Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sickness of Us

I got news today of someone throwing a birthday party for their three-year-old, and the parents registered their child for gift-buying. Yes, they registered their child. What is going on here? Parents want their child to have a fun-filled birthday party, and they want gifts, and they don't want repeat gifts, and they want gifts from a particular store, to boot.

They want gifts.

I don' t know if the couple is a Christian one, but I take a gander that they are, based upon the source of this malady. As a Christian, I grow more weary of not only our increasingly secularized culture which is (let's be intellectually honest folks) at war with Christian ideas. But what concerns me even more is the attitude of my fellow evangelicals: we want the American dream consisting of 1) the perfect job with the great perks 2) the perfect house in the nice neighborhood 3) the perfect spouse 4)and finally, the perfect church--especially a nice, big building. But I digress.

Or do I?

These parents reveal a gross symptom entrenched with roots deep in the ethos of the American experience: the big dream wrought through materialist gain which promises happiness. The child's name was registered? For the child's 3rd birthday party? Sigh.

I am a father of three children. I like to give my girls presents. But, along with the other children of the world, I think of the children I actually met in Ethiopia who don't even have parents. They don't even have parents. Ach! This action--this child registering--seems so out of accord with reasonable expectations not just of social mores, but of mere life itself.

The sickness of U.S. is not only our materialism, our so-called rights and sense of entitlement. But here is the deep poison: the slow, methodical, intravenous seeping Novocaine. It is that this practice will soon not make us bat an eyelash, but that it will become standard fare. Can you not see the advertisement now? The smiling, pretty woman says, "Make gift-giving easy for the little one in your life: register your child's name for birthdays today!" And we'll buy it. Because it's easy, after all. And that's what we want. Easy, carefree, happy. And stuff will bring it all to pass. Stuff. "More stuff please!" he says, as he holds out the already-full plate.

Now, rather than a mere (but justifiable) indictment, let's find a solution. Here's a helpful way to curb the materialism. I know of a family that, instead of asking for presents for their child, rather asked those invited to purchase materials for Christmas shoe box ministries. Many churches and other ministries send shoe boxes full of educational materials, trinkets, cards, etc. to needy children during the holidays, and this makes a great way to help others, show the child whose birthday it is what is really important in life, and also slap the materialism that pervades our lives in the face. Even if your child doesn't have a birthday close to the holidays, the shoe box idea can still work. And that's just one idea.

Now go help someone and give materialism the old heave ho.

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