A profit without honour?

By Simon Barrow
November 30, 2007

While US TV evangelists talk up Mammon by using the name of Christ, an actor with no faith has been hailed a "prophet" by a leading biblical scholar for his dramatic attempts to challenge the enslaving religion of consumerism.

Old Testament/Hebrew Scripture academic Walter Brueggemann wrote in this month's Sojourners magazine (http://www/sojo.net): "Rev Billy is a faithful prophetic figure who stands in direct continuity with ancient prophets in Israel and in continuity with the great prophetic figures of US history who have incessantly called our society back to its core human passions of justice and compassion."

The Washington Post picks up the story:

"The Rev Billy, a.k.a. the actor Bill Talen, is not an ordained minister or even a practicing Christian, but he is a true believer. He hopes to avert "Shopocalypse" and save our souls, our wallets, our communities and the planet. As a performance artist and activist, he has been preaching against consumerism since 1997, when he began delivering his gospel outside Manhattan's Disney Store.

"He has achieved some recognition on his own terms. He and his flock have exorcised cash registers and staged other "interventions" in retail stores. He has been arrested dozens of times. In 2003 he was banned from all Starbucks outlets in the world, and in 2005 he was banned from Disney properties. Now Morgan Spurlock, who directed the film "Super Size Me," has produced "What Would Jesus Buy?" a "docu-comedy" about Talen's gospel now in limited theaters.

"Talen -- in a blond bouffant, priest's collar and white suit, and using his best quavering, booming preacher's voice -- casts himself somewhere between parody and earnestness, a huckster and truth-teller in this country's tradition of self-proclaimed ministers.

"He is also part of a movement of people toying with avoiding consumer culture. There is the Freecycle Network, a giant online swap shop where everything is free. Freegans, who try to subsist entirely on food they dig from restaurant garbage and dumpsters. There is the example of No Impact Man, a Manhattanite who lived, and blogged, during a year without cars, electricity and most consumer purchases. Some of this is chronicled in Adbusters, a Canadian, anti-consumerism magazine that back in 1992 coined Buy Nothing Day."

The full article is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/23/AR200711...

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