How do you save people from crappy gifts and eternal debt? By caroling with the Church of No Shopping Gospel Choir, of course, joyfully belting out lyrics like these: “Squeeze our fat in gap apparel / Fa la la la la la la la la!”
What Would Jesus Buy? is one eco-minded documentary that’ll entertain and make you laugh — while educating you about the social, financial and environmental problems caused by our rampant consumption — and inspiring you to shop less and enjoy more! Here’s serious socio-political activism, done in creative, entertaining ways. Whether a credit card “exorcism” or a procession with Mickey and Minnie Mouse nailed to crosses, What Would Jesus Buy? is never short of hilarity or surprise.
The film gives a quick history of Billy Talen’s life, from his childhood in a musical family to his performance street acts later on. Why’d he decide to “become” a reverend? Says Billy, “I was catering tables at the time so I had a tuxedo.” Then a few years ago, Rev. Billy and the choir decided to pile into biodiesel buses to spread their stop-shopping gospel across the country!
The trip has Rev. Billy preaching and the choir singing in churches, Starbucks stores (Rev. Billy’s now banned from entering California Starbucks stores), TV shows, The Mall of America and even Disneyland! The activists even construct a makeshift confessional to let people confess their shopping sins. And Rev. Billy gets arrested. A lot.
Through it all, we see the effects of overconsumption in America, from too-eager shoppers getting carried out in stretchers after a trampling, to a Christmas shopper who declares “I don’t care if I go broke — it’s for my kids” (but then how will they eat after Christmas?!), to children who learn to see material goods as symbols of love.
Of course, Rev. Billy and the choir members aren’t against all shopping. Says one member: “You can certainly have a conscience about shopping …. Just explore the options. That’s all we ask.” In fact, the message of the Church of Stop Shopping’s more to stop and think before shopping — about the effects of Disneyland’s Main Street that sells only goods made in China, the Walmart-ification of small towns that closes down mom and pop shops, the abundance of malls contrasted with the lack of sidewalks and public spaces in many places (says one activist: “You’re either trespassing or you’re buying”).
What Would Jesus Buy? is a perfect film to watch today, Buy Nothing Day — especially if you have a Netflix account, in which case you can watch the film instantly online for free. No Netflix? You can buy the DVD for $24.95 — and maybe even arrange a screening in your town in preparation for the holidays.
Rev. Billy’s been keeping busy since the film — most recently running for mayor of New York. And according to his Twitter account, Rev. Billy’s been busy not shopping today: “Just home from Macy’s 5 a.m. crush, Life After Shopping choir sang, swept back through Rockettes inside door, preaching against consumerism.”