There is a wonderful conversation going on today over at Crunchy Chicken's blog about how (or whether) our lifestyle and attitudes about consumption are informed by our religious beliefs. I hope you will go over there and give both the article and the comments a read. As I write this she is up to 27 comments, and the conversation has so far been civil and thoughtful. I really appreciate her opening up that forum. It is prompting me to post on the same topic, and I may indeed have several posts over the next few days that continue to explore my own thoughts on the subject. They are just my thoughts; take them or leave them as you wish. I welcome any civil discourse they may generate in the comments section of this blog.
What first comes to mind requires a little family history. Virtually all my ancestors came to this continent prior to the Revolutionary War, and all of them, to a person, came because they were being persecuted for their faith back in Europe. It is beyond ridiculous that Christians were mistreating Christians, but there it is, it happened, and we cannot erase that from history. My ancestors were all Protestant, and they came variously from the British Isles (with the exception of Ireland), Switzerland, and Germany. There was one Huguenot, as well. At a later point here on this continent, we acquired a Cherokee Nation branch also. They were people who cared so much about their beliefs that they gave up everything to practice their faith freely.
While Christians are to raise their children in such a way that they will accept their faith at some point, no one can inherit their faith in Christ; each must internalize it themselves. So, while I honor my family's faith history, my faith is my own, make no mistake of that. However, the family can certainly set examples, and many of mine did. I'd like to share one story that relates to the examples set about consumerism and putting others before yourself.
One Swiss-German branch of my family settled near Springfield, IL in the 18oos, and there is a story about them that has been told in my dad's family for generations around the Thanksgiving table. In the story, the father (who was also a minister in their little church) and the boys were out working about the farm place, and the mother, daughters (among them my great-great grandmother), and smaller children were in and around the house. There had been rumors floating about for several days that there were Indians in the area, and every one was nervous about safety. It was early spring and the father was doing early field work, when his son ran to him and said that there was an Indian standing at the edge of the woods, watching them. The father told his son to run back to the house and have the family gather in the house and shut the door. The son asked the father if he should load the gun they had in the house. The father said no. He was going to talk to the Indian, if he could, and God would protect him.
The family shut themselves in the house and were very worried. The father was gone a long time. When he finally returned, his first words on entering the house were, "Children, go down in the cellar and bring up everything that's left of the food." Then he turned to his wife and said, "They don't want to hurt anyone. They're starving, and we are going to feed them." With his family's help, he loaded their wagon with everything they had left in the cellar, and drove it down to where the Indians were camped by the river, and gave it all to them. As best I can tell, this is a Trail of Tears story. At least my ancestors were able to mitigate that evil to some degree.
My great-great grandmother was just a little girl when she witnessed this, but it was one of her strongest memories. She would recount it at Thanksgiving dinner, and always ended by saying something like, "You never know who might need your help, so keep watch. Never be selfish. You should always share with anyone who is in need. Even though we gave all the food away, we some how had enough to eat until the garden came in. That's how we learned to be thankful for what we had."
Isn't that a great story? I've never been asked to give everything I have for sustenance away to some one in need, and then rely on God to fill in the gaps. But at least I have that story as an example to me that it can, and should, be done.