This is the story of how I became a mature, fully devoted follower of the consumer economy.

Like someone born into medieval Europe, when Christendom was at its height, it is hard for me to pinpoint the time when I first realized I was a consumer. As a baby, certainly, I was still in the state of nature. Unlike a true consumer, I had simple needs—to be dry, well-fed, and rested—and when those needs were met, I was satisfied. I had much to learn.

I think my discipleship began in earnest when I learned that there is no such thing as mere toothpaste. My mother used Colgate, but my father preferred Crest. I had to decide which kind was for me, and so began my lifelong quest to develop an ever more exquisite sense of my own tastes. (Ever since, I've been a devoted Crest user—tartar control, whitening gel formula, please.) Similarly, in middle school, I learned that there is a big difference between one kind of ripped, faded, and stained jeans, which are embarrassing, and another kind, which are worth $125. It took years to develop these sensitivities, but by my first years of college, after much study, I could distinguish between an ultra-hip black T-shirt from Jhane Barnes ($110) and a cheap one from Sears ($10). At last I was beginning to grow in my consumer walk.

The consumer economy, dependent on a mobile workforce, also taught me that my worth is directly linked to my roots—the fewer roots, the better. Thanks to my parents' devotion to my discipleship, I was sent to one of the best private universities, where my professors and friends encouraged me to shed any trace of the particular place from which I had come and to embrace the mobile, urbane, and abstracted culture of the professional middle class. ...

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Always in Parables
Andy Crouch
Andy Crouch is an editor at large for Christianity Today. Before working for CT, Crouch was chief of re:generation quarterly, a magazine which won the Utne Reader's Alternative Press Award for spiritual coverage in 1999. He was formerly a campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. Crouch and his wife, Catherine, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, have two children. His column, "Always in Parables," ran from 2001 to 2006.
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