Advertisement
Making Your Money Last

Get on Your Knees and Say "No" to Shopping?

As the Reverend Billy, performance artist Bill Talen of Brooklyn, N.Y., holds wild revival meetings to preach an anti-consumerist, pro-environment theology.

Is being a consumer so bad? In America, consumerism has become like a fundamentalist religion. It controls our behavior.

How did that happen? The key, I believe, is that products are sold to us as agents of change. "Buy me," the advertising implies, "and we'll change for the better together." You think you're changing by buying, but you're just spending money.

Advertisement - Article continues below

How do you alter that thinking? At a service of the Church of Earthalujah, we make fun of how focused we are on buying. And we have a great gospel group, the Church of Stop Shopping Choir. The lyrics of one song go like this: "Back away from the Wal-Mart, back away."

So to attack consumerism you use satire? We thought we were a satirical performance-art group in the 1990s. Then we found after 9/11 that a large number of people were interested in singing and praying with us. We found we were trusted.

You're no longer a parody? That's correct. We've discovered that large numbers of people have joined us in an actual spiritual quest to resist this consumerist god. The best way to break the spell is to have a spiritual counter to it.

What is that counter? We counsel people to establish more personal connections and to enjoy being physical -- staying in good shape and enjoying the simple things that bring happiness.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

How did the recession affect people's attitudes toward buying? We often get testimonials from people who say that they were really in a panic because they had lost more than half their monthly income. But as a family they asked, "What can we give up?" They downscaled, and as a result they are spending more time together and are happier.

How do you support the cause? We're scavengers. Sources of revenue include contributions to our not-for-profit theater company, money from grants and fees from performing at festivals. And a Dutch theater company paid us to use our songs, our sermons and my Reverend Billy image in a musical they titled Crazy Shopping.

Advertisement

Most Popular

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020
8 Ways You Might Be Cheating on Your Taxes
taxes

8 Ways You Might Be Cheating on Your Taxes

Don't fall into these common traps that can get you in hot water with the IRS.
July 8, 2020
Find a Great Place to Retire
happy retirement

Find a Great Place to Retire

Our cities provide plenty of space to spread out without skimping on health care or other amenities.
July 2, 2020

Recommended

Sales Tax Holidays in 2020
state tax

Sales Tax Holidays in 2020

Sixteen states are having sales tax holidays this year. If you plan your shopping around these tax-free periods, you can save big on back-to-school cl…
July 1, 2020
13 Luxury Goods That Are Cheaper at Costco
spending

13 Luxury Goods That Are Cheaper at Costco

You could be missing out on huge savings: Costco sells a limited selection of luxury goods at discounted prices, both in-store and online.
June 27, 2020
COVID-19: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Change Our Spending Habits
spending

COVID-19: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Change Our Spending Habits

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, including how we spend money. Are you spending less right now? Many people are. Here’s how to make th…
June 17, 2020
24 Best Travel Websites to Save You Money
Travel

24 Best Travel Websites to Save You Money

Traveling is fun and you can do it without breaking the bank — you just have to know where to go online first.
June 12, 2020