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May 25, 2007

Conscious Consumerism -- Intentional Shopping

Shoe I've talked about our culture's (and, shamefully, my own) obsession with consumerism here before, and while it's a topic you sadly don't often hear preached about in church, there's one pastor who had quite a bit (well, given the conference format, he had 18 minutes) to say about the topic at the Q Conference hosted by the Fermi Project in April.

Chris Seay of Ecclesia Church in Houston, challenged conference attendees to acknowledge the sin of conspicuous consumption. He says that of all the "isms" in our culture, the one we should most fear is consumer-ism. "Culture tells us there is a counterfeit story we should buy into," and that since Adam and Eve, who had perfection but desired more, we've had a thirst for "more."  According to Chris, we need to recognize that while we are addicted to consumption, we were created for creation. He urged us to ask ourselves the difficult question, "Do we have too much?" and to wrestle with our response.

Immediately after Chris' presentation, we heard from Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes. Seeing the overwhelming poverty, and bare feet, of children while on a trip to Argentina prompted Blake to start a shoe company based on the principle of conscious, or intentional, consumerism -- the concept of thinking through the implications of what you buy. TOMS motto is: buy a pair -- give a pair. For every pair of shoes purchased, the company gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. The shoes, made in Argentina (fair trade!) are comfortable, stylish, affordable, and -- for people like me who suffer greatly from the "ism" of consumer-ism -- a great way to help a child in need and get a cute pair of shoes in return!

Don't need a new pair of shoes? You'll soon be able to help by becoming a "Friend of TOMS." Just visit the TOMS website and look for upcoming details.

FYI -- last year Blake and TOMS distributed 10,000 pair of shoes to children in Argentina. This year's goal? Fifty thousand pair to children in Africa. Blake says personally putting the shoes on the feet of children in need is more important than the actual shoe itself and that the company isn't as much about the shoe as about sharing the story of the needs of the poor.

Here are some "Qs" (for questions!) from these two presentations:

What, if any, difference is there between materialism and consumerism and what should a proper Christian response be to the challenges we face in a gluttonous society?

What are some ways you've been (or can be) an intentional, or conscious, consumer, and if you are an entrepeneur or businessperson, how do you incorporate charity, humanitarianism, or other Kingdom-building values into your business?

(Photo courtesy of TOMS)

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Writing about Intentional Shopping, Martha Anderson highlights the inspiring work of Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes. Seeing the overwhelming poverty, and bare feet, of children while on a trip to Argentina prompted Blake to start a shoe company ... [Read More]


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