Discussion questions for ch 5

CONNECT: How do you feel?

1.  Sallie McFague writes, “That happiness is to be attained through limitless material acquisition is denied by every religion and philosophy known to humankind, but is preached incessantly by every American television.” (see p. 120)   Have you ever thought of TV ads as ‘preaching?


2.  McFague says, “We have become consumers — not citizens, or children of God, or lovers of the world, but consumers.(p. 96).   If consumerism is our religion, what are we really ‘worshiping’?  What are our ‘spiritual practices’?   What’s your favorite ‘holy day’?   Valentine hearts, roses and candy?  Easter lilies, bunnies and spring fashions?  Fourth-of-July flags, fireworks and patriotic shirts?  Halloween ghosts and costumes galore?  Thanksgiving turkey, football and midnight shopping?  Or….



CONTENT: What do you think?

1.  McFague presents ecological economics as an alternative vision of the good life. How does ecological economics view individuals? communities? the natural and physical worlds?  the planet as a whole?  


2.  This chapter views human beings as individuals-in-community, and as interrelated members of the same planetary household. McFague argues that this view takes the perspective of postmodern science: we are part of an earth-wide community of vulnerable and dependent others-together-in-need. What other insights coming from contemporary disciplines might modify our understanding of human beings and the role of humans in the ecological system?

3.  McFague calls frugality “a subversive virtue.”  (See p 116)  Simplicity and frugality have been upheld as virtues by many Christian communities through the centuries.  In our own time, the Amish and Mennonites practice these virtues, among others.  Do you think it is sinful for Christians to refuse to practice frugality?


COMMITMENT: What can you do?

1.   McFague defines ‘over-consumption’ as  “excessive consumption of luxuries by some – while others (and the planet) deteriorate for want of basics.” Is there ‘over-consumption’ in your own life?  What specific things could you do without, to ensure that everyone has enough?


2.  McFague says that the primary goal of our current economic system is to satisfy the desires of individuals. She suggests this economic worldview could be modified by adopting two new goals: sustainability (facing the limits of the planet’s resources) and distributive justice (ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources).  How do we promote these goals?  How do we achieve these goals?


3.  McFague writes, “Economics is a discipline, a field of study to help people attain their goals; it is not, or should not be, the ideology that sets those goals.” (see p. 95)  To promote the goals of sustainability and distributive justice, what is the role of economists? politicians? theologians? individual Christians? Christian communities?

2 thoughts on “Discussion questions for ch 5

  1. http://billmoyers.com/series/moyers-and-company/Money and things are so clearly not the path to happiness, I’m surprised that $$$ continues to serve as such a motivator! For myself, included. It’s still disconcerts me when I confront a situation that money has not helped. Usually, more money makes it worse. This of course applies to situations above poverty. There are situations to which money is in fact the answer.

    A man who worked in the lottery payoff industry wrote a book about it, Money for Nothing, available at the local library, https://www.blackgold.org/Mobile/Search/Title/ After a windfall of cash, people often spend themselves into debt quickly and his job was to buy out their future payments. Their lives were not improved. Certainly, rich people are obviously not happier than the rest of us, and arguably less — more money to spend on drugs and other ways to shut themselves away from feelings they’d rather escape.

    I welcome McFague giving me arguments to use to understand better ways to live in the world. Bill Moyers interviewed Richard Wolff, an economist, on his program this afternoon. He said a lot of the same things, that the assumptions of capitalism are not delivering the Good Life to enough, http://billmoyers.com/series/moyers-and-company/.

    Martin Luther King said: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a better; it comes to see that an edifice which produces be gets needs restructuring.”

    McFague is helping me imagine a different world. Our collective vision of ourselves and for our future is constantly changing. Think how differently we saw ourselves during World War II, when we grew Victory Gardens and accepted rationing. Economist Wolff said his psychiatrist wife cautions that after people realize that they have been misled, they may erupt with rage. I hope our society can change before we get to a destructive explosion.

  2. Two columns published in 18 August Tribune, on the editorial pages: Leonard Pitts, Elysium: A metaphor for our times, http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/18/3567594/elysium-a-metaphor-for-our-times.html, and Maureen Dowd’s column on the Clintons, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/opinion/sunday/dowd-money-money-money-money-money.html?ref=maureendowd&_r=0. The slippage over the second half of the 20th century is eerily reflected in her quote from Harry Truman: “Until Harry Truman wrote his memoirs, the ex-president struggled on an Army pension of $112.56 a month. ‘I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable,’ he said, “that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency.”

    Clinton, whom I like and admire, “earned $17 million last year giving speeches, including one to a Lagos company for $700,000. Hillary gets $200,000 a speech.”

    As Pitts, says, “The fantasy of escaping it behind an impermeable barrier is just that, a fantasy.” He posits the inevitable breaching of the walls by the have-nots. I would go even further: That all of us have to breathe the air and drink the water, that we are all subject to hormone disrupters and radiation. High walls and big lawns do not separate us even now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *