Our men’s Wednesday morning group has been reading An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture by Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, and John McKnight. I suggested the book because I admired other works by one of the authors and I was intrigued by the idea that we might be able to find ways to extricate ourselves, at least partially, from our rampant consumer culture.

It turned out that the authors were recommending a complete transformation of society, a radical reordering of national and international priorities, on a scale that we mostly thought would be unachievable. Our economic system is too ingrained and the natural depravity of humanity too self-evident to suggest that all of society will see the light about working for the common good and entering into a covenant to look out for others. At best, we can hope that, operating in enlightened self-interest, we can keep others from falling through the cracks.

Operating on a personal level is a different matter. As individuals granted free will by God, and as Christians committed to following the example of our Savior, choosing to serve others instead of concentrating on what we can consume for ourselves is not only an option; it is at the core of our belief system.

In that regard, near the end of the book the authors enumerate three “disciplines of neighborliness” that we can incorporate into our lives.

Here are the introductory sentences for those three disciplines:

Time: “In the neighborly way, time is measured by depth and there is enough. No need to rush.”

Food: “As a discipline of neighborliness, food is produced and prepared locally. Sharing and consuming food is a slow and sacred occasion.”

Silence: “Silence is a companion of mystery, and listening is its fellow traveler.”

If you are interested in exploring these disciplines further, or in thinking about how you might at least partially exit the consumer culture, I recommend you read the book. You can borrow my copy. Whether you agree with all its recommendations and premises, it is hard to argue against the assertions that time has become too scarce and valuable a commodity; food is consumed thoughtlessly and with detriment to our bodies, our relationships, and our planet; and that most of us are doing too much talking and not enough listening.

During one of our last discussions, someone raised the question of whether these premises were spiritual issues or simply cultural problems. I’m not totally sure of the answer to that, but I do know that our uncritical and enthusiastic participation in our consumer culture runs counter to the teachings of Jesus. That should be enough to cause us at least to think about how we are spending our time, what we are eating, and how much we are the ones doing the talking. Why don’t you spend some quality time, while you are eating a thoughtfully prepared, locally sourced meal in blissful silence, thinking about that.