411/444 Healing from Infidelity: Sabbath and the Gospel of Consumption
From Wayne Muller--
Thus, intentionally or not, the free marketplace canonized grasping, consumption, and desire as the essential human impulses that would drive the machine of civilization. When people spend money on things they do not need, this is good for the economy. If we are encouraged to fulfill all our desires without regulation or limitation, then the economy will benefit. All boats will rise with the tide, and everyone will get more and more of what they want. Although this new gospel of consumption and acquisition met with some understandable hesitation and disbelief in the 1930's (when we tasted the bitter fruit of a free market gone awry), when a generation of young people came home from war, we were ready to accept the new gospel. We repented, we believed, and it blessed us with its bounteous reward.
Americans now consume twice as many goods and services, per person, than we did in 1945. We buy twice as many clothes and appliances, cars, books, magazines, and telephones (not to mention our computers, televisions, home entertainment centers, and cell phones). We buy houses almost three times larger than the families who moved into the suburbs in the mid-1940's, and we fill them with twice as many home furnishings. We work more hours, we buy more things, and the economy prospers.
...To want more, to grasp and desire and need ever-increasing amounts of goods and services, is neither a virtue nor a road to happiness, as our economic cheerleaders would have us believe. It is simply an insidious quality of the mind to desire what it does not have. Nevertheless, this has become our Gospel, our vision of Eden. And just as Eve was forbidden to taste the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, we are forbidden one thing: We must never, ever taste the fruit of the Tree of Happiness.
Happiness is the single commodity not produced by a free-market economy. Worse than that, when we are happy, we don't feel the need to buy anything. The Sabbath, a day of delight, a day to be at peace with all we have, is a radical, dangerous prescription. Because happy people will grind the wheels of progress to a terrible halt; a bloodless revolution, without a single shot being fired.