As an American, nothing drives home the modern obsession with material luxury more than Christmas. What was once a religious holiday is… still a religious holiday. A celebration of the material consumption that is the religion of modern America.
I suspect that, ethically, I should give everything I have to those in need. I should live only on what is necessary to survive. At the very least, I should use my abilities strictly to help others rather than using my abilities to help increase my own level of comfort.
But alas, I am a coward. Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant in saying “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”. Material comfort is an opiate. Virtually every religious tradition warns against the seductiveness of material comfort.
However, I have a wife and children. It is both an honor and my duty to provide for them, to care for them. In addition to providing for their material needs, I think I should educate them as best I’m able, and should provide them with every opportunity to make a life for themselves. I believe I should not impose my beliefs upon my children. Rather, I should give them tools for evaluating truth, tools for developing character, and let them follow their own path through life. I hope I leave them with very little that they must unlearn later in life. It seems to me that enacting my own fairly unorthodox views would do a grave disservice to my children (and perhaps my wife as well).
So I am a coward with an excuse.
I can try to exercise personal restraint. I expect any attempt at “asceticism” in modern America likely resembles the “garish opulence” of yesteryear. But nevermind. I know there are many others who harbor or exercise beliefs that extol simplicity. I am only now waking up to this idea. I have been drunk with materialism for so long that I am not sure what sobriety might look like.
When does sufficient become excessive? Where is that line? I am not sure. But I do feel fairly certain that my American Christmas has well and truly cleared it. And despite the assurances of American propaganda, I don’t think that’s a good thing.