03 December 2007

Shopping Cessation.

Here in Charleston, there is strung across Calhoun Street a large banner bearing the simple legend: Live, Love, Shop! In our Caristas Bible study last week, we came to the conclusion (in the course of considering the Beatitude, "Blessed are those who persecuted for righteousness' sake") that hopping of the consumerist runaway train might be the contemporary cultural equivalent of refusing to burn a little incense to Caesar. We could do with a crusade by the Reverend Billy:

If the multitudes that arrived in midtown Manhattan last Friday - the post-Thanksgiving start to the US holiday shopping season - had resigned themselves to a Broadway darkened by striking stagehands, there was some amusement to discover that the stagehands weren't the only strikers in New York.

Outside the Disney Store on Fifth Avenue 35 bellicose elves were chanting, "Silent night, we're on strike: no outsourced toys for little tykes", while a red-robed choir sang, "Stop, stop shopping". In the midst of this chaos stood a white tuxedoed preacher bellowing into a bullhorn: a "shopocalypse" was coming, the Reverend Billy warned baffled shoppers - "the end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt!"

In recent years the Church of Stop Shopping - a secular street-theatre group led by Bill Talen, a 57-year-old playwright and actor - has mounted other similar performances, but this year, with the release of What Would Jesus Buy? , a documentary produced by Morgan Spurlock, director and star of Super Size Me , the protest is going nationwide. The film follows the Rev Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they tour the US exhorting Americans to think about the real meaning of Christmas. Chief among a number of confrontations-cum-provocations is the occasion when Rev Billy attempts to exorcise Wal-Mart's headquarters in Arkansas.

Talen is an endearing performer, and his Steve Martin affability could even push WWJB beyond cult status. But what could really make the movie into a "change-a-lujah" moment is that far from denouncing the movie for impiety, or dismissing Rev Billy for mocking the evangelical tradition, a number of influential Christian sources have signalled their approval.

The magazine Christianity Today says the passion of the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir is "contagious and admirable", despite its secularism. Writing in Sojourners Magazine, the distinguished biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, went so far as to link the Rev Billy with the ancient prophets of the bible and "the great prophetic figures of US history who have incessantly called our society back to its core human passions of justice and compassion".

Here's the whole thing.
Missed this somehow, but here's Frederica Mathewes-Green on Rev. Billy & the Church of Stop Shopping.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee, exorcising WalMart headquarters sounds like a pretty good idea.

04 December, 2007 21:23  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home