Materialism among Contemporary Evangelical Christians: Findings of a Preliminary Investigation -- By: D. Barry Lumsden

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 20:1 (Fall 2002)
Article: Materialism among Contemporary Evangelical Christians: Findings of a Preliminary Investigation
Author: D. Barry Lumsden


Materialism among Contemporary Evangelical Christians:
Findings of a Preliminary Investigation

D. Barry Lumsden

Executive Director
Institute of Christian Higher Education
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas 76203

Scott Harris

Higher Education Program
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas 76203

Why do people buy things they do not need? According to Pam Danziger (2002), president of Unity Marketing, desire, not necessity, annually drives three trillion dollars in consumer spending in the United States. Ever since the government began tracking economic statistics, the U.S. economy has been a consumer economy. It is, then, no small wonder that the United States has been described as “the acquisitive society” (Tawney, 1955).

Every year since 1929 until the present, with a few exceptions, consumer spending has accounted for between 60–70 percent of the total American economy. Could this be why we Americans are known around the world for our “conspicuous consumption” (Veblen, 1998). Today out of our ten trillion dollar economy, some two-thirds, or $6.6 trillion, involves consumer spending. About 40 percent of that, or three trillion dollars, is spent on discretionary products and services. It is, then, no small wonder that Erich Fromm, the eminent German-born psychoanalyst, has written, “The world is one great object for our appetite,... a big breast; we are the sucklers, the eternally expectant ones, the hopeful ones—and the eternally disappointed ones” (1956, 73).

Being a Christian in the United States can be very difficult for the simple reason that, by definition, to be a Christian is to be countercultural. To say we are Christians is to say we embrace the philosophy and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, not those of the world. To be a Christian is to strenuously resist the efforts of the world to squeeze us into its mold (Rom. 12:1, Phillips). To follow the Lord Jesus Christ is to reject the materialistic ideology which says that everything in the world can be reduced to what is material. Finally, to be a Christian in today’s world is to embrace, and live by, the words of Jesus who affirmed that

“a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). The purpose of the research reported in this article was to investigate empirically the extent of materialism among a sample of professing American believers.

Method

Sample

The sample in the study consisted of church youth and adult att...

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