Also, I agree with the positives you point out concerning social media. Obviously I’m a fan of social media. I engage in it often and use it as a ministry tool. However, I believe it is not an acceptable replacement for real face-to-face community. I often tell others “it should be a supplement, not a replacement.”

      • Since the overall tone of this blog was so jarring compared to your previous ones I do agree that the tone that I took from it very much carried over into how I interpreted your commentary. I did re-read it with this in mind and did find it a bit less harsh than when I first read it. Thanks for responding!

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