Friday, September 5, 2008

Jesus Meets McWorld: Golden Rule or Golden Arches?

In many ways contemporary culture is no longer dominated by the biblical ideology of the Golden Rule of Jesus, but by the McDonald's ideology of the Golden Arches.

To use Peter Berger's terminology, culture is no longer under a "sacred canopy," wherein ethical maxims such as "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12, NIV), are the norm. Instead, we have entered the age of "McWorld," where culture is accustomed to McDonald's and the underlying ideology of consumerism and commodities.

The concept of McWorld, as used by Benjamin Barber, refers to shaping of global culture by "onrushing economic, technological, and ecological forces, that demand integration and uniformity that mesmerize peoples everywhere with fast music, fast computers, and fast food - MTV, Macintosh, and McDonald's - pressing nations into one homogenous global theme park, one McWorld tied together by communications, information, entertainment, and commerce" (Benjamin Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld, p. 4).

Although there are cultural elements that remain distinct the world over, the rise of globalization has resulted in cultural commonalities such as McDonald's and the idea of McWorld. As a result, multitudes are accustomed to not only the logos and fast food of the restaurant chain, but also to the underlying ideology: the rapid mass production of food, a mentality of consumerism, an emphasis on efficiency, instant gratification, etc.

The consumerism mentality in particular, which stresses personal choice, fits well with religious pluralism. But this often leads to viewing not only objects such as food as commodities, but also worldviews. Hence, many are raised to view competing philosophies as commodities to be consumed.

In such an environment, Christian particularism is viewed as an anomaly. With so many worldview options, it is difficult for a culture of consumerism to acknowledge that not all beliefs can be true.

The challenge to Christians is to demonstrate that Christianity is "true and reasonable" (Acts 26:25) despite the variety of alternative beliefs in a consumer-driven McWorld. To "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks" us to give reasons "for the hope" that we have (1 Peter 3:15), is an essential part of the Christian life. Truth does not play by the consumer-driven "rules" and choices offered by McWorld.

Will our choices and lives be lived under the Golden Rule and the principles of Christ or the Golden Arches and the principles of McWorld? Will we follow the Logos of John 1:1 or be mesmerized by the logos of consumerism?

No comments: