FEEDBACK – View from the pew: The Church in a Consumerist Society



If we, as individuals and as a society, are to base our lives on the Gospel, then instead of blaming victims and destroying “unproductive trees”, we should be repenting, i.e. having a changed mind and a new, more merciful, way of seeing.


How does the global economy impact on you and the people you know?


It was clear from the answers that we’re all part of the global economy – though because its effects are so pervasive it’s hard to spot precisely the effects. By and large we benefit from it (in our society).


But the culture of consumerism and drive for profits has a negative impact on many in society. “There is an obsession with continual growth, and a pressure to own more, to look a certain way.”                                                 


Are there choices I could make to resist its negative effects?

The short, unanimous answer, is ‘yes’. Being more aware when we go shopping was top of the list:


Do we need to spend as much? There is no doubt that advertising and social media, together with the ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ all create pressures. The feeling was that we live in a culture where what you own is closely linked to who you are.


Can we shop better?


A lifestyle that excludes people


How conscious am I of those who produce the goods I consume?


All of the responses were : ‘aware, but….’ The comment, “On a scale of 1to 10: in terms of knowledge 3; in terms of action, 1’ was representative.


How does this awareness affect the choices I make?


Clearly, not enough is the honest answer as expressed here


“I buy Fair Trade products when possible, but being aware doesn’t disturb me enough to make deeper lifestyle choices. So ‘not much’ is the honest answer.”


though making ethical choices is possible; we can ‘shop better’


 Fair Trade is the obvious, direct way of making a difference. Being aware of the people involved in the chain of what you buy to eat or wear is something we need to take more responsibility for, and to use our voice to ask stores about their ethics with regard to sourcing material and treatment of workers.


Banking, energy supply (using green energy) and ethical investments are also areas where we can act responsibly.


It was noted in some responses that not everyone in our society struggles with these issues:


“I am aware if it costs noticeably more to allow choices to be affected. Many of my family use the ‘Well I’ve got a family to feed’ / we can’t afford to be ethical’ argument.”



Effects of ‘unbridled consumerism’


Q What part does money play in my life and in my decisions?


Generally, money isn’t too much of a problem (in the sense of appreciating how blessed we are) amongst those who responded.


though it does need to  be managed


“We have to somehow anticipate a long life and control any savings we have to cover the many emergencies that arise”


…money isn’t a motivating factor

“I don’t have to have the best of everything and am content with having the basic essentials plus able to afford an annual holiday.”



Q How carefully do I think about what I choose to consume?


Once again, the answer is ‘not enough’ – the spirit is willing, but the wallet is weak!


There is a recognition that as individuals we can’t do everything, (as Justice and Peace group say and campaign for, legislation is also needed in many cases), the responses show that many people of faith don’t agree with the ‘If I don’t know these people, it’s nothing to do with me!’ line of thinking which seems to be common.


We all like the odd indulgence, and there’s nothing to beat ourselves up about that, but we are also aware that we don’t live up to the ideals we aspire to: being wasteful and liking


luxuries certainly affect the gap between belief and practice. Respondents admitted to being rather ‘stop-start’, but were not giving up!


“I am thinking about it increasingly – hopefully I’ll soon think about it enough to make serious and responsible changes.”


A crisis in human relationships?


  1. How strong are the relationships in my life?

Family and friends figure large in people’s answers, with friendships standing the test of time and family being hugely significant. Once again, people admit to this being another area where we aren’t perfect, which is where the church as a community might be able to help:


2.  What sort of pastoral activity in my parish is strengthening family and community life?


People were able to point to a variety of activities in a range of areas. As one person put it, ‘there are many ‘flocks’ active in our parish’. Practical examples of the work making significant and positive contributions locally included SVP, food collections and, further afield, CAFOD.


There is also plenty going on to support spiritual life – prayer groups. Scripture group, supporting parents to help with preparation for Sacraments.