Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire

Article excerpt

BEING CONSUMED: ECONOMICS AND CHRISTIAN DESIRE by WILLIAM T. CAVANAUGH Eerdmans, 103 pages, $12

Our globalized world of free-market consumerism teases the eye with a "surface appearance of diversity," masking "a stifling homogeneity" that bears resemblance to Andy Warhol's "Orange Disaster #5," a painting whose serial imaging of the electric chair removes the sting of death.

William Cavanaugh claims that consumer culture is "one of the most powerful systems of formation in the contemporary world, arguably more powerful than Christianity." The Church cannot be "a different kind of economic space" when most Christians are suffering from visual agnosia, an inability to recognize familiar objects. In remedy, we need to understand "theological microeconomics," training our eyes to see the paradoxes of economic life.

Cavanaugh, a professor of theology at the University of St Thomas, examines four economic realities: the free market, consumerism, globalization, and scarcity. Assuming a "reactive posture," Christians typically ask: "Are we for or against the free market? Should we not think of ourselves as consumers? Are we for or against globalization? …

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