The Religion of Materialism

It calls itself “Oriental Trading: Inspirations.” Beneath the gold block letters on the cover reads an advertisement for a “Precious Angel” set. Gown, wings, and candle: all for $14.99.

It calls itself a magazine of “Heaven-sent Value to Celebrate and Inspire!” I call it Christian materialism at its kitschiest.

When I first spotted this sales catalog of religious paraphernalia lying on my kitchen table, I was curious.

Then again, who wouldn’t be? The disconcerting “Oriental Trading” logo can read in a variety of ways. I, for one, was expecting naked Buddhas, not angel outfits for kids inside.

After flipping through it—stopping for a minute to take in the pages of “Happy Birthday Jesus! gear and religious jewelry—I almost felt a warm, fuzzy feeling coming on.

Almost.

Here I was, feeling self-satisfied by the valiant spirit of a magazine willing to unwrap the true meaning of Christmas from the shiny packaging of synthetic Santa Clauses. Then I realized this was the same thing.

“Oriental Trading” may be putting Jesus on its pages, but they’re placing a dollar sign next to him. Instead of a first Christmas of straw, barn animal smells and dancing shadows, you can get a “Cross with Angel Wings Frosted Suckers.”

These are “sweets you’ll want to share!” says the magazine. Ah the spirit of Christmas at last.

And the package of suckers are even fat-free.

As I sit here and complain, I feel another warm, fuzzy feeling coming on. Only this time it’s because I’ve blasted, dissected, and cross-scrutinized the catalog in my self-righteousness.

I’m part of the reason “Oriental Trading” ends up lying on your kitchen counter. After all, though I’d hate to admit it, I’m part of an entire Christian subculture that spends millions of dollars annually on Christian subculture paraphernalia.

And the people at “Oriental Trading” know that.

This is a finely cornered market. And Christians are suckers enough to buy into it.

I may not be buying “Jesus Loves you Snow Much” ornaments, but I’m still greedily eyeing Christmas like the 10-year-old checking out the goody bags at someone else’s birthday party. It’s all about me. All about what I can get out of it.

Maybe it’s time to throw out “Oriental Trading.” Maybe it’s time to reread the story of the first Christmas. Maybe it’s time for us to be brutally honest about a holiday we qualify as religious. The religion of materialism, that is.

_______________________________________________

Rachel Brown is a senior Communications major and news editor of her school newspaper, the Hilltop News at Corban College in Salem. When not fretting over her future, she enjoys swooning over the “Twilight” series, jogging, and the occasional dance party or two.

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