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?