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Trapped in the Cult of the Next Thing

If ever there was a cult that gave us stones when we asked for bread, this is it.
1999This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

I belong to the Cult of the Next Thing. It's dangerously easy to get enlisted. It happens by default—not by choosing the cult, but by failing to resist it. The Cult of the Next Thing is consumerism cast in religious terms. It has its own litany of sacred words: more, you deserve it, new, faster, cleaner, brighter. It has its own deep-rooted liturgy: charge it, instant credit, no down-payment, deferred payment, no interest for three months. It has its own preachers, evangelists, prophets, and apostles: ad men, pitchmen, celebrity sponsors. It has, of course, its own shrines, chapels, temples, meccas: malls, superstores, club warehouses. It has its own sacraments: credit and debit cards. It has its own ecstatic experiences: the spending spree.



Most of us spend more time with advertisements than with Scripture.

The Cult of the Next Thing's central message proclaims, "Crave and spend, for the Kingdom of Stuff is here." Sanctification is measured by never saving enough: for the cult teaches that our lives are measured by the abundance of our possessions. Those caught up in the Cult of the Next Thing live endlessly, relentlessly for, well, the Next Thing—the next weekend, the next vacation, the next purchase, the next experience. For us, the impulse to seek the Next Thing is an instinct bred into us so young it seems genetic. It's our paradigm, our way of seeing. It's our unifying Myth. How could the world be otherwise?

For Christians, this is a problem. The problem is ethical, spiritual, theological. And, of course, practical. The one time Jesus got violent was when the temple had been made into a marketplace. Jesus brooked a lot of things with uncanny calmness—demoniacs yelling at him, religious leaders plotting ...

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