Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Shopping and True Christianity

Dear Reader,

As the second eldest child, I had the opportunity to experience certain economical conditions that my younger siblings were not able to partake of, and by that I mean that when I was growing up we were dirt poor while Padre was attempting to climb up the professional ladder. So Madre was only able to procure clothing for HermanaMayor, and I got my first new clothes at twelve. By that time, I had already established certain personality traits, and not only was I not used to shopping, I found it hard to accept, on multiple levels. I still do.

This means that this whole thing that Padre calls "recreational shopping" is completely lost on me, and that I am not fun to have around on Madre's shopping extravaganzas. To be perfectly honest, I don't see why it's so fun. You buy stuff when you need it because you need it, right? Isn't anything more than that, except for a very few well-planned and well-earned indulgences, economically unsound? And isn't the fact that America at large spending more than they earn and one paycheck away from bankruptcy an issue? (We are, by the way.)

I just hate shopping for myself. I hate it. Ten minutes of looking for a new shirt to buy can put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. I try really hard to be good, but I'm afraid that soon I've got a black cloud over my head and I'm grumbling things about the flaws of contemporary society. I even hate trying things on because I don't like being scantily clad in strange places, no matter how private they might be.* It's actually one of the things that PetiteSouer and I have in common, which makes Madre the benevolent martyr, because she is always willing to take her starving daughters out to get essentials and ends up with HermanaMayor and two grumbling trolls.

The only thing I can really buy are DVDs and CDs, which also happen to be my greatest weaknesses. I think that I have somewhere around forty musical soundtracks, and I'm hoping for more for Christmas (it's the easiest and best thing to buy for me as long as you know what I don't have). I'm also collecting Star Trek DVDs, and I'll get them all eventually. Other than that, I have a really hard time, even with food. I just feel so unnecessarily extravagant, and I find extravagance repulsive.

Now, buying for others isn't what I'm talking about, here. I'm talking about the keeping up with the Joneses, i.e. using money as a measuring stick for social status and prizing status above all else. I find it hard to find fault in a person who is truly trying to spend his or her money for the benefit of others. Unfortunately, this doesn't always mean gifts, because how often do people these days buy someone a gift just to show them up or impress them?

Have you ever heard of the term affluenza, Gentle Reader? It refers to the social plague that promotes the love of getting and the love of things. Back in ancient Israel, they used to call that idolatry. And it's just so stupid! For how long will the world refuse the pursuit of equality? Will we need fire and brimstone** before we understand how we are ruining ourselves? In a perfect, Christian world, excess money is spent on the needy instead of the greedy, but that just doesn't sell as well, I guess. It takes great maturity before benevolence can trump selfishness, and maturity on a social and national level, at least in these times and places, seems like nothing more than a daydream.

It just makes me sick that there are so many people out there who have everything and still suffer from emptiness and want, while the less fortunate are also suffering from want, but the latter is the kind that kills in the dead of the night and destroys lives and families. The former doesn't do more than promote whining and even more selfishness.

The things that seems very clear to me is that something must be done, and affluenza must be cured for good. People need to focus on their families and getting rid of debt before they find themselves in the same position as the poor that they had previously neglected. If families are okay financially, with an emergency fund, they should then focus their attention on those who are suffering., and I really don't see why that has to mean the end of shopping, just the end of shopping as we know it. If people love to shop and they want to be Christ-like in the time we set aside to celebrate His birth, why not spend the same exact time and money that would have been spent on useless clutter and turn it into charity***?

I guess that the Christmas season, in its true spirit, teaches us that we need to change. And we do change, whether we want to or not. We can't really stand still, but we can choose our direction. I'm very grateful for and humbled by my background in this instance, because I feel that it allows me to see things that I would probably be unable to see otherwise. No one is as good as they should be, and Heaven knows that even I have too many faults to number, but Christ has given us the opportunity to repent (i.e. change in the right direction), and he has asked us to worry about others and avoid seeking after worldly things. At this time of year, I can see no greater tribute than living as He would have us live.

Regards, best wishes, and pure love,

-Cecily Jane

P.S. I finished the first draft of my novel on time! I had to write over 13,000 words on that last day, but I did it. Oh, yeah.

*Hence my title as Family Prude.

**As one of my religion professors is eager to remind me, one of the great sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, besides the one for which they were most infamous, was a neglect of the poor (see Ezekiel 16: 49).

**I.e. not the word as we use it, but as it is used by Christ and His disciples.

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