In John chapter 2, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem during the festival of Passover and drives the money-changers out of the temple. But who were the money-changers, and why was their presence at this sacred site so offensive? In the other Gospels, the cleansing of the temple takes place during Jesus’ final week, so how are we to explain this apparent discrepancy? Join us as we discuss these issues as part of our ongoing series through the Gospel of John.
“We went to a megachurch once, and this guy was walking around the stage in this kind of skit, and the prop was—he had these big dollar bills that were keeping him from seeing things on stage. Five or six different blessings that he couldn’t get to—sending your kids to college, taking that great vacation. Then the narrator said, what he obviously needs to do is to take the money that’s blinding him, give it to the church and now he can see his blessings.”
“Wow. It’s that message of ‘if you give us enough money, we’ll sort things out between you and God.’”
Term to Learn
Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. A consumer culture can broadly be defined as a culture where social status, values, and activities are centered on the consumption of goods, services, and experiences. A large part of what you do, what you value and how you are defined revolves around consumption. Some theorists have regarded consumer culture as oppressive and manipulative, and some argue that it is a model of “consumer sovereignty.”
After World War II, consumer spending no longer meant satisfying an indulgent material desire. The American consumer was praised as a patriotic citizen in the 1950s, as someone contributing to the ultimate success of the American way of life. “The good purchaser devoted to ‘more, newer and better’ was the good citizen,” historian Lizabeth Cohen wrote, “since economic recovery after a decade and a half of depression and war depended on a dynamic mass consumption economy.”
Historian Elaine Tyler May argues that the new consumerism was a way to deemphasizing class differences while stressing traditional gender roles. The federal government and the American people saw that what had become defined as “the good life” was now within economic reach. For the working-class people could achieve the upward mobility they craved.
Consumerism has become one of the dominant global social forces that seeks a life of uninhibited consumption of goods, services, and experiences with almost total disregard for the global effects of such lifestyles. It is the pursuit of a good life narrated and marketed to through such practices which has cut across natural differences of religion, gender, class, ethnicity, and nationality. It is central to what Manfred Steger calls the new ‘global imaginary.’ This market driven vision of life has seeped into all aspects of life, turning even rebellion against the status quo into a new market niche ready for branding and consumption, wedding itself to the politics of uninhibited desire.
(Adapted from Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumer’s Republic, p. 119; James, Paul; Szeman, and Imre Globalization and Culture, Vol. 3: “Global-Local Consumption,” p. x; and “Consumerism” from the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia )