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Christians challenged to give up lifestyle and travel gods

Crowd-sourced approach to the subtle risks of consumerism

Churchgoing Christians are little different from regular Australians in believing that, beyond health, happiness and relationships, the good life is acquired through the consumption of stuff, experiences and success, according to a new report released this week.

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Strikingly, less than a quarter of the Christians surveyed report that having an impact on their communities (23 per cent) or the world (17 per cent) is part of what it means to live “the good life”.

They were far more likely to cite financial independence (51 per cent), owning a home (42 per cent), being well regarded (32 per cent) and travelling the world (31 per cent) as defining factors.

The findings are drawn from a report by McCrindle market research, for new platform Consumed.

Consumed aims to help Christians address the idol of consumerism to live a richer and more faith-centred life.

The survey was completed by a nationally representative sample of 1001 Australians. Additionally, 235 Australians were surveyed who attend church at least monthly. The total sample of churchgoing Christians came to 401.

The picture that emerges from Consumed: the state of Australian consumerism shows that Christian faith has a clear correlation with a range of positive outcomes.

Compared with the Australian average, churchgoing Christians reported higher levels of satisfaction with life, lower levels of anxiety, were less likely to be unemployed and more likely to have a deeper sense of purpose.

“Many Christians are at risk of their vision of the good life being unwittingly shaped more by consumerism than by Jesus.” – Gershon Nimbalker

Yet, the research also raises questions about whether Australian Christians are being captivated by the consumerist messages of Australian society.

Consumed Campaign Director Gershon Nimbalker believes the collective forces of our capitalist culture – advertisers, multinationals, pop-culture, politics and peers – have convinced too many Australians that the good life is found in stuff and experiences.

“Many Christians are at risk of their vision of the good life being unwittingly shaped more by consumerism than by Jesus,” he says.

“As followers of Christ, we need to ensure that we are reflecting deeply on what Jesus’ way of love means for us – and on his message that it is in following him that all people experience the fullness of life.

“God tells us that first and foremost we are to be people that love him with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbours as ourselves.”

The research suggests there are negative consequences if we allow consumerism to shape our lives.

Australians who often felt the need to buy something new (dubbed ‘Buzzed Buyers’) were more anxious than those who did not often feel the need to buy something new (‘Considered Consumers’) – 31 per cent compared with 21 per cent. They also felt more loneliness (24 per cent compared with 16 per cent), sadness (26 per cent compared with 16 per cent), frustration (36 per cent compared with 25 per cent) and stress (36 per cent compared with 27 per cent) in their daily lives.

“Consumerism is so ingrained in our culture, there will be no easy answers when it comes to breaking free.”- Gershon Nimbalker

Those who reported feeling a sense of meaning were one-third less likely than those without a sense of meaning to attempt to distract themselves through consumption.

“To go further, people need to understand just how big a problem consumerism is – for us, for our world, and for our faith,” Nimbalker said.

“We think people need to know that there is a better way to live.

“But consumerism is so ingrained in our culture, there will be no easy answers when it comes to breaking free. The research highlights the reality that a problem exists. We’re inviting people to join the Consumed community and be part of creating solutions together.”

Nimbalker formerly worked at Baptist World Aid, where he created the Ethical Fashion Report and managed its advocacy team. Consumed came out of discussions the Baptist Public Engagement Group had with Seed, a group that helps people and organisations to develop a purpose that fits with God’s story.

“We kept coming back to the fact we were tackling the symptoms of a great problem – we were so impacted by consumerism that it was hard to address the root cause of anything because it kept bubbling up to the surface,” Nimbalker says.

“The problem is so pervasive we came to the conclusion we need to create solutions and new pathways together.”

Consumed has created a Creative Conversation Guide that provides everything you need to host a conversation that generates ideas in your church, small group or community.

There is also an Ideas Platform where people can submit ideas and interact with others. Every few months, the most promising ideas will be run through Seed’s Redemptive Design process, seeking to develop them for broader use.

The Creative Conversation Guide is available, along with the full report, a summary infographic and the book here.

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