Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Advent conspiracy


What do you think of this campaign (and ones like it)?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved it. More and more I'm convinced of the need for Christians to be involved in justice like this and less like the rest of the world.

David said...

It is well intentioned to be sure and basically correct in its assessment of modern American moral distortions arising from identifying ourselves primarily as "consumers".

But the relief of suffering in and of itself isn't salvific. If we are just trying to rid the world of as much discomfort, but we aren't getting personally involved in loving our neighbor it seems to miss the mark.

What do I mean? I mean they are marketing a charity to consumers. Instead of packaging up plastic, they are packaging catharsis. But this makes no real change in the heart.

Why call for a change where we stop buying useless presents for one another, but instead spend time and even ourselves on one another; then turn around and advocate an offering of mammon to their cause? Shouldn't they, in fact, be advocating volunteerism? Wouldn't it be salvific if we actually went and touched the untouchables even in our own communities? (even better, went and dug some wells ourselves?)

Isn't that more radical and more to the message of the Incarnation? God doesn't just send us rain so we can have crops to eat, He sends us Himself. One is for the body only, the other far greater call is for body and soul.

Arthur said...

Hi from Adelaide, Byron

I'm rather dark about this kind of thing.

It's supporting what I see as a great myth of our times: the real meaning of Christmas is to slow down, get some perspective, give to those in need, and spend quality time with others (and then we can presumably feel good about ourselves). It's a line that everyone trots out and it's easy to put a religious spin on it. Justice is the new black -- yet we're content to practice this only at the level of tokenism.

Like David, I don't see anything radical in it. It's 'egoistic' rather than altruistic -- it's a bandwagon on which people can ameliorate their unease about the profoundly selfish and ostentatious lives they lead, rather than actually changing the shape of their living and thinking.

If everyone lived like this promotion, sure, the world would be a whole lot more harmonious and possibly even kingdom-minded. But who are we kidding?

Seumas Macdonald said...

I like it. Enough that I'll play it in church.

I see some of the previous comments dislike it because it misses the mark. That depends what you think the mark is. I'm unconvinced that a struggle for 'the meaning of christmas' will have significant impact in the secularisation of the holiday. It seems to me that campaigns like this are trying to say, "You're christians, you should live differently. maybe it's time to subvert the christmas paradigm of the culture around you".

gbroughto said...

I like it too.

I agree that the giving of myself in relationship is important alongside giving money (to locally-based Christian groups - eg thru TEAR) for basics like water, health and education.

I'm not about to restrict myself to works of justice in my local community... To me this makes about as much sense as restricting my mission to local community and not being willing to support Christian overseas mission with money thru CMS etc... I'm not having a dig, I just honestly don't get the rationale here.

Regarding the tokenism in justice: yes it can be frustrating. But for some (hopefully many) it can be an important first step... after a decade of inner-city ministry I found evangelism was often like this. People who simply came to church out of curiosity... I could have chased them away and told them not to come back until they were serious, but instead I tried to nurture the curiosity and encourage the next steps. It was immensely frustrating at times, but worth it.

Arthur said...

See, I only just twigged that this is actually pitched at Christians -- I thought it was one of those 'reclaim Christmas' things!

Belay previous comment, Cap'n.

Has anyone seen Australian equivalents?

David said...

Tokenism isn't training.

I don't want to sound like I'm advocating strictures here, but the truth is there is only one way we grow by God's grace, practice.

I don't think that egoistic behavior, no matter the pragmatic result will ever result in love. Love takes practice. It's a revolutionary act of toppling the ego from it's pedestal.

It's hard. In fact, without God's grace it's impossible.

And no, I'm not advocating that we act *only* locally, there might be some good discipline in giving to charity for work in a far away land. As long as such a gift is a real sacrifice. Remember the rich man's gift was great in his own eyes but the poor woman's 2 mites was great in the eyes of God.

I also think that many folks get involve in causes like this for the social aspect. It's a real danger. I know in my own heart that sometimes I get volunteer at Church because I want to please/be liked by my Priest.

Abraham knew better. St Paul says in his letter to the Romans that Abraham came to know that the praise of God is better than the praise of men.

How many of us do acts we call charity, but in fact are bribes we give in hopes others will like us?

Seumas Macdonald said...

Arthur:

There does seem to be an Australian version of the video on the Advent Conspiracy website, in the resources section. I haven't watched it, but I presume they might rejig their statistics for their target audience?

Name[d] said...

Personally I think this is a good thing because it causes people to question their own views and practices and it provides a more reflective alternative than consumerism tends to allow. It is a good starting place even if imperfect. My church is participating in it and the good thing is that it has changed the way many unchurched or rechurched people see and celebrate Christimas.

nico said...

i like it.

sounds a lot like what we (at least aim to) do at Christmas anyway - bandwagon or not, i'm hitching up!

nic

Arthur said...

A few of our various thoughts are considered in this article:
http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/lets-try-to-rediscover-the-spirit-of-christmas-20081205-6sez.html?page=-1

Irith said...

I'm relieved to see that I am not alone in my mixed reaction to this campaign. I was very unconvinced by the apparent claim that by forgoing the usual Christmas spending (I agree a laudable aim) and writing a big cheque to a worthy charity instead was somehow capturing the 'relational' spirit of Christmas? Oh really? I can write a cheque in 1 minute. Try spending a long meal and afternoon with all the relatives who try my patience and grate on my nerves. I know which task is harder. I'm also uncovinced that the 'spirit' of Christmas or 'message' of Christmas is a clear one. To me there is no readily understood message that translates to everyday life. (Unlike the events of Easter) Sure the angels sang 'peace on earth, goodwill towards men' but tell that to the mothers of the slaughtered innocents. The truth of the incarnation in the context of a humble manger is surely to defy our expectations and challenge our assumptions. I can't believe that conspicuous alms-giving is the point of God being born as a babe (though I'm sure the recipients of water aid don't care how pure the motives of the benefactor). What do I think? I don't think it can do any harm, (because I agree that it can be a stimulus for change)and will probably result in much good, but I'd hate to be satisfied with an 'advent conspiracy' view of Christmas.

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