Bill Talen, aka "Reverend Billy," offers one answer in What Would Jesus Buy? Produced in 2007 by Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me fame, this documentary film tackles the commercialization of Christmas but has a larger focus on the general excesses of consumerism, too. Talen, a genuinely concerned consumer, is also a comedic performance artist who resembles a younger Jerry Lee Lewis. He travels the nation as a preacher from the Church of Stop Shopping. The Reverend warns of the coming Shopocalypse: "the end of mankind from consumerism, overconsumption and the fires of eternal debt." He exorcises demons at the corporate headquarters of that well-known small business crusher, Wal-Mart. He and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir put on a rousing good show everywhere from small churches to the Mall of America (surely a place of worship for shoppers), but the message is legitimate: buy less and give more; buy locally; reduce, reuse, recycle. And buy with awareness. Who made the product? Where? At what cost to the environment? Under what labor conditions?
All of these issues are important, even urgent, but sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the seriousness of our concerns and lose the joy of the season and the fun of giving. Sometimes the message has a greater impact when the messenger makes us think and laugh, as Reverend Billy does.
If you live near Greenfield, Massachusetts, you can see the show at the Christmas Revival on December 19th. You can see the Reverend Billy's recent interview on CNN here.
Does the Reverend speak to you?