All sorts of people are here at the shopping mall.
Well, not all sorts, really. Mostly upper middle class Americans, white, under sixty. I’ve been here for a couple of hours, sipping my Starbucks iced tea and watching these passersby. I see fashionable handbags, plenty of teenagers, and pricey blue jeans. It’s an exhilarating place to be. There is something electrifying about the temptation of new shoes and food court cinnamon rolls. I find myself restless and eager.
What do I not see? There is no mention of the depletion of God’s sacred Creation which makes this material abundance possible. Strip mines produce building materials. Coal-fired power plants provide energy for air conditioning while emitting greenhouse gases. Landfills overflow with our “old” cast off purchases.
All this abundance, though manipulated by human ingenuity, science and engineering, is principally a gift from God. We depend upon the natural world for resources to fuel, fabricate, and build. We rely on God for our human capacity to imagine and create. In a way, even this bustling shopping mall is an extension of sacred creation. How can this be considered sacred? It’s seems to be a shrine to human consumption.
The term “sacred” implies something set apart, consecrated, as a place of spiritual reverence and respect. We often translate this as “religious”. By contrast, we use the term “secular” to indicate that which stands outside the bounds of the spiritual realm. They are those things which seem exempt from the requirements of religious discipline. This distinction conveniently masks our responsibility as disciples outside of Sunday morning’s sacred space.
Jesus is our living example of the sacred enmeshed in ordinary human experience. God With Us demonstrated that those things people easily detach from that which is sacred – societal outcasts, tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes – have a place in His sacred presence. The sacred is present in our everyday experience, shaping our behavior and offering hope.
Do we acknowledge God in the marketplace, what seems to be a most secular space? How do our consumption habits honor God? One key is waste. It is true that consumerism drives the market which provides for jobs and prosperity. But at what point does our “perceived obsolescence” mentality become out of balance and unduly deplete the environment? When do we become content with our lifestyle and possessions – reducing and reusing, rather than discarding our still-functional furniture for the latest décor trends or trashing our home electronics for the newest technology?
Young adult generations are at the forefront of advocacy for environmental stewardship. We recognize that we will be left to heal the consequences of our greed. I have seen many sporting “Go Green” t-shirts, bumper stickers, and protest signs. Yet a majority of the people strolling past my mall bench are young adults.
One of the greatest challenges for my generation will be to set aside our consumption-driven lifestyles for the sake of creation. Are we willing to sacrifice measuring up to the social standards of material success and appearance for the sake of Creation? Wearing the “Go Green” t-shirt is one thing. Wearing last season’s out-of-style shirt is another. What is the price my generation is willing to pay to free ourselves from the silent grip of unhealthy consumerism? I have seen encouraging models in some of my young adult colleagues, our young leaders of this church.
Along with balanced buying habits, awareness of the environmental footprint of brands and products we purchase is important. The Better World Handbook is an excellent tool for investigating these ratings.
Even the marketplace is enmeshed in sacred creation. Our everyday choices in this “secular” realm are spiritual ones. All of us must be mindful of God’s presence and provision, setting apart even the high-end shopping mall as sacred space.