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Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age Paperback – May 1, 2007
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About the Author
Tyler Wigg Stevenson is a preacher and writer. He graduated from Swarthmore College and received his M.Div. summa cum laude from Yale Divinity School. Tyler served in the chapel at Yale and as Associate Minister at Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church in Hamden, CT, where he was licensed and ordained. He also spent a year in London, England, as Study Assistant to the Rev. Dr. John Stott. Since 2001 he has served on the Board of Directors of the Global Security Institute, an organization he helped establish under the late U.S. Senator Alan Cranston. Tyler currently lives in Nashville with his wife, where he preaches regularly.
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He places much of the blame with cheap grace, easy believe-ism conversion. As a marketing strategy, the merchants of Brand Jesus sell a quick and easy, no-strings-attached conversion experience. There is no rebirth or transformation, other than perhaps new buying habits to be exercised at the local purveyor of Christian paraphernalia.
Much of the book is based on his (sometimes idiosyncratic) reading of Romans 1 and 2. We who live in a superpower have something to learn from Paul’s letter to the superpower of his day, Rome. He is at his best in his concluding remarks from Rom 12:1-2. Simply put, we must stop conforming to the world, which for us means mammon worship in the form of consumerism. Instead we must be transformed: become interdependent within the local body rather than self-serving individualists; be self-denying rather than buying into the unbiblical understanding that my money is mine to do with as I please; be historical and see yourself as part of a much bigger story of the church throughout history; and be courageous in leading the life the savior commands.
Stevenson’s book starts a bit slow, his reading of Romans is sometimes strained, but he gains speed about halfway through and finishes very strong.
Faith communities haven't remained untarnished in this drive to ensure their brand stands out. This has become painfully obvious as the market for books on faith, Christian music and religious kitsch generates enormous annual sales figures. But what does all of this say about the brand Jesus may, or may not, have hoped the church would cultivate?
In `Brand Jesus,' Tyler Wigg-Stevenson takes on the challenging task of illuminating the complex relationship between faith and consumerism. Rather than `turning the tables' of Christian consumerism in the temples of modern commerce, Tyler sets a table for the reader by hosting this difficult conversation of how to live faithful lives in a culture of over-consumption. Gracefully he helps the reader re-evaluate how consumerism malforms our biblical understanding of consumption, sexuality, politics and faith.
Grounding his reflections squarely in the book of Romans, Tyler doesn't simply diagnose the problems related to faith and consumerism, he offers imaginative prescriptions to treat the soul and reorient communities. It's as if Tyler channeled the spirit of Saint Paul the apostle and penned a new epistle, an epistle Paul would likely have published in Adbusters magazine.
But don't be mistaken, unlike much of the current materials unraveling the concerns of consumerism, `Brand Jesus' is far from smug or snarky. It's hope-filled, courageous and offers robust alternative paradigms for social and cultural engagement. It's smart, informed, honest and timely.
Let's ensure that `Brand Jesus' doesn't end up being one of those books that was so insightful that it seemed to be written `too early' to be appreciated for the scope of the urgent concerns it raises. May it inspire us to lament the loss of the scared as we relate to image and consumption; and may it inspire us to urge our faith communities to live more faithfully.
If your interested in the overlap of American economics and the Church, definitely read this book!
The book's chief strength is its thoroughgoing Biblicism. Structured by Romans chapters 1, 2 and 12, the book manages to offer a message drawn from the scriptures without being hijacked by either the right or the left.
Because the offering of a "quick fix" solution to the church's problems would be nothing but pandering to the same sense of consumerism that he laments, Wigg Stevenson does not conclude the book with a "12 step" plan that can restore the evangelical church to its apostolic state. He does, however, cast a vision of a church that, while having to compete in the early 21st century marketplace of meaning, refuses to offer Jesus as a commodity. Instead, the vision cast in this book is one in which confused seekers come to the church seeking a commodity, but are offered not a product but an invitation to Christian discipleship.
Anyone looking to better understand the relationship between evangelicalism and American consumer culture should carefully read and digest this book. Its message could not be more timely.