Affluenza: we now have a terminal case
There is always a risk, as a writer, that when you write about a topic someone out there is going to say “How can YOU say such a thing…look at your own life!” This is one of those topics. We’ve all heard preachers say, “Now I’m preaching to myself here, too.” So at the outset, let me put up that disclaimer. I am preaching to myself.
I can’t watch the news anymore. Can you? Even my favorite newscasters have started issuing appologies with their broadcasts. After reading a string of companies reporting record-breaking losses, one woman looked at the camera and said, “I’m so sorry to have to read this. But you need to know what’s happening out here.” There is no longer any doubt that the financial landscape of America — the world? — has changed for the foreseeable future.
Recently I picked up the book “Affluenza” by John De Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor. It is the kind of book that I would normally avoid like the plauge. But it was the end of a long day, and the comfy chair at Barnes and Noble was right next to a display featuring this book. To my surprise, inside the book I found a very acccurate diagnosis of our current situation (written in 2001 and updated in 2005), as well as many ways to combat the problem.
Affluenza, according to the authors, is “a painful, contagious, socially trnasmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting rom the dogged pursuit of more.” Definitely the disease that got us here. As America lurches along its path, affluenza is going to sideline us for awhile as surely as a flu will land you in bed fora few days: it is the inevitable result. And there — right there in the middle of our bed-ridden downfall — is the seed of our hope. Because everything that is “normal” is about to change, leaving behind a gaping sense of need
“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.”
Ellen Goodman, quoted in Affluenza
The second half of Affluenza begins to discuss ways to enrich our lives, healthy choices that build emotional, spiritual and physical health into our lives. What an opportunity we have! I am more excited by the opportunities for living an incarnational kingdom life now than I was a year ago, because NOW we have neighbors who are ready to listen. Normal is gone.
The trappings of people’s status — cars, activities, clothing, — often insulate us from each other. But in the days to come we are going to see people become hungry for real connection with each other. We’ve all seen it in the aftermath of a serious illness or a death: when life comes crashing down, it’s only the people around you who matter. So get ready! Life is crashing down, and relational capital is going to be in demand. People will need each other once their bubble of self-sufficiency is burst. You can already hear it in the coffee shops, as people lament over the newspaper and the latest reports. You can see it reflected in television commercials like Target, which show the new normal as staying home and connecting. We really have turned a corner in this world of ours. I’m going to be ready to step into the gap for the kingdom.