December 14, 2009
'What Would Jesus Buy' skewers shopaholics
By Walt Belcher
The initial reaction to that question should be: "Nothing!"
According to the Scriptures, Jesus pretty much rejected material possessions so it's hard to imagine him shopping at Walmart. Not even for sandals.
But "What Would Jesus Buy?" is not about Christ.
It's the eye-catching title of filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's amusing, entertaining and alarming 2007 documentary about America's rampant consumption, especially during Christmas.
And it debuts at 9 tonight on the Sundance Channel.
Spurlock, the guy who lived off a diet of nothing but McDonald's fast food in the award-winning "Super Size Me," follows the antics of a performance artist named the Rev. Billy (Billy Talen) and his Church of Life After Shopping.
Coming off as a cross between Elvis and Jimmy Swaggart, the Rev. Billy dresses in white with a clerical collar. He has a bleached blond pompadour and delivers fire-and-brimstone comic sermons with a serious message about the pending "Shopocalypse."
Traveling with his 35-member No Shopping Choir (they sing gospel-styled songs with anti-shopping lyrics), Billy sets out on a month-long tour through America and past Walmart corporate headquarters to end at Disneyland (where fantasy is sold with items made in China).
Spurlock follows him and along the way talks with sales clerks who have been mauled or threatened by holiday shoppers, people who are saddened by the Walmartification of small towns and the decline of mom and pop stores, and those who find it disturbing that we have more malls than public parks.
Some may see Rev. Billy as a nut case and publicity hog. He gets attention by staging anti-shopping revivals in malls. He's been banned from the Starbucks stores in California and arrested in places like Mall of America. He preaches against consumerism with a mega-phone.
Some may see him as blasphemous. But there's a message in his madness.
The household savings for most American families is zero.
More than 60 million Americans are in credit card debit.
Americans on average spend one hour a week in a church or place of worship and five hours a week shopping.
At least 15 million of us are clinically addicted to shopping.
As many as three quarters of us dread Christmas because of the pressures and costs of giving gifts.
America used to be a nation of producers but now is a nation of consumers. We are told the very survival of our economy depends on spending.
To find out more about the Rev. Billy and his followers go to www.revbilly.com.