WORDS FROM W.W. December 18, 2009
“The Walmarting of Our Faith”
In his book, The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman writes extensively about the business practices of Walmart. We’ve come to recognize the “Happy Face” symbol that Walmart uses in its advertising as the picture for “falling prices.” Sam Walton and David Glass (the company’s CEO from 1988 to 2000) recognized three principles that have resulted in the success story of the company. I won’t go into them in this writing, but they were key to the expansion and on-going health of the company, even in the midst of wide-spread economic tough times.
Adhering to these principles has also allowed Walmart to undersell its competitors. In many towns where the arrival of a Walmart is announced, small business operators begin to board up the windows and close up shop.
I’ve been thinking a lot about consumerism lately as we rush through Christmas. Walmart is successful because it increases the thirst within people for products that they crave, and surrender to the craving, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. It’s successful because it knows what people want, not necessarily what they need.
When I look at our faith journeys I see the residual effect of Walmart spreading like a glass of spilled eggnog into the church. People want what makes them feel good. They want what feels comfortable without being too demanding, but still looking a little bit spiritual. Falling prices is just a cost-saving way of saying “falling doctrinal beliefs.”
And the thing is . . . it’s what people want! Call me cynical, but unless there is a radical transformation in a person’s life that can come only from an intimate encounter with Christ, we’re prone to look for the bargains.
The question someone is bound to be on the edge of blurting out right now is, “Don’t you go to Walmart?” The answer is “Yes! When it’s extremely beneficial for me.” Since I hate crowds of bargain-hunting people, my Walmart visits are usually restricted to early in the morning or late at night. For a long time it was the only place I could find Orville Redenbacher’s Pour Over Cheddar Microwave Popcorn. (Another example of a product that is not good for you, but, boy, is it good!)
In recognizing what I just said about “when it’s beneficial to me” I see another human flaw. Walmart makes it convenient. I CAN go early or go late. In other words it’s all about me.
Our walk with God has that unfortunate tendency to descend to that as well. It becomes all about “me” . . .
• “What’s God done for me lately?”
• “I’m okay right now, so I don’t need an intimacy with God. Check back with me next week.”
• “Is there a real short worship service? My availability is limited.”
I’m flawed as much as everyone else, and that troubles me—that I write about Walmart, and yet I’ll probably be in their “chips and snacks aisle” before the week is out. It’s an analogy for our lives. I’ve “Walmarted” my faith walk, but still want to be recognized as a saint.
Perhaps if I buy another new Bible it will raise my level of spirituality. I hear they are on sale for two days only at . . .

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