Jim West wrote a post on this blog today on the Advent Conspiracy (read here). He calls it a “fad”. He says it is “the brainchild of a Pastor who’s miffed that Christmas is so ‘commercial’.” He suggest that the best use of our money is to buy local rather than give money to overseas projects that have not really helped people in parts of the world where there is great need.
Let me respond by saying I agree with Jim that there are many, many fads out there. I am tired of hearing about Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and sometimes even Bono. This whole charity movement seems to be an attempt to sooth our conscience more than it is to help others.
On the other hand, I think he has misrepresented Rick McKinley. I hear Rick preach every Sunday. I know his motives for promoting this movement. It is not merely because Christmas has become over commercialized. This is a problem and we ought to ask ourselves why Christmas of all seasons has been given to mammon. Nevertheless, there is a more serious problem of Christmas being about toys, and toys, and more toys for me, me, me.
As a member of Imago Dei I am still spending some money on Christmas. I am still getting my family some gifts. I will probably spend a little less this year, but I have never been a big spender. The only real difference is my wife and I are trying to be more intentional about our gift giving. We are making things for our loved ones that we will be sending to them. This prevents us from impersonal, obligation gifts that many of us give our loved ones each year rather than something intentional and meaningful.
In addition, we spend a lot of money on Christmas each year. In fact, we in the United States spend 450 Billion (yes, Billion) each year. To provide clean water for the whole world annually would cost us 10 Billion. So what Jim is not taking into consideration is that you do not have to be extremely radical for there to be an impact. You need to simply prioritize a little bit!
Equally, you do not have to give money to charity programs that will not boost the economy (if you so wish). You can find plenty of charities to give money to where those charities will spend money which goes back into our economy. And speaking of doing things like giving to local programs and shopping locally I think Jim ought to visit Portland where this whole Advent Conspiracy “fad” began. The people here already do this religiously.
I ought to add that much of the money spend during Christmas is not money at all. It is credit. It is fake money. It is borrowing from a fantasy world where real money does not exist. It is spending funds we do not have available. We do this to impress people who really probably don’t care if you give that gift that you obviously did because you couldn’t find anything that seemed to fit. Our economy has not thrived because of our debt; our economy has suffered. I am not economist, but I know that fake money is not real money and we run on fake money (and China loves it).
So while I take into account some of Jim’s concerns I think he has spoken to quickly, judged those who are involved by painting broad strokes, and has not given enough credit to the movement.