Society and Culture

The naked street dance of the contemporary Levites:

In our complex and rapidly changing world, human beings are confronted with three crucial problems which are intertwined and have got an important implication for our mental health both individually and as a larger group.

Impulse purchase vis-à-vis consumerism: the naked street dance of the contemporary Levites: In our complex and rapidly changing world, human beings are confronted with three crucial problems which are intertwined and have got an important implication for our mental health both individually and as a larger group. The first there is the unfinished business comprising poverty, prejudice, discrimination, social stress etc and the second is new business including high rise of drug, abuse, violence, crime increase, emancipation of all kinds, sexual immorality, energy and ecological crises, impulse purchase, armament, increasing and uncontrolled social change and the third is future business the Pandora box focusing on building a better world for all human beings. Many have the thought that these problems are devoid of solution but I reject such thought system in my psyche. The “Kpim” of this piece is on the impulse purchase which has been the cause of many mental dislocations of the modern times. The seventeenth century has been called the age of enlightenment, the eighteenth came to be the age of reason, the nineteenth the age of progress and twentieth the age of anxiety and for the 21st century permit me to call it the consumerism age.

Impulse Buying:

this is the buying of goods on impulse: the purchase of goods that may be unnecessary caused by the sudden urge or desire to have them. Impulse purchase means something bought without planning: something that a shopper buys on impulse, having had no previous intention of doing so.Impulse as we know is a sudden desire, urge or inclination. It took its etymology from the Latin word impulsus meaning to impel. Psychologically it can be seen as a drive or natural tendency. This phrase cannot be wonderfully treated if we cannot see its twin consumerism which is a materialistic altitude that lend to value acquisition and accumulation of material good. Levite is a member of priestly Hebrew tribe: a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi, chosen to assist the priests of the Jewish temple. Our aim here is to see it as it challenges the promise of service to God and humanity which demands for simplicity, self emptying, dependence insecurity, impulse purchase is the buying of something without planning where one buys at mere sighting of the item, having had no previous intention of doing so. Where accumulation becomes a natural tendency. It is a tendency worthy of thought because many are caught up here, in living lives that way we are bound to run off in the heat of the moment. Spontaneity is a good thing but it has been used in this case wrongly. Thinking first before purchase is necessary to see its relevance to a life and work you have chosen since “quo quis plus habet eo plus cupit” that is the more one has, the more one desires. It takes only a second to check the map and see if the turn we are thinking of making is where we really need to go, differentiating needs from wants is all we need and of striking concern is that as the Latin adage say “qui vult finem, vult etiam mediam i.e. who desires the end also desires means. The clear implication of this is the incessant and voracious search for money through any means and many land themselves in avariciousness, rapaciousness, simony, doctoring of accounts, sycophancy around the heavy pocketed “flocks” and failure to achieve such ends has been projected as frustration, covetousness, envy, jealousy and the host of all that is in direct conflict to the call to serve and live according to the dictates of the master. Rather imbibes the 21st century virtus post nummos i.e. virtue after coins/money Many CUTODIANS OF FAITH are striving to keep up with the joneses.

We tend to compare ourselves and compete. But while we strive towards this new goal we get so busy that we ignore our soul and fail in nourishing the souls kept in our care. Comparison should be between our daily life to our ideals and dreams. The incessant search for material enrichment is an outcome of the new thought system that a fulfilled Levite is identified by what he or she has. The truism is that when we are attached to things we worry about them when we don’t we are enriched based on the provision of Christ in Luke 12:31 instead strive for his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well but how far have we thought of these because the present situation show our unbelief in such passage of the gospel. The consumer syndrome that ruminates around the servants of God is shaped by the values of materialism; the newest religion which has ruined many and sent may to early grave. Vaelau hadel once said that materialism may have failed as an ideology in the East but it has certainly triumphed as a matter of practice in the west” what then happened to Africa. May be in Africa it has collected a resident permit and has filed for citizenship and in some areas its course of sainthood is on the offing.From the point of view of John Kavanaughs in his book “following Christ” in a consumer society it is appalling that this has become a way of life, a though system that even across many that it is a system of values and thus attitudes spread via advertisements. This situation which is an invasion of the values of the catholic tradition because things become more important than every other creature such pervasion one can say has made us less “contagions as people who has given up everything and followed Christ.

Religious Life

The religious life has become mediocre because the original focus has been lost since the focus in the resurrection is no longer our focus we have repressed it, office things are more important to us. The religious life or the solemn decision to serve God as it is has it’s root when Christ said blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom heaven Mtt 5:3 but do we live up to this since we were told as followers of Christ to take no bag for your journey or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff …. (mtt 10:9) inviting us for a life of simplicity both in mind and body since you cannot serve God and wealth (Mtt. 6:24)This consumer culture has it that as a well developed world we stand chance of being spiritually under developed, and made it that people think that to become someone you have to possess plenty. As such persons begin to serve things instead of things being made to serve persons such invasion of values is idolatry in its highest point. How then do we reconcile this with Jesus saying “do not store up treasure for yourselves on earth … but store up treasures for your selves in heaven… for where your treasure is there your heart will be also (Mtt 6:19). The Latin adage has said it all “nemo potest doubus dominis sevire” i.e. nobody serves two masters at a time In our lives as servants of God today there is a subtle form of enslavement: persons produce and produce in order to consume plenty things and so they are consumed as persons in this process, at the point that the consumer becomes consumed in the process of consumption. We are held captive by our cravings that within the life the line between the necessary and the superfluous becomes blurred.

This is where for example a car begins to seem more like a luxury and less like a necessity, as such the need for another or a new car becomes our second nature that acquisition is a natural tendency as the saying goes “AMOR NABENDI HABENDO CRESCIT”( i.e. the love of having increases by having). The explosive growth of this culture has gone a long way to question our recta intentione” as Rev. Fr. Jude Asanbe puts it, “it is first and foremost a sole and noble desire that translates into a clear and firm will to consecrate oneself entirely to the Lord’s service and the salvation of souls” a whole new ball games “Gamelli Surmising on the opinion of St. Alphonsus de liguori offers that right intention consists in making one’s aim in life to be the service of God and his glory the salvation of souls and to appreciate and deserve the goods of Jesus Christ, these three elements necessary preclude the pursuance of one’s own happiness and sensible pleasures which are the goods for which man comes” the urge to belong to this culture by many questions our recta intentione and to explain further the word preclude as used by Gamelli (has its root from Latin ‘praecludere’ literally meaning ‘to close off ahead’ from th word ‘claudere’ to close, because of our right intention is as he stated we will interpret it) prevented us from getting involved in this consumer thought system. Our obligation of simplicity rest on our uniting ourselves to Christ in an intimate way, since Christ himself offered a perfect sacrifice. Let it not be that our right intention is to live comfortably; have assurance for future security or “licensed for anxiously pursuing a course that would fetch a lucrative job”.

This is what I see as an issue of misplacement of priorities as the voracious search for wealth and material comforts has over shadowed true values leading to alarming increase in impulse purchase. I wonder how this Present situation can be juxtaposed with our initial intention as it is written in Phil. 3:10 “that I want to know Christ and the power of this resurrection and the sharing of his suffering by becoming like him in his death” and “but emptied himself taking the form of a slave being born in human likeness”. (Phil 2:7). Our creed tends to be I believe in wealth, acquisition almighty maker of nearly everything desirable on earth. I believe in fulfillment measured by accumulation and acquisition. I believe that my own sins which are not too many ought to be forgiven by a just and merciful God but if any one sins against me he had better look out. I believe in having good time. I believe in praying less so that I can have more time to see the latest product in television to buy. The people of the consumer culture believe that they have to have “more” “bigger”, “better”, latest” of the new and improve” in order to be someone. Such that there is never enough in the life of this man of God whom having more means being more than looking good and being more depends on acquiring more, earning more. This has made it that the elderly pastors appear less lucrative, whom church or parish has little or no place for and the productive one or who is a lucrative area for ever. As they are anxious of their being like so many of the commodities they have consumed they too may be faced out we are left productive than prophetic, kept continuously busy, we are offered economic benefits and security for living. We are rewarded for efficiency and competence, always working more towards changes of socio-economic system which is fuelled by activities of production and consumption and such busyness leaves us consumed that we are now human doings than human beings. This thought system not only affect the persons but it mars, a smooth relationship within communities, because it is easily internalized in our patterns of relating to others and to God (i.e. Spirituality).

A passage of reflection that comes to mind is “therefore brethren seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to ministry of the word” Acts 6:3-4. The problem for us here is a clear case of misplacement of priorities and point of declaration of one’s ‘recta intentione’ We find in ourselves in this culture believing that love or life is something earned or purchased so we tend to please people to help us acquire certain things (sycophancy). The belief militates against the profound faith of people formed by the biblical tradition: faith in God’s gratuitous love for us. This belief in God’s gratuitousness which is the authentic Christian spirituality prompt us to pray, worship and give ourselves freely, and the outcome of such living is that “then the word of God spread and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” Acts6:7. This is the main problem why we are not ready to sacrifice or live a self-emptying life because life and love can be earned or purchased. The clarion call demands with urgent immediacy to re-affirm and re-echo the ultimate mandate “as you go, preach, saying ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ … provide neither Gold nor Silver nor Copper in your moneybelts”.Mtt.10:7, 9 One can say that it is difficult in a culture that values things more to have a deep relationship with God “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other, you cannot serve God and mammon” Mtt 6:24 and as such the promises poverty in spirit or simplicity we profess makes little or no sense. This is what makes a servant of God to function than flourish. Christ reiterated the fact that, being rich: having all the basic amenities of life at hand, is a state of life that can eat deep into ones life and make him self-satisfied and self –complacent when he said “… truly I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” Mtt 19:23,24. Incessant pursuit of riches as we know is a direct contradiction of the gospel Spirit. The poverty of Christ which we are talking of here is marked by simplicity of mind and body.

Poverty of this kind is a natural expression of an inner filial dependence on God. At the middle of two cities as St. Augustine puts it lies poverty and for me it is either you stand in the city of God and looking over at the city of the world the either way as a religious your to only look over than struggling to go over as St. Paul described as being in the world and not being of the world, such that all things are there to serve the love of God, the incredible profusion of beauty from the stars to the stones, serves our fathers love as a living sermon. Let things serve love than love serve things. This calls for accountability; this is word many servants of God dread such that is seen as a plague so not to be pronounced. We are to be accountable about the expenses we incur and our way of life and not having a conscience anaesthetized We shall not boast of a thorough going intellectual voyage in this issue at stake without mentioning some of the damages it possesses to this our call within a call. The effects of this present day consumer syndrome is a Panoptic (all seeing) case, that the rate of spiritual anorexia among the servants of God such that a spiritual struggle seen in any is regarded as “old school” or a thing of antiquity, pure Christian values are more of artifacts and archaeological findings. A God who becomes the object of our being but invariable he becomes god shaped by our needs and wants and projections. This God becomes easy to cut down the size or shape it in our own image. Prayer and other spiritual exercise turns to be our way of using God for our own interest for our personal development and the consumer culture see it as healthy. In this case all spiritual exercise is seen as unproductive and therefore useless. Being with God is useless since wasting of time is socially unacceptable. When God is seen as a thing humanbeings can fragment as such it is predictable and dispassionate. The Igbo people will say once the eye starts crying the nose joins when the Levites are spiritual malnourished your guess is as good as mine as to what becomes of the followers as Christ said once you strike the shepherd the flock scatters. The situation here is this heart rending condition of the shepherds leaving the flock unattended. Are we not then working as hired men than shepherds? The rate at which spiritual and moral decadence is on the increment, is to be blamed to some extent that “delivery” is very poor. Isaiah55:10, 11 “for as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven and do not return there but water the earth and make it bring forth and bud that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater. So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” said it all. What do we say of this we have not being prophetic rather were being productive? Giving dry sermons dodging certain issues because as odimegwu ojukwu said because am involved.

Conclusion

Worst of it all is telling people what they would like to hear, living in contradiction to our word. A religious who suppose to be a value radiating centre, an insignia of Christianity, a disturbing presence in the church recalling all Christians to follow Christ totally. When people begin to blame a lot of things as being the causes of armed-robbery in the churches we tend to forget the flamboyancy such embarrass de ri·chesses (overabundance causing confusion: an overabundance of desirable things that makes choice among them difficult) quite mind-boggling and glaring in the life of many servants of God. The prayer of every robber is where the thing is and also easy to get, it is quite alarming at the rate servants of God are robbed but I think it is in proportionate to the rate of flamboyancy in their lifestyle. One of the issues that is rocking the very foundation of the African church today is the rate of royal sycophancy among servants of God many have been pocketed by the rich and powerful in the society because of what they tend to gain from them and this affects the strength of our preaching the word today. Truth has been covered to avoid the servant of God from losing favour from the victim. What can we say to such thought provoking words of pope john Paul II that “it is now more than ever when we begin to call things by their proper names and look truth in the eye without yielding to unnecessary compromise and self–deception”. What then do we say about the ambassadorial imbecility and royal sycophancy seen among us? We are as it is the ambassadors of Christ, A sacramental blessing to all who we meet but what can we say if not that, if this is being the representative Christ demands of us then the whole story of his dying for us is fruitless because we are not representing him to the extent expected of us. Permit me to say that the servant of God then becomes ambassadorial hazard because we misrepresent Christ since the prophetic preaching of the gospel message or every other of its kind taken by many with a grain of salt. What will this amount to if not pastoral negligence when the “ecclesial gene” got from Christ dislocates, then we cease to be shepherd. In a situation where commitment and focus is relegated and we begin to move with the crowd instead of leading the crowed following us. We neglect our primary duties in preferences to gallivanting around and inconveniencing people from enjoy the comfort of their homes and offices. At this juncture I beg your pardon to call for a crusade against this syndrome because all that is glaring here is all about attempt towards ‘clericalization’ of the laity and ‘laicization’ of the clergy. As it is, there exist crises of identity; for lay people should know their responsibility and go after it and so as the clergy with theirs. “In achieving all this the laity, that is Christians who have been incorporated into Christ…are of primary importance and worthy of special care” Then, we will say farewell to:, ecclesiastical autocracy, financial profligacy, diplomatic imbecility, royal favoritism / sycophancy, ecclesiastical complicity and ecclesiastical buffoonery, ecclesiastical tensions and above all “be a great asset to these young churches in discharging the more difficult ecclesiastical duties…so that the local church must represent the universal church as perfectly as possible…and these churches renew their common pastoral zeal and setup suitable joint projects…that gradually these churches might be able to provide for themselves and help others”. The picture here is to emulate more of the church as the mouth piece and embassy of Christ

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1.Swindoll, Charles. The mystery of God’s Will. Tennessee: W publishing Group inc. 1999.

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4.Jean, Vanier. Becominng Human, . India: Pauline pub.2004.

5.Asanbe, Jude. Recta Intentione in candidates for the priesthood in Nigeria:a perspective from canon 1029,the Voyage Vol.3, Jan. 2006

6.Kavanaugh, John. Following Christ in a consumer society, orbis books, new york. 1981.

7.Carter, Edward. Shepherds of Christ Vol.2, Shepherds of Christ, Texas, 2002.

8.Varkey, C.P. BE HUMAN BE HOLY ST PAULS PUB. INDIA 2005

9.Nubiola, Ramon, our search for happiness, Gujarat sahitya prakash pub. India 1989.

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CSN: 2640908


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