Book Review

I’m hammering away my coursework for my upcoming doctoral class so I haven’t found much time to update here.  I thought I would try to integrate some of my coursework as much as possible here . . . kind of kill two birds with one stone.  I have two books left to read, and I’m popping out some reviews.  I thought I would throw a review or two here – they’re only one page, so here’s a quick one, from a book I really, really enjoyed.  Skye Jethani has really given us something to consider in his book The Divine Commodity.  It’s a powerful take on the impact our consumerist society has on our faith.  It’s really good, and I would recommend to anyone wrestling with some of those things.  Anyway, here’s my quick review below.

Finding his inspiration in the work and life of Vincent Van Gogh, Skye Jethani integrates a critical reflection of contemporary consumer Christianity and the ministry and spirituality of the classic French painter in his book, The Divine Commodity.  Jethani refers to the colorful portraits of some of Van Gogh’s paintings (which helpfully are included in the book) to poignantly critique the commodification of God by Western Christians.  His use of Van Gogh is nowhere more appropriate or vivid than when he compares Van Gogh’s most famous painting, Starry Night, to Ron English’s satirical interpretation in Starry Night Urban Sprawl.

Jethani provides ample reflection on the state of consumer culture in the West, most vividly portrayed, for me, in referring to his son’s kindergarten homework assignment of reading logos and trademarks.  The author responds with a question with which any parent empathizes, “Should it scare me that my five-year-old has memorized more corporate brands than prayers, Bible verses, or even names of relatives?”[1]  This anecdote represents the implicit power of consumerism in the Western psyche.

In Jethani’s opinion, life in the suburbs exists as the epitome of the consumeristic pursuit, “but a century after the birth of suburban America, we have discovered that personal comfort and authentic community are often incongruous values.”[2]  As a suburbanite myself, Jethani’s book resonates loudly with me, and I have found that this work undergirds most of the reading for this course as consumerism truly has become the great obstacle for Christian mission in Western civilization in the 21st century.

[1] Skye Jethani.  The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity.  (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 52.

[2] Ibid 142.