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Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture [Paperback]

by Vincent J. Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 18, 2005 0826417493 978-0826417497
Contemporary theology, argues Miller, is silent on what is unquestionably one of the most important cultural issues it faces: consumerism or "consumer culture." While there is no shortage of expressions of concern about the corrosive effects of consumerism from the standpoint of economic justice or environmental ethics, there is a surprising paucity of theoretically sophisticated works on the topic, for consumerism, argues Miller, is not just about behavioral "excesses"; rather, it is a pervasive worldview that affects our construction as persons-what motivates us, how we relate to others, to culture, and to religion. Consuming Religion surveys almost a century of scholarly literature on consumerism and the commodification of culture and charts the ways in which religious belief and practice have been transformed by the dominant consumer culture of the West. It demonstrates the significance of this seismic cultural shift for theological method, doctrine, belief, community, and theological anthropology. Like more popular texts, the book takes a critical stand against the deleterious effects of consumerism. However, its analytical complexity provides the basis for developing more sophisticated tactics for addressing these problems.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Miller’s book is, at this time, the best available analysis of the impact of consumer culture on Christian faith and practice. His skillful familiarity with the tools of cultural studies, and their application to the study of religion in a consumer age, makes this essay one of the best examples of inter-disciplinary methodology in the theological field.” —Catholic Books Review (Organ Australia)

“Miller’s work…is clearly written for both the theologian and the cultural critic interested in the shape of religious life in contemporary society.”—Choice (CHOICE)

“[A] thorough investigation of the way religious beliefs and practices in contemporary society are dependent upon the socioeconomic factors that structure our daily lives.”—Horizons

“Miller offers a critical analysis of consumer culture, not in order to condemn it as spiritually vacuous, but to discern possibilities for spiritual transformation….By affirming the potential of religious traditions to subvert the politics of the status quo and hold open a transformative option in contemporary culture, Miller’s Consuming Religion is not only provocative but hopeful.”—Christian Century (The Christian Century)

“Even though I am not a person of faith, I read Miller’s book with a sense of relief. He presents a clear and direct critique of what is wrong with consumer culture, from a humane and consistent point of view….Anyone interested in how theology can be used to address problems of sustainability, inequality, or the extremes of wealth and over-consumption in our society should read this book."—Richard Wilk, professor, Gender Studies and Anthropology, Indiana University (Richard Wilk)

“This creative, demanding, learned, and almost inordinately balanced book is required reading. It is a pleasure to read such an outstanding introduction to who Christians have already becomes, and to how theology can assist in the postmodern cure of souls.” –Theological Studies, 66.1, 3/05 (Theological Studies)

“He successfully lays down a general framework that will be useful in stimulating and guiding the thought of future scholars and religious observers. The first half of Consuming Religion seems especially suited for teaching on both the graduate and advanced undergraduate levels, since it provides a succinct but sensitive and wide-ranging discussion of various critical theories regarding consumer culture and the fate of religion in the midst of that culture. He is able to move from a compressed discussion of Marx’s perception of culture to the work of theorists such as Henri Lefebvre, Guy Debord, and Jean Baudrillard, all in way testifying not only to his mastery of much important work in cultural theory, but also to a considerable synthesizing and didactic skill as a writer.” –Journal of the NABPR

"Vincent Miller's book takes our understandingto a new level...This is not only an extremely critical (yet not cynical)analysis, but it is a wonderful read. It will be of interest to scholars in religious studies, sociology,cultural studies, as well as to theologians." —Critical Sociology (Critical Sociology)



"In his most remarkable book, Consuming Religion, The North-American theologian Vincent Miller addresses the effects of the commodification of society and the habits of consumer culture on religion in contemporary society. Very convincingly Miller argues that for Christians and their churches, consumer culture is not something out there, but qualifies from the very start their individual and communal identities. As far as Europe is concerned, it would seem that, because of the many other challenges European theology faces today (such as the resurgence of religion in society and new religious movements, the multicultural society and religious pluralism, etc.), a theological engagement of consumer culture hardly appears on its agenda. However, the provocation of consumer culture should not be lost sight of. It is indeed worthwhile to inquire whether Miller's thoughts offer an adequate analysis of the situation of religion and Christianity in Europe, and, consequently, whether the remedy he proposes, will be effective in bringing Christian faith into practice in our European societies, cultures and Christian faith are addressed from a variety of perspectives, in dialogue with Miller's groundbreaking analysis. Apart from Miller, introducing his positions to a European audience, seven European theologians and philosophers take part in this dialogue: Edmund Arens (Luzern), Lieven Boeve (Leuven), Eamonn Conway (Limerick), Paul Cortois (Leuven), Yves De Maeseneer (leuven), Walter Lesch (Louvain-la-Neuve), and Peter Scott (Manchester)."

(Bulletin ET fur Theologie in Europa 2007)

"Consuming Religion offers a serious look at our culture and provides conceptual resources for evaluating what adds to and what weakens the practice of religion." —Rich Landers, Anglican Theological Review
(Rich Landers)

"Well researched, clear thesis, logical argument, ordered presentation, good analysis, internally consistent and conclusions with integrity and a touch of reality. If I sound impressed it's because I am." Insights


“Even though I am not a person of faith, I read Miller’s book with a sense of relief. He presents a clear and direct critique of what is wrong with consumer culture, from a humane and consistent point of view….Anyone interested in how theology can be used to address problems of sustainability, inequality, or the extremes of wealth and over-consumption in our society should read this book."—Richard Wilk, professor, Gender Studies and Anthropology, Indiana University (Sanford Lakoff)

“Vincent Miller’s book takes our understandingto a new level…This is not only an extremely critical (yet not cynical)analysis, but it is a wonderful read. It will be of interest to scholars in religious studies, sociology,cultural studies, as well as to theologians.” –Critical Sociology (Sanford Lakoff)

Calvin Theological Journal, April 2006



"In his most remarkable book, Consuming Religion, The North-American theologian Vincent Miller addresses the effects of the commodification of society and the habits of consumer culture on religion in contemporary society. Very convincingly Miller argues that for Christians and their churches, consumer culture is not something out there, but qualifies from the very start their individual and communal identities. As far as Europe is concerned, it would seem that, because of the many other challenges European theology faces today (such as the resurgence of religion in society and new religious movements, the multicultural society and religious pluralism, etc.), a theological engagement of consumer culture hardly appears on its agenda. However, the provocation of consumer culture should not be lost sight of. It is indeed worthwhile to inquire whether Miller’s thoughts offer an adequate analysis of the situation of religion and Christianity in Europe, and, consequently, whether the remedy he proposes, will be effective in bringing Christian faith into practice in our European societies, cultures and Christian faith are addressed from a variety of perspectives, in dialogue with Miller’s groundbreaking analysis. Apart from Miller, introducing his positions to a European audience, seven European theologians and philosophers take part in this dialogue: Edmund Arens (Luzern), Lieven Boeve (Leuven), Eamonn Conway (Limerick), Paul Cortois (Leuven), Yves De Maeseneer (leuven), Walter Lesch (Louvain-la-Neuve), and Peter Scott (Manchester)."

(Sanford Lakoff)

Consuming Religion offers a serious look at our culture and provides conceptual resources for evaluating what adds to and what weakens the practice of religion.” —Rich Landers, Anglican Theological Review
(Sanford Lakoff)

About the Author

Vincent J. Miller is Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton, USA. His work has appeared in Horizons, U.S. Catholic Historian, and Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium. In 1996 he received the Outstanding Graduate Student Essay Award of the College Theology Society.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (August 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826417493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826417497
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading July 2, 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is a superb book. Whether you are a person of Christian faith, or faith of another tradition, or simply someone interested in religion, this book will help you to think more deeply about spirituality and the life of the faith community in the throes of our culture of commodification. Miller employs critical theory, cultural analysis, anthropology, and sociology to awaken us to the manner in which consumer culture socializes us into habits of interpretation and use that render religion itself one more consumer object to be desired, acquired, and disposed of. Readers not schooled in thinkers like Foucault, DeBord, and de Certeau may find some of the theoretical sections of the book difficult, but Miller's command of critical theory is matched by his ability to vividly describe existence in consumer society, and this brings the theoretical portions of the book to life. Readers will find themselves standing with Miller in a supermarket aisle contemplating a horizon of glossy packaging, wading through a child's room overpopulated with stuffed animals, watching Pope John Paul II become a media celebrity on television, and wondering what impact Disney is having on our children. Miller identifies dynamics of our culture that are profound and pervasive-but seldom analyzed in the religious and theological communities. He has done a great service by bringing the dynamics of commodification to our attention, and, in the final chapter, he suggests a variety of ways in which faith communities can counter its pervasive influence. His intention is constructive, and his contribution essential to the living of an authentic faith in our times.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Burn through the chaff to find the grain. April 27, 2008
Format:Paperback
Consuming Religion is a difficult read, not because its theses and ideas are too difficult, but because Vincent Miller beleaguers his readers with yawning verbosity. His editors should have forced him to be more concise. Of course, this is not to make an ad hominem critique of his book. His assessment of consumerism is comprehensive and coherent, even if largely critical and unnecessarily wordy. If he had been able to pare down the ramblings and get to the gold quicker I would have given him at least 4 stars.

His main thesis is that the general consumer culture impacts Christian beliefs, narratives, symbols and practices, and that this can be negative, but also that it holds some potential for an authentic representation and communication of Christ. The issue that concerns Miller most is that contemporary spiritual seekers no longer come prepared when they begin building their spiritual values and beliefs. They do not start out with a context of Christendom (pre-established resources, models and traditions connected with past Christian movements), but rather begin to assemble their beliefs and practices with what is on-hand in the cultural marketplace.

Some of this is healthy and positive for the church. Christendom, as it was initiated by Constantine, has certainly been responsible for some reprehensible garbage that people (and the church) have confused with Christ himself over the years. But that's a somewhat different issue. For Miller, he recommends not that Christians necessarily seek to destroy misuse of Christian traditions, symbols and practices (good luck if that's what you're after), but rather that the church needs to teach, model and support the proper use and significance of these entities.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wordy yes, but worth it. January 25, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mr. Miller provides a very nice analysis of how our current culture has corrupted Christianity. Yeah, consumerism and Christianity are supposed to be opposite sides of a coin, but just flip through cable tv channels or attend a baptist service that stresses the "virtues" of tithing and you'll see the effect.

This book is worth the effort.
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