March 17, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy?

whatwouldjesusbuyWhile visiting Austin Texas, for our bi-annual Spring Break, our friend Karen took us to a screening at the South By Southwest Film Festival in the Paramount Theater. What Would Jesus Buy is a startling, sobering wake-up call on runaway consumerism in America, What Would Jesus Buy follows The Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they cross America in the weeks before Christmas, staging rallies in Wal-Marts, Starbucks, Victoria's Secrets, and The Mall of America, all in the name of Stop Shopping. His sermon may seem pretty simple at first -- Celebrate Christmas with love and goodwill instead of material possessions -- but the Reverend Billy testifies before crowds of shoppers as if they are possessed by the Devil himself. Possibly a parody of the iconic Pentecostal tent preacher, no one can ignore Billy in his white suit, shouting into a giant megaphone, sweating through his bleach blond Aqua-Net helmet hair. While following the Rev. Billy & Co, the film fairly portrays The American Consumer riding straight to hell on a battery-powered Baby-sized Escalade, drunkenly gorging itself on material excess, enabled by easy credit and supplied by the slave labor in the Third World. What kind of America are we living in where parents believe it's a virtue to deny nothing to your children? What kind of reality are we preparing our children for, if the Barbie Pleasure Palace is built on a foundation of eternal debt? Giving a five-year-old child twenty presents for Christmas might make the parent feel temporarily better about their shaky parenting, but the child would be happiest with one simple toy and a giant hug on Christmas.

This was my first-ever film festival screening, so it felt kind of surreal to be watching a movie when the subject of the film (The Rev. Billy) shook my hand on my way into the theater, and sat in the theater with us.