At first glance, it might be difficult to see how the issue of consumption relates to the Christian tradition, but faith communities across the region are starting to take notice about how the two might not be so far removed.
“I hear really loudly the message that we’re called to be humble and that we’re called to live with our neighbors in peace, and I think that when we think of neighbors, we think of our world being really small but actually we live lives that affect people not only in our city and state but people all over the world,” said Emily Bidgood, a member of the Green Interfaith Network Inc.
Since forming several years ago, GINI has grown to include 15 local congregations that work to foster sustainable living in the name of creation care.
Every month, the group gathers to have discussions on a variety of topics ranging from mountaintop coal removal to emphasizing the importance of locally led economies.
On Sunday, Dr. Laura Hartman, assistant professor of religion at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., will lead a discussion on the topic on consumption at the February meeting at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 500 N. Roan St.
Hartman’s book, “The Christian Consumer: Living Faithfully in a Fragile World,” was released in November. The book offers a view of consumption that draws on Christian thought from biblical times to the present day.
Hartman believes the issue of consumption can be addressed by looking at Christian tradition and ideology, such as the witness of saints and holy people as well as theology and practices.
“Religious teachings can help guide good environmental choices in what we consume and in other choices we make,” Hartman said. “As a child, my family practiced what I think of as a ‘festive frugality’ — we pinched our pennies, but we celebrated a lot. This helped me to see that reflection on what we consume is important, but it doesn’t need to be dour or joyless. On the contrary, the more we consume with eyes wide open, savoring and aware, the more we can truly taste creation’s sweetness.”
The discussion is designed to look at how Christian tradition relates to consumption and a consumer culture that’s so prominent in the United States, Bidgood said.
“We live in an economy where that fuels how we live and interact with each other, so we can’t avoid it,” she said.
Since consumption ties directly into the creation, Bidgood said highlighting this issue is very much a part of the work GINI sets out to do.
“We’ve consumed too much and we’re still consuming too much. It affects resources but it also affects how we view others. We’re focused on ourselves and our own needs and that disconnects us from how we’re affecting other people,” she said.
The event is free and open to the public. The meeting will last from 4-6 p.m.
For more information, visit GreenInterfaith.org.