Tag Archives: consumerism

About some things you just don’t talk – the Swedish sin

Per Gudmundson in today’s leader in Svenska Dagbladet stated it clearly: “About some things you just don’t talk” with as sub title: “the Swedish sin”.

In his column he addresses the Swedish view on money, earning and riches. He quotes a couple of people working within the “entertainment industry” who have made “becoming rich” one of their major goals in life. One of them actually says that he throughout his career never has paid taxes and lived on “black money” (non-taxed). (Hello Skattekontoret where are you?!)

The Swedish taboo!

Anyway, the fact is that talking about money and income is literally a taboo in Sweden, even yesterday as I was meeting with a group of sixteen people (from 9 nations, including 5 Swedes) who are considering to become members of our church we spoke about their right as members to ask any questions about the economy in our church. They have the right to know exactly how much I earn and, for that sake, also about the other employees in the church.

The fact is that I have never ever heard a member ask that question to our board… Why? Because it is a taboo! I believe deeply in accountability and believe therefore also that if we are serious about our responsibility that we need to practice accountability in this area as well. How can members in a church take responsibility without knowing (asking)?

I believe in openness and transparency also in those matters and I believe that we as Christians have an even greater responsibility to live lives in transparency, not only for the sake of our legal and tax system. I believe that we are to fight the spirit of Mammon and consumerism to be able to be a Church which is trust-worthy!

Do I condemn everyone who has something? NO! The fact is that my wife and I own a house ourselves… the question goes much deeper that that. It was Pope John II who said: “It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed toward ‘having’ rather than ‘being,’ and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.”

The problem so well articulated in the article which I mentioned comes down to: It’s never enough!

The problem of consumerism as a lifestyle means that we must keep raising the stakes and the investments. Enough is never enough, and soon we are possessed by our possessions. Shopping is the number one cultural activity in our country.

Accumulation of unnecessary goods has become a habit, even an addiction, as we wring our hands over lack of storage space. What we once considered luxuries we come to regard as necessities, and eventually we become dependent upon the things we acquire. Consumerism as a way of life demands competition, workaholism, and individualism.

What to say more about these things? You know, I came together with my wife as missionaries to this nation and were being financially supported by our friends to be able to do our work here. I remember the day that I, from having worked as a volunteer (no employement), to becoming employed by the church which my wife and I and fifteen others had started. My first salary was an reason of thanksgiving. Why did I thank God? Believe it or not, I thanked Him that from then on I was able to pay taxes and start supporting this society which I had learned to love and appreciate so much also financially! (To avoid any misunderstandings; I was NOT impressed by our social welfare system, but by you, the Swedish citizens! – and therefore I wanted to be part by paying taxes).

Maybe this is another approach to the matter… what do YOU think? How do you look at life, lifestyle, money and spending?

John

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Outsourcing – Wombs for rent, globalization gone mad?

Although I have read articles about it since the beginning of 2000, I cannot refrain from thinking that it is now taking off like never before. In a time when many decide for abortions to get rid of unwanted babies, others go to extremes to secure themselves of children, yet, outside their own wombs! The latest fad is on its way and takes the concept of outsourcing beyond its boundaries:

Busy career women are hiring wombs of other mothers to carry their babies rather than take time off work. Businesswomen, models, athletes and actresses in the US are choosing for ‘social surrogacy’ to help cope with career pressure.

Other women are applying to clinics to rent wombs to avoid painful childbirth and stretch marks. One 35 – year old Californian mother of three sons hired a woman to carry her fourth child to ensure she had a daughter and to protect her career prospects.

· Too busy with your career; rent a womb!

· Too expensive to deal with national systems; rent a womb in India!

· Afraid of loosing your figure or of the nasty birthmarks; rent a womb, be a mum, and keep your shape all at the same time!

Newsweek, Marie Claire, The Wall Street Journal and lately even Oprah have addressed this issue. Is this yet another example of third-world exploitation? Is it globalization gone mad? A movement is set into system where underprivileged and/or underpaid women are being used for the ultimate outsourcing, Although most articles deal with women in India (great healthcare available with the English language as great asset), another group which is targeted is found among the women married to American (low-paid) military man.

The interest to seek such social surrogacy is most evident in India and other poor countries, since their systems avoid the legal red tape and the potential legal aspects and consequences of relationships, and agreements gone sour.

What is there more to say about it? This is for me yet another side of the excesses of career thinking, consumerism, and a self centered, self-serving society which has gone mad.

Well, probably you have your own conclusions… What do you think of this?

John

Downshifting – making time more valuable, life less stressed and money less needed… and the Kingdom more visible!

Downshifting means according to the Farlex free dictionary (on line)

1. A change from a financially rewarding but stressful career to a less well paid but more fulfilling one, or,

2. To reduce in speed, rate, or intensity

3. To simplify or reduce one’s commitments in (one’s life).

The whole idea of downshifting is to work on the quality of life by doing more with less, by consciously choosing to reduce intensity of life, earning, spending and accumulating things. It is reaction against consumerism which tells us to accumulate things, experiences, money and property.

In a couple blogs I have earlier written about consumerism and its consequences… Downshifting is about making other priorities; naturally it has to do with the whole area of consumerism, but also about other priorities.

What would happen if the members in the churches would downshift their involvement in the workplace and commit themselves a few more hours a week in ministry to people around them (and other ministry opportunities and needs)?

Personally I know of a few people who have downshifted in their involvement in their workplace and instead have committed themselves to ministry. Can you imagine the tremendous impact it would make if many of the members in our churches would do so?

An incredible flood of people with tremendous gifts and abilities would suddenly become available for the ministry of God in our nations and cities. Instead of trying to find some space in their agenda’s to plan in “church” and “church-activities”, people will find themselves with more time at hand which means; less stress, healthier balance, time for family, friends and ministry! The quality of life might change completely and… the peace and presence of God might become more visible because of a life in balance.

Just a thought… who takes it to heart?

John