Every once in a while you see some social commentator’s article on the evils of consuming too much cultural goods. These goods—everything from radio shows to clothing purchased on amazon.com—are somehow offensive when any individual just gets or digests “too much.” Many Christians are opposed to cultural indulgence as well. We tend to see it as a form of idolatry or obsession that distracts us from our relationship with God.
Television was a cultural evil that I heard a lot about growing up in the nineties. People watched too much of it, some would say. Statistics showed the average American watched an average of more than four hours of TV each day. This is an overwhelming amount for any single individual when you think about it. When do you find time to live your life when you spend so much time watching others live their’s on the tube?But now, more than ever, the general web community is reminded again and again they spend too much time watching, partaking, listening, eating… consuming, and otherwise not doing. This is paradoxical. Most of the outlets used to preach this message are delivered by means of cultural consumption. Where do we hear this most? From the web, church services, and conferences of all varieties.
We are encourage to be doers, makers, active members of society. Along the way, the consumption should be kept to a minimum. Now, if everyone kept consumption to a minimum, there would be few to partake of what we do, make, and produce as active members of society.
Consumption of cultural goods is not inherently flawed. The problem is when there’s too much consumption and not enough other roles played out by the consumer. If the consumer consumes but does not create also, he is considered self-centered.
The true consumer-only individuals are few and far between, however. There really are not a lot of people that have nothing to do and don’t do something productive in the course of a 24 hour day. Even the most slothful people have to manage a little just to stay alive. But, again, it is true that the most slothful people only do what is required to sustain themselves. Thus, they are not much more than consumers after all.
At the heart of consuming culture, there is only one right or wrong way to consume it. If you consume as a means to evade your God-given responsibilities, you are neglecting your duties as a member of the human race and the roles you play within it; this is the wrong way to consume. On the other hand, if you consume in order to participate in culture, build better relationships, learn something new, make the lives of those around you bettered by it, and consume responsibly (not at the expense of good) then you have been a good consumer. You can consume as much culture as you like; this is often missed.
Worldly wisdom will come up with its own rules and standards. Think about what God made the world for. God made creation to be at man’s disposal. He wanted us to thoroughly use it and tend to it. He wants mankind not to avoid it, but to be blessed by it. On the other hand, He wants it to relate to our relationship with Him and other people. He wants us to creatively use it and find the means to better others lives with the creation. The whole of creation is the ticket to a better culture as the creation is what we derive every cultural product from. The rules that apply to the creation apply to the material man-made goods around us. So, what is good for the Father is good for the son.