Unshackling the American Church: Mammon


No servant can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
—Luke 16:13 MKJV

Faith in Fashion or in Christ?Strong’s Concordance lists that troubling word mammon as “avarice (deified).” A better definition one cannot possibly hope to unearth. Unearthing a Church buried under layer after layer of avarice deified, on the other hand, poses a challenge to us American Christians, so inured are we to the materialism that masquerades as legitimate culture in this country.

What else can explain the horror pictured at right? As frightening as this “innocent” figurine might be, I suspect that the manufacturers sold a boatload to Christians so ensnared by mammon that they couldn’t discern the conflict. The double entendre of “Faith Is Always in Fashion” works doubly hard to prove the case that we’ve developed a consumerized faith that isn’t necessarily in Christ, but in the art of the deal.

(Don’t you just love the little ICHTHUS fishes embroidered down the side of her jeans? Somewhere, a Christian fashion designer is thinking, “Man, they stole my idea!”)

The nauseating text for "Faith is always in fashion"What I cropped out of the picture is the sickening description for this figurine. You can find it at left. As a freelance commercial writer who’s a Christian, I’d rather be dragged over a pile of broken glass with an alcohol bath chaser than write what you see reproduced here.

Now I’m not one to call for burning at the stake, but the person who greenlighted this abhorrent project at The Hamilton Collection should at least receive a hotfoot or a Roman candle dropped down his or her briefs.

But then it’s difficult to be angry at the perpetrators of this excrement when we consider how a love for mammon defines Americans today. Too many of us in the American Church can’t see our hypocrisy. While Evangelicals rail against the secularized liberal elite that preaches a nonstop stream of dissolute sexual freedom, at the same time that same Christian Right has few hang-ups about unimpeded avarice deified. We certainly wouldn’t champion being “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion, but try to take away our consumer choices (two hundred breakfast cereals, anyone?) and we’ll holler just as loud as the pro-death leftists we say we oppose.

We of all people, the ones who fully understand the depths of human corruption, should be the folks casting a wary eye on economic systems run by fallen men. Yet we so easily fake blindness to unrestricted markets and the devastation they bring through the hands of unregenerate men and women. What does it say about us that all too often we’re capitalists first and Christians second?

I don’t get political on this blog because there’s a million and a half Christian blogs out there talking politics, but I find it astonishing that so many Christians claim to be political conservatives, but the only thing they seem to be interested in conserving is a middle to upper class consumptive lifestyle. Their Christianity adheres to politics like velcro, but does it inform a reality that conserves what is most important to our Lord?

What is the natural outcome of unrelentingly pursuing cheap items? On our way to that sale at Macy’s, are we aware we might be sacrificing the very values Jesus Christ came to reinforce? TV has programmed us to be jealous of the Joneses, so while we champion family values, it’s become every family for itself. I don’t see that in my Bible anywhere.  And as much as we talk about Christian community, do our church folk eat together in each other’s homes daily like the early Christians did? Does the community of saints even see each other regularly outside of our Sunday meetings? If not, then how are we truly a community if we’re not investing in each other’s lives more than once or twice a week?

The Industrial Revolution ultimately birthed all this consumerism, killed countryside communities, broke apart our families, left our youth with nothing else to do than to shop and hang out at malls, put us in soul-killing jobs, and saddled us with this nagging, modern ennui. Yet the American Church never questioned it. Even today, we’re unwilling to step back and ask if we went wrong on our little trip to Modernism.

We can question it now. We can stop accumulating and start thinking about conservation of what is right before God: strong families working with their neighbors creating strong local economies that grow strong communities and strong churches that make disciples, create beauty, conserve the sacred, and steward the Creation.

We can serve God or we can serve mammon. We’ve spent too many decades serving the latter. Time to try the former.


This is the last post in the “Unshackling the American Church” series based in part on ideas in Rod Dreher’s book, Crunchy Cons . I would encourage everyone reading this blog to read that book with an eye on what Christians should truly be valuing in this life. Even though many Christians are political conservatives, we’ve gotten off the path of what in God’s eyes is most worth conserving. I could probably blog more on this topic, but I’ve previously touched on many of these ideas in the Best of Cerulean Sanctum posts you can find listed in the Sidebar.

Don’t accept the status quo. Much of what we live out today in normal practice in the United States is not inherently Christian, though we’ve gilded it with enough spiritual talk to allow it to pass. We can’t live like that, though, because God will judge us for what we did with the things He considers valuable.

The American Church is shackled by consumerism, wastefulness, disregard for the Creation, disconnectedness between people, a penchant for the cheap and ugly, and a shockingly low regard for what is sacred and lasting. But like I say so many times here at Cerulean Sanctum, it doesn’t have to be that way. If enough of us take the time to consider if a more Christian way to live exists, we’ll eventually find a way to live it, even if it never fully mirrors our ultimate destination.

Thanks for reading.


Other posts in the “Unshackling the American Church” series:

16 thoughts on “Unshackling the American Church: Mammon

  1. SchizoPhrenic

    Sweetly done dan, wish you would continue the series, there is so much more that the churches are missing out on.
    Hope you will continue to blog on similar eye opening topics that foce me to reexamine my priorities and faith.
    Blog on.

  2. This really got you fired up! I appreciated the mix of restraint and honesty, especially in the use of the word “excrement.” That figurine was a perfect illustration for your point and the description topped it all off.

    I agree consumerism is strangling the church and for the most part we don’t even notice. I for one am making a concerted effort to live with less and to rethink my spending. Thanks for continuing to make me think. (I need to do some reading on the Industrial Revolution to evaluate the points you are making.)

    • Don,

      We smell so much like the world that I fear little of the aroma of Christ pervades us. Our consumer culture has only brought dysfunction, especially in the Church. The more I read about the results of the Industrial Revolution and the way postmillenial Christian thought pplayed into the Church championing the “progress” of industrialization, the more it saddens me that that generation showed so little discernment. Yet so many Christians today hallow that period after the Civil War as the great day of Christianity. Many of our favorite hymns come from that time and reflect that “march toward ushering in Christ’s Kingdom” when in fact just the opposite occurred.

  3. Mr. Edelen,

    THis post reminds me of my childhood days in Africa. My family lived in a mud hut with no electricity or running water, and an outhouse was in the back. Yet we were considered rich because we had a tin roof, a rough cement floor, an outhouse and TWO LANTERNS! (*gasp*Whoever thought of such riches?) Often times I almost hate the world aorund me now, but I do admit it brings temporary pleasure. I’m more spoiled than I used to be. This is a good thing to keep in mind!

    A quote from Jim Elliot that just seemed to fit: “The world cannot hate us; we are too much like its own.”

    God bless!

    • No..perhaps I should look for that. I have read “SHadow of the Almighty”, which includes excerpts from his journals and letters and narrated by Ellizabeth Elliot

  4. Chad

    Very enjoyable series Dan. This quote from Augustine came to mind when I read your post, he wrote this to the Romans, but it is quite applicable to our present state:

    “Depraved by good fortune, and not chastened by adversity, what you desire in the restoration of a peaceful and secure state, is not the tranquility of the commonwealth, but the impunity of your own vicious luxury”.

  5. Pastor Joshua

    Dear Servants of the Lord,

    Praise the Lord,

    Happy to introduce to you our church based in Kenya here we are doing Evangelism,, church planting and church building, youth ministry/vocational trainings, missionary/hospital and prison ministries, Community Health care, helping Orphans and the needy, we humbly wish to invite you/your team to come and help us in reaching our Nation and help us in raising funds to plant and build our Churches, community medical center, also we humbly wish to request you to mail us Free Bibles in ENGLISH, LUO AND SWAHILI, and other Christian tracks to help us in doing Evangelism, since we are reaching out the unreached some don’t have the Bibles and due to economy they can’t afford to buy. Hope you will understand and mail. May God bless you, feel welcome to Kenya.
    Pastor Joshua Otieno Mugenya
    P.O.Box 757-40400

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