God Made Me Buy It: The Virtue of Consumption
“We are just statistics, born to consume resources.” — Horace
Here’s one for the consumer file as we all head off to work on Monday morning in our effort to buy and be able to afford more stuff… Have you noticed a lot of things being marketed as “Christian” in the last few years? Case in point: God wants you to buy his new perfume.
The world’s first spiritual perfume — VirtueÂ® — premiered in April and according to the press release is, “An inspired Biblical formula, the perfume is designed to be a reminder of God, Christ, spiritual self and soul.”
“Virtue’s subtle blend includes top notes of apricot (the real ‘forbidden fruit’), pomegranate and fig that transition to a gentle heart of iris, warming to a golden base of rich, exotic woods of frankincense, myrrh, aloe, and spikenard. Several ingredients cost up to $4,000 per kilogram, making Virtue a truly precious mixture of oils.”
Joe Laycock penned his view on this news in an article called Buying Virtue in Sightings from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He writes, “A product like Virtue reveals much about the changing face of lived religion in America. There was a time when mainstream American Protestantism would have been highly suspicious of associating Christianity with a scent. Fragrances, images, and other sensory experiences were once considered to be the hallmarks of Catholic idolatry.”
“But in 2004 the ‘Christian retail market’ ” selling Christian versions of everything from golf-balls to gangsta rap ” hit $4.3 billion in sales. The suggestion of idolatry has been largely circumvented by marketing these products as tools for evangelism. For example, creators of Virtuous Woman, a rival fragrance to Virtue, imagine that their perfume caters ‘to the needs of women who are interested in incorporating a passion for sharing their faith with a beauty product that makes them feel and smell really good.'”
These marketers are brilliant! Almost as good as the Diamond Right Hand Ring people.
Stephanie Taylor in The Washington Times interviewed Donna Hughes, a religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. She said, “I really shy away from things that are marketed as quote-unquote ‘Christian’ because I think that often means ‘safe for Christians’ and that it’s also a marketing tool.” Hello! Thanks for that insight!
Of course along with the bad Christian marketers, there are good Christian stewards. But consumerism is consumerism… no matter what virtue or non-virtue is pushing you to buy something. Milton Friedman once said, “What kind of society isn’t structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system.”
In Laycock’s article, he concludes, “If we are disturbed by the idea of corporations having this sort of influence over religious organizations, we should remember that capitalism appeals to what is already in the religious consciousness of the consumer ” in this case, a penchant for pick-and-choose spirituality that mimics the market of which it is ever more thoroughly a part.”
Love to hear your thoughts on this topic… comment freely below.