michael at blogin idiot (his words, not mine) left a link to one of my posts on another blog and that has gotten me some hits. curious i followed the link back to the other blogger and read with interest about a young college student, ben, earning his way through school by working at a christian bookstore. his disillusionment and angst can be found at They Will Know Us By Our T-Shirts.
he's got a great conversation going on over there about what it means to be a christian and a consumer.
a lot of my emerging effects the way i am outside the church. as my belief system restructures itself this area has been one of places where i need to process what it means to consume, how to do that ethically, responsibly and thoughtfully. this is very new to me.
while living in canada i contributed to our family income by working retail. i was never trained for retail, my dyscalculia and cash registers are a horrible mix, but i'm really good at customer service and it kept me from waiting tables.
i was given the honor of working with a brilliant jewish, south african retailer and pharmacist. i spent 6 of our years in canada in his employ. each time i mastered a position he'd invent a new one for me. i learned so much and will always be grateful for his tutelage. one of the biggest lessons i received was the value of a dollar. i'd grumble because his antique scissors were frustrating and he'd smile and say, 'but if we don't have to replace them we can spend the money elsewhere'. he wasn't cheap in the least, just very wise, and man could he celebrate. (sidebar - ooooh - i need to look at jewish culture to investigate my lost gift of celebration...)
recently our financial situation has enforced the spiritual discipline of simplicity on our household. reduce, reuse, recycle has become real for us. i am the queen of 're-use'. if it don't have to purchase it i am freed up to spend our money on other things or be generous. garbage picking and hand-me-down furniture has provided us with a cozy home and now, debt-free living. it takes a large chunk of swallowing pride, but we have been blessed greatly by voicing our need and accepting god's provision wherever he seeks to give it.
simplifying also meant finding things at their LOWEST prices. i am the queen of the cheap book. books are a way that i engage in the world of great thought, and honor myself, but i am really cheap. as i get to know real authors i am struck with the idea that if purchase a used book they make no money off of the sale. renee's book and real live preacher's book i purchased retail, and it just about killed me (but you're both worth it!). btw - that is lesson #2 - NEVER BUY RETAIL! my boss would joke that it was the 11th commandment.
i realized at that point that getting a book cheaper would take money out of their pockets. it's forced me to do some kingdom math. i think kingdom math is a good thing. i don't think that paul's shoes where made by christians (spencer burke's mantra) and so as a christ follower kingdom spending doesn't mean that we only purchase from christians.
tony jones also talked about supporting him by purchasing his book - he is published by emergent/ys - owned by zondervan, owned by harper collins, owned by rupert murdock. who are we kidding when that conservative christian mindset says 'christian retailer' usually means corporate chain (not always, i know). so how as a kingdom being do i spend our funds? how do i do kingdom math responsibly.
liam and i have been through a financial catharsis in these past 5 years. neither of us were raised in homes that had any form of financial responsibility. we're way way down on the remedial scale as far as financial intelligence goes. one of the best things we learned along the way was the truth about giving back to god what is rightfully his financially. the teaching came through a vineyard church we were frequenting after everything went south after our first swing at ministry.
it was a bit 'name it claim it' - and it took a lot of sifting to throw away the parts of that that were false and still keep the truth, but we began at that point to give back to god what was his. the teaching was based on malachi 3, about robbing god and returning the rightful amounts to the storehouse. now again, this can be used to preach a prosperity gospel, i don't believe that it's magic, but i do believe that it does unlock a lot of kingdom math in the area of finances.
i know it has for us. i thought when i started this post it would be my perspective on 'the jesus five and dime' that 'christian book stores' have become, maybe that will be part two?