Fasting in the consumer economy

I am reading a good book on fasting: Fasting by Lynne Baab (IVP, 2006). She has taken a little talked about part of the Christian life and given it a fine treatment, rich in stories and very much in dialogue with both Scripture and contemporary culture.

Here's one point she brings out about fasting in America today. It runs so strongly against the grain of our culture that most Christians don't practice it. Our culture is closely tied to our economy, and our economy runs on consumption. Advertising drives desire, and desire drives purchasing of goods and services. Purchasing of goods and services provides jobs. And the cycle continues.

The consumer economy works, and we are thankful for our jobs. However, in stirring up our desire for goods and services, our culture badgers us with an incessant stream of advertising that is designed to keep us wanting... coveting... overspending. On top of this, one of the mantras of the consumer culture is that any kind of deprivation should be satisfied immediately. As Baab puts it, "we have become fearful of deprivation of any kind... If I forego pleasures, I might be diminished as a person!" (pp. 19-20).

Enter fasting. Culture says it's bad. Scripture teaches that it is necessary for God's people. Who are we going to believe?

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