consumption vs. authenticity (or, which death choice do you desire?)

I was reflecting on the nature of “choice” last night during the Gathering. Sometimes the nature of choice has some pretty dire consequences as seen in the student video of Acts 5 – well worth the 3 minutes to see what you can do at 3am with a Sharpie and some gansta rap! Choice is key to our understanding of what is being asked of us in this life. As consumers, we are told that are ability to choose is the definition of power. French cultural theorist (also philosophical brains behind the Matrix trilogy) Jean Baudrillard put is well in his La Société de consommation: ses mythes, ses structures when he stated that “The whole discourse on consumption, whether learned or lay, is articulated on the mythological sequence of the fable: a man, ‘endowed’ with needs which ‘direct’ him towards objects that ‘give’ him satisfaction,” (CS 35). This mythos ignores the nature of consumer society in which “the manufacturers control behavior, as well as direct and model social attitudes and needs … this is a total dictatorship by the sector of production,” (CS 38). For many Americans and western Europeans, Christianity’s form is a consumptive one – the more choices I have, the more power I have, the more I draw into myself, the closer I am to God. Counter this with the Pauline call to relinquish everything in Galatians 2:20 and the kenotic outpouring of self denoted by Christ in Phillipians 2: 5-11. Phillipians 2:5 calls the faithful to be of the same “mind and attitude” as that of Christ and then proceeds to describe what this attitude is. The sad thing is that most people then read the Carmen Christi of Phillipians 2 as Christ merely emptying himself of the divine attributes but forgets that we are called to be “of the same mind and attitude” which begs the question – what can we kenotic empty or relinquish that is “of the same mind and attitude”? One word: choice. The kenotic outpouring of Christ is a relinquishment of choice – no longer to be swayed by the whims of consumer drives, no longer to weigh other alternatives for possible futures akin to The Last Temptation of Christ (here I am thinking of the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis – title in the Greek The Last Temptation : Ο Τελευταίος Πειρασμός, O Teleftaíos Peirasmós – not the 1988 film directed by Martin Scorsese) where Jesus fully considers an alternative life than the one he is called to. The relinquishment of choice is an abhorrent to many – considered almost “anti-american” and somehow totalitarian in nature. But the call of christological kenosis is even deeper that mere choice – it is living unto death where we exhaust all options and engraph ourselves to the one and only Vine (John 15) come hell or high water. Is this preachy? Perhaps.

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