We are given so many messages every day. What to do, what is, what isn’t, what to wear. How to be human. The list goes on. It’s estimated that we can see up to 10,000 adverts a day. Walking down the street, on our phones, on public transport – all around us, we are being given messages. These messages vying for our attention, although different, sing from the same hymn sheet. We are told we need something more, or else we risk not being fulfilled. Whatever that thing is, we are told that we need it. And so we buy it and invest. Then we see another advert and the same thing goes on and on again.
The true cost
The problem is, our want for more has a cost on the lives of people living in poverty. The fast fashion industry forces people to work in terrible conditions for little pay, and let’s not forget to mention the environmental impact. Then we have our growing plastic problem, which leaves waste in the streets, in waterways, and is burnt in public areas just to get rid of it. This leads to flooding, sickness and further health issues. Our need for more is costing both people and planet.
We have an opportunity to change the narrative and tell a different one. Each one of us has incredible potential, and together our collective actions can turn the tide on global issues of injustice. This can be our act of rebellion. As Christians we follow a Jesus who didn’t always do the popular thing. He didn’t turn a blind eye against the prevailing injustices. The Gospels are full of stories of rebellion against the norms. As Christians we are also called to rebel against the narratives of consumerism and convenience that we’re bombarded with. However there are two dangers here that we risk falling into as we do this.
Rebels with a cause
Firstly, our rebellion must become a whole life response. When we see petitions about issues like fast fashion or plastic we happily sign it. However, that is where the narrative stops and we continue to live out a life that contributes to these problems. Someone might have a larger carbon footprint than me, I could be the best petition signer, but if I don’t realise my contribution it would be easy to sit back and offset my journey of justice to a signature alone. No, instead as a follower of Jesus I am to go on a journey of justice. A journey that goes all-in to bring restoration to a broken world and broken systems, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Secondly, we need to realise that we are in a broken system. We are in a system that tells us we need more to be fulfilled. There’s been a slight change to this narrative, in that we’re now told we can buy the difference we want to see. Have you noticed that everywhere is selling reusable water bottles and coffee cups now? Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have them. But the system now tells us that we need the best looking one, or the ones with the coolest designs. And so we end up with five or six that we don’t even use. The system looks like it can work in our favour, but perpetuates the problem just under a different guise.
A new narrative
In our call to tell a different story, sometimes it’s not just the story that’s different, but the way we tell it. The system is broken and therefore we need to get creative. If we are to rebel well we might need to think outside the box. That could look like sending coke bottles in the post to Coca-Cola to with a message in it of why they need to change. This could look like raising money to wipe off bad debt. Whatever we do, telling our different story differently can also surprise and help in the system change itself. So let us continue to rebel against the narratives that fill our society and flood our screens. In doing so, let us commit to rebelling well and not falling into the traps of tick box justice or being part of the same system under a different guise.