Sunday, November 17, 2013

Brueggemann on Rev. Billy's prophetic guerilla theatre against Shopocalypse

Brueggemann: "What Would Jesus Buy?"  excerpt:
That day Starbucks was busy but quiet. People were relaxed and talking, sipping $6 venti lattes. Then there was a phone conversation, readily heard by the sippers, about being in the wrong Starbucks and missing each other. There was another cell phone call, this one raising the question of buying all the “extras” sold by Starbucks. Soon two more calls occurred over the same issue—then a dozen calls, enough to disrupt the entitled relaxation. Finally there was a disturbing hubbub and the phone-callers shrieked with joy and celebratively removed themselves from the shop, to the great relief of management.

It was a prophetic disruption by the Church of Stop Shopping, a fairly typical enactment of “guerrilla theater” by the folks around Rev. Billy, a dramatic performer of prophetic faith.

Reverend Billy, also known as Bill Talen, has gotten the strange idea that the Big Corporations, notably Disney, Starbucks, Nike, and Wal-Mart—and their shameless commitment to profit at the expense of human infrastructure—constitute a destructive force in our society. He has, moreover, reached the critical judgment that such a negative ideological force in our society must be resisted, and can best be resisted from a self-aware theological perspective that operates with parody and irony. The purpose of such parody and irony is to expose what seems like an economic operation as an ideological force of totalizing scope in our society. This force seeks to situate U.S. consumers in an uncritical way in the “life world” of consumer capitalism.

The specific discipline that is expected and required by this corporate “life world” is endless shopping without reflecting on the needs of or obligations to the community that might curb patronage at such shops. That is, Rev. Billy takes these organizations (and many others like them) as agents of consumerism that has become a “consuming” ideology in our society. In the end that consuming ideology distorts not only social resources but eventually neighborhoods, practices of neighborliness, and social vision as well.

Thus the Church of Stop Shopping, Rev. Billy’s congregation, dispatches its members in protest against the Church of Shopping and engages in deliberate, sustained resistance to shopping as a way of participating in an alternative covenantal life.

AFTER HEARING HIS disc of preaching and music and reading his two books—What Should I Do If Rev. Billy Is in My Store? (The New Press, 2003) and What Would Jesus Buy? Fabulous Prayers in the Face of the Shopocalypse(Public Affairs, 2006)—I have no doubt that Rev. Billy is a faithful prophetic figure who stands in direct continuity with ancient prophets in Israel and in continuity with the great prophetic figures of U.S. history who have incessantly called our society back to its core human passions of justice and compassion...
It is the power of parody to call attention to the unstated but powerful intentions that are mostly kept hidden in advertising and public presentation. The parody of the prophetic regularly slides over into irony, in which things are renamed and re-identified so that their truth cannot go unnoticed. 
,,,,Amos Wilder, the wise New Testament scholar of the last generation, observed that the parables of Jesus are a form of “guerilla theater,” action against settled conviction and an invitation to listeners to come “on stage” into the action. Before Jesus, this same guerilla theater was the enterprise of the ancient prophets. That theater continues with Rev. Billy. We are surely apt candidates for the Church of Stop Shopping. With enough new recruits for the action, perhaps we need not be subjected to the Shopocalypse.  link , What Would Jesus Buy?


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