Not just a brick in the wall: The desire for God and the challenge of consumer culture

Fred W Herron, Fordham University


The context for this dissertation has been shaped by the words of Pope Francis who told a group of diplomats on May 16, 2013 that "we have created new idols" and that "the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal." This dissertation maintains that the impact of consumer culture in the twenty first century is so profound precisely because it intends to cut the cord that joins heaven and earth and that this constitutes a true pastoral emergency, undermining the ability of parents, teachers, and pastoral leaders to guide and support the authentic but often inarticulate searching of their children, students, and parishioners who want to know what the point of it all really is. Consumer culture intentionally redirects our fundamental desires away from God and redirects them toward the acquisition of consumer goods. It constitutes a form of imperial consciousness that makes all reality and all presence subject to manipulation. Chapter One offers an introduction to this world by way of a tour of our local and customary malls, the temples that house our new idols, providing an introduction to this world and offering a panoramic view of its power and reach. That power is such that it extends to the developmental life cycle itself, shaping it to meet its overweening needs and ambitions. In Chapter Two I argue that it is in the best interests of this imperial power to subvert the fundamental and natural desire of human beings to search for a relationship with God in the interests of fostering a simpler and idolatrous desire for the goods and services of the consumer society. Chapter Three suggests that the Judeo-Christian tradition has met this sort of overwhelming imperial force and consciousness before and offers insights into diagnosing the disease and addressing it as well. A tour of this landscape will provide useful landmarks identifying resources and opportunities for resistance. Chapter Four offers four specific strategies for resistance and transformation

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Herron, Fred W, "Not just a brick in the wall: The desire for God and the challenge of consumer culture" (2014). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3645919.