I saw What would Jesus buy? today, and it has, appropriately, stirred me up. I can’t say I learned anything new about American consumerism, or corporate (non-)citizenship or sweat shops. Rev. Billy did not irritate me as much as I expected. But I was moved simply by the story of these individuals – Bill Talen and his choir and band members – who toured the country for a month in ancient buses (retrofitted for biodiesel) in order to spread their message. Most of them seem like the people with whom I lived for a year in Lutheran Volunteer Corps – young, committed, hopeful, and fun-loving.
I generally avoid the places Rev. Billy targets – megamalls and Wal-Mart – precisely because they make me feel demoralized and numbed out. I’m no better than any other average mortal at getting out of Target without spending $50 more than I intended to, so I try to just avoid the whole scene (except when I have to, say, pick up party favors for a six-year-old's birthday). I thought sitting through 90 minutes of footage in these places would depress me. But, in fact, Rev. Billy’s witness makes me hopeful.
The members of the Church of Stop Shopping are witnesses, in the best sense – they point to another way – in a totally silly, outrageous manner. The folks in the film also seem, in some odd ways, to be a genuine church, in that they care for one another, reach out to others, and even confess their own shortcomings.
This is not great film, but I’m glad Morgan Spurlock has documented TCOSS in this way.
My favorite line, after Billy has been detained in Disneyland (I think from one of the choir members):
“They [the Disney folk] completely control this place. It’s not like U.S public land where you can, like. . . sing.”