Reverend Billy’s Revelations

Issue 275

The good reverend says the most important thing you can do to celebrate the holiday season is…

Reverend Billy Talen Nov 21, 2022

Dear Rev Billy, 

I recently saw some early holiday-themed displays in a store. Ugh. Can’t stand all the commercialism around us. What can I do to not let it all get to me?

— Sandra           

Well Sandra. We reached 8 billion people on this Earth today, and if all of us were disgusted at once it wouldn’t matter. The sixth mass extinction is underway and accelerating.

There are variations on an old joke that people say off the cuff. “Shop till you drop.” “Shop yourself to death.” “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But the United States, birthplace of the consumerism that became the world’s raging infection, is now catching up to its own cliché. We have the choice to stop shopping and work with the Earth’s changes, or we can shop till we drop, or burn, or drown, or starve.

Strange how “shop to death” still sounds a lot like a joke, even after becoming the truth. When I started shouting it in Times Square 20 years ago it WAS a joke. A satirical televangelist with big hair with Mickey Mouse the antichrist. I knew that there was justice hidden in the joke, but with that justice part — I was less sure of myself. 

I wasn’t defending the Earth in those early days, I was defending young women who worked in sweatshops in Mexico and Tanzania and the Philippines. I was more confident when Charley Kernighan and Barbara Briggs and the National Labor Committee folks walked up and put their card on my pulpit.

The Disney Store, which was at 42nd St. and Broadway back then, was 100% sweatshop products. Mickey Mouse was the great betrayer; he was (and is) the antichrist. And people began improvising songs on that sidewalk, songs about losing your eye-sight trying to see the needles, songs about company thugs kicking girls who fall asleep after 18 hours on the job…And the thing was, I knew that there was a sweatshop on the same block where I was preaching on 41st over there. Charley and Barbara would lead parades around the block and we would wave to the workers. Kids. really.

That’s what’s happening to us. We are joking about the bad weather and the storm is on the same street where we stand, where we stand with 8 billion people. Oh, amazing how we keep the 150 mph winds and the flooding seas at a safe distance. We have the disasters encased in our Santa, pixelated on screens…That two-mile wide tornado? We put a Coca Cola in the middle of the spinning green darkness and suddenly we’re pulling styrofoam out of packaging under the dying pine tree.

Sandra. You ask, “What can I do to not let it all get to me?” Let it get to you. Then use your disgust to escape. Maybe your disgust is your doorway out. Walk through it and get directions to the winter solstice. Make it personally crucial that you reach the Earth itself. Find the crisis. 

Getting out of commercial Christmas leaves many of us lost — it’s the USA ritual. But however we return to the Earth, be patient because we haven’t done this in a while. Stick with it and work through it. Life is this year’s gift! Stop Shopping! 

Rev Billy

Reverend Billy Talen is the pastor of the Church of Stop Shopping. Have a question for the Reverend? Email and unburden your soul.