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Be aware of the counterfeits and the fakes, however they are dressed, Peter Sara writes.
Will Hutton writing for The Observer (World Focus, ODT, 8.2.16) asks, "Have we reached 'peak stuff' yet?'' suggesting consumerism is on its way out.
"Real economists don't ask questions about happiness. The economy pumps out goods and services, all of which create jobs and incomes. There is no value judgement in such a statement, no view of what constitutes the good life ... The task of economists - a value-free quasi-science - is to make sure that as little as possible gets in the way of turning inputs into outputs. But around the developed world, consumers seem to be losing their appetite for more.''
Hutton goes on to quote Steve Howard, head of Ikea's Sustainability Unit: "In the West, we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I'd say we've hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak home furnishings, peak stuff.''
He observes: "What we want is purpose and a sense of continual self-betterment, which is not served by buying another iPhone, wardrobe or a kitchen.''
More decades ago than I care to admit to, there was a song about "little boxes made of ticky tacky''.
The song was not directed at people who want to own houses but the perils of the isms - consumerism and materialism.
The intent of the song's prophecy was that a surfeit of stuff does not satisfy.
The big question is what kind of purpose will replace our fixation with goods and services.
What will satisfy the desires of the human heart?
It is a truism that nature abhors a vacuum.
Thus we can be sure our satiation with materialism will create hungry mouths for something to take its place.
In my day, causes such as the Vietnam War, damming Lake Manapouri and the Springbok tour were reasonably straightforward candidates for purpose, either for or against.
My daughters (who now live away from home) closely monitor the provenance of eggs and chickens.
My wife and I live in fear and trembling while fridge inspections take place, lest produce other than the free-range variety should be found.
Sometimes lies have been told.
Regarding spiritual matters, their loathing is about anything false or pretentious.
They hate fake.
For them, it is very important that the frailties of people are recognised and acknowledged and that engagement with the community of believers and otherwise is based on who people really are and what they actually do, rather than any idealised standard of what they should be.
They would like a church I told them about in the US called "Scum of the Earth'' in Denver Colorado.
Pimps, prostitutes and drug addicts are welcome.
Their website reads: "Why scum? It doesn't sound like a church name ... on purpose. We really want to connect with people who have no interest in church by society's definition. There are plenty of churches for normal people, but we think we have a unique calling to reach out to our otherwise unreached friends. Our name is integral to that purpose. Whether outcast by society (e.g. punks, skaters, ravers, homeless people) or by the church itself, many who come can identify with the name "Scum of the Earth'' since they have been previously treated as such.
"More important to us, however, the name implies that being people of faith does not mean we are better than anyone else. We know many non-Christians who think Christians are out to cast judgement on them. Our name makes it clear that we aren't about that. We are just aware of our need for God, as scum of the earth. Fortunately, God never sees us like that! But the name is humble and we like that.''
I understand addicts hanging out for a fix can come to this church and their non-judgemental church community will pray with them for grace and strength to get through the next 20 minutes, and then the next.
That is the kind of church Jesus would go to.
My prediction is that all manner of great pretenders will emerge in the next while, claiming primacy as their life purpose and self-betterment, which Will Hutton has identified.
Be aware of the counterfeits and the fakes, however they are dressed.
As for me and my house, Jesus is the real deal.
● Peter Sara is an Elim Christian Centre elder.