Film screening provokes discussion of American consumerism during the holidays

Elizabeth Beilman

More than half a trillion dollars will be spent on Christmas this year, according to the film, “What Would Jesus Buy?”

This film, featuring Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping, discusses American materialism.

A screening of the film took place in the Garrett Conference Center on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. followed by an audience discussion directed by associate economics professors Claudia and Brian Strow.

The event served to “examine the role of consumerism in America, most notably during the Christmas shopping season,” said Brian Strow, BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism.

Reverend Billy, a televangelist and performer dressed in an white suit and sporting a bleached hairdo, preaches in the streets and strip malls against overbuying and the “shopocalypse.”

The reverend leads the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir who, in the film, spent a month touring around the nation during Christmastime in hopes of staving off over-consumption.

Discussion following the film focused on reactions to the message of the Reverend and his mission.

Brian Strow both agreed and disagreed with particular themes of the film.

“Don’t overbuy at Christmastime,” Strow said. “I think that’s a good message.”

However, Strow, from a capitalist perspective, disagrees with the Reverend’s idea of buying only American-made products.

“I don’t think that would be Jesus’ message – ‘Don’t buy from the poor people, buy from the wealthy people,'” Strow said.

He also noted the importance of recognizing the difference between capitalism and materialism.

Nicholasville senior Heather Pike said she believes some ways to share love do involve spending money.

“I might gain utility by going to a movie with my sister and that’s going to cost $30,” Pike said.

Pike also said the reason people buy from places like Wal-mart and Target are to save money.

Fort Mitchell senior Kwabena Boateng expressed concern for the conditions of workers and their environment.

“I see multinational corporations good in terms of connecting with the world, yet at the same time, they don’t seem to be operating with ethical values,” Boateng said. “You don’t have to sacrifice basic standards just to increase profit.”