Christians buying into the consumerist culture

Christians are little different to other Australians in viewing the good life to be more about wealth accumulation, experience, prestige and success than making a positive impact on their local community or the world at large.

A report exploring consumerism in Australia and its implications for society reveals less than a quarter of Christians reported that having an impact on their communities (23%) or the world (17%) was part of what it meant to live “the good life”.

Surprisingly, they were far more likely to cite financial independence (51% compared with 57% for other Australians), owning a home (42%, 45%), being well regarded (32%, 26%) and travelling the world (31%, 35%) as defining factors.

McCrindle surveyed 1000 Australians and 235 churchgoers earlier this year on behalf of Consumed, a non-affiliated Christian organisation dedicated to challenging Christian consumerism.

“Many Christians are at risk of their vision of the good life being unwittingly shaped more by consumerism than by Jesus”, Consumed campaign director Gerson Nimbalker said.

“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 the accumulation of stuff and experiences.”

While churchgoers were more likely than other Australians to believe they had more than they needed (81%, 71%), about one third (35%) of both groups agreed it was better to be in this situation.

Encouragingly, more Christians on average believe it is extremely important or very important to invest ethically (57%, 45%) and to be generous to those around them (61%, 49%) or pay fair wages (63%, 57%).

However, Christians struggle to translate those beliefs into action, with just 11% deciding not to purchase an item they believe was made with unfair wages, compared with 9% of general respondents.

More encouraging is the fact that 58% of Christians believe living out their faith contributed to leading a good life.

Four types of consumers were identified by the survey:

  • Buzzed Buyers (45%) – people who feel the need to buy new things, and feel good when they do.
  • Considered Consumers (37%) – people who don’t often feel the need to buy new things, but feel good when they do.
  • Hesitant Spenders (15%) – people who don’t often feel the need to buy new things, and don’t feel good when they do.
  • Guilty Indulger (3%) – people who often feel the need to buy new things, but don’t feel good when they do.

Stress levels are higher across all areas of life for church-going Buzzed Buyers, compared with their Considered Consumer counterparts.

Buzzed Buyers feel more stressed about family (23% compared to 6% for Considered Consumers), finances (26%, 14%), work (25%, 13%), health (22%, 9%) and friendships (16%, 4%).

Christian Buzzed Buyers are more likely to experience loneliness (22%, 10%), sadness (22%, 7%) and stress (22%, 7%) at least daily.

Compared with Buzzed Buyers, Considered Consumers were more likely to experience happiness (70%, 55%), hope (69%, 50%) and contentment (61%, 47%) at least once a day.

In the spiritual realm, Buzzed Buyers were less satisfied with their prayer life than Considered Consumers (50%, 58%) and loving those around them (60%, 77%).

“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.”

You can download the report at www.consumed.org.au.

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