What Would Jesus Buy? – Reverend Billy and Guerilla Theater

Have you heard of the new movie coming out called What Would Jesus Buy? I’m really looking forward to seeing it. It’s a documentary by Morgan Spurlock, the man behind Super Size Me (which I really liked – more than anything because it was hilarious).

What Would Jesus Buy? deals with American consumerism and in it Spurlock introduces America to Reverend Billy and his “Church of Stop Shopping.” Rev. Billy and his “church” are basically a performance art and activist group dedicated to “defend[ing] communities against supermalls and the Devil’s monoculture” (to put it in words from their own website). Now don’t be fooled, Rev. Billy is no Southern Baptist minister. In fact, he calls himself “post religious” (which of course I find very interesting). However, while there is certainly a lot of humor and spectacle mixed in with Rev. Billy and his “church,” the message comes across very clear – consumerism and Christianity shouldn’t mix.

I’m sure there is much controversy surrounding Rev. Billy. I imagine many Christians are not one bit happy that he has chosen to spread his message in a (faux)Christian manner. However, some Christians are embracing him and his message. In a recent Sojourners column, renowned Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann calls Rev. Billy a modern day prophet engaging in “guerilla theater,” much like Jesus and the prophets of the Old Testament. Brueggemann writes:

Amos Wilder, the wise New Testament scholar of the last generation, observed that the parables of Jesus are a form of “guerilla theater,” action against settled conviction and an invitation to listeners to come “on stage” into the action. Before Jesus, this same guerilla theater was the enterprise of the ancient prophets. That theater continues with Rev. Billy. We are surely apt candidates for the Church of Stop Shopping. With enough new recruits for the action, perhaps we need not be subjected to the Shopocalypse.

I find this all very compelling. What do you all think? Can we/should we consider Rev. Billy a modern day prophet? What do you think of this idea of guerilla theater? Can you think of any other examples? I’m really interested in your thoughts. But before you respond, you might want to learn more about Rev. Billy, What Would Jesus Buy, and the Church of Stop Shopping. Here are some good resources:

Rev. Billy’s official site
the movie’s official site
article from Christianity Today about the documentary
Brueggemann’s article in Sojourners

And of course, you definitely have to check out the trailer.

Just. Plain. Hilarious.


7 Responses

  1. Morgan Spurlock is genius. I absolutely loved Supersize Me.

    I am very excited about seeing this film, I had never heard of it before. Thanks for the links.

    I think the idea is absolutely hilarious and prophetic at the same time. Since Shari and I will be parents in a few months, one of our biggest concerns is raising a child in our consumerist culture. How do we as parents get away from this mindset? Anything that calls Christians to the carpet on our blind, empty consumerism that runs totally contrary to the message of Jesus – I think this must be a good thing.

  2. I really don’t know what to say to that. WILD! I think I want to see it. I’m turning in to such a liberal, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing — just different for me.
    After Supersize Me, I really didn’t want MCd’s for awhile. However, I finally returned. BTW- hate kids meals and the stupid crappy toys that go w/ the latest film that your kids just HAVE to see. Fast food is convenient and sometimes I need that. We’ve been trying to just get food, no drinks, no meals, etc.

  3. In moments like this, I become accutely aware of how real it is that I live in the consumer capital of the most consumerist minded country in a consumer orientated world.
    I read about this group in Oregan (I think it was Oregan) and they made a New Year’s Resolution not to buy a single brand new item for a whole year, unless it was for health, beauty, or for transportation. If one of them really really needed something, then they got together as a group and discussed whether it would be allowed. It was very interesting.


  5. […] (Bill Talen) from Sojourners. Talen discusses consumerism and promotes his movie. Very interesting. Is Talen a modern day prophet? I’m becoming more convinced. (HT: God’s […]

  6. […] (my original post, if you’re interested) […]

  7. […] case you missed my previous posts about Reverend Billy (1 and 2), Wikipedia describes him this way: “Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping is an […]

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