A colleague had a Brian McLaren quote as part of his electronic signature, and it seemed to point a different way toward generosity growing out of our current economic crisis. McLaren is an author of over 10 influential books on Christianity in our modern context, he is a speaker, and a pastor. Currently he is talking about using the economic recovery as a way to shed our free-spending habits like an addiction. Peter Singer is an Australian philosopher, professor and author who recently published The Life You Can Save, which calls affluent people to increase their effort to end poverty in other countries. In essence these men are talking about the same thing: reducing our consumerism for our own sakes as well as the sake of the whole world.
Here is the quote from Brian McLaren:
For many people, economic recovery means getting back to where we were a few months ago. That means recovering our consumptive, greedy, unrestrained, undisciplined, irresponsible, and ecologically and socially unsustainable way of life. I’d like to suggest another kind of recovery, drawing from the world of addiction. When an addict gets into recovery, he wants to move forward to a new way of life… a wiser way of life that takes into account his experience of addiction. He realizes that his addiction to drugs was a symptom of other deeper issues and diseases in his life … unresolved pain or anger, the need to anesthetize painful emotions, lack of creativity in finding ways to feel happy and alive, unaddressed relational and spiritual deficits, lack of self-awareness, and so on.
Notice how McLaren is pointing to painful things we are trying to salve with our consumerism.
And here is Peter Singer on the same topic:
If anything good comes out of this global financial crisis, it will be a reassessment of our basic values and priorities. We need to recognize that what really matters isn’t buying more and more consumer goods, but family, friends, and knowing that we are doing something worthwhile with our lives. Helping to reduce the appalling consequences of world poverty should be part of that reassessment.
Singer speaks to the joyous things we can work toward as we shed that addiction. They are nice bookends. Here, in a trailer for a film called The Examined Life, Singer talks (after Cornell West) about the ethics of our consumerism in light of the needs of our whole planet.