Last week was a bad week for the electronics in my home. If it plugged in, it was probably going to die. These things happen, though I was starting to wonder about timing. In the span of about 10 days, the list of ‘broken’ kept growing… 5 lightbulbs, my e-book reader, my mobile phone, my computers’ mouse, my alarm clock, the church answering machine, my stereo, my landline phone… you get the idea.
Needless to say, I had to spend some time (and money) getting certain things replaced. A few of things that I can either do without or had extra copies of anyway, but the other brought frustration. My e-reader just decided to die after 2 years, so I called customer service again to investigate repairs. Their response? The device is too old to repair; they don’t even have access to the parts anymore, they suggested I buy the newest model. Too old after 2 years? My mobile phone was a similar story. 2.5 years into a 3-year contract, I plugged it in to charge the other night, and woke up to a completely dead phone. Even trying a new battery produced no results; I would have to either buy a brand new phone, or sign into a new 3-year contract. Even a previous handset was useless as the security codes could not be broken. Then the saleperson admitted that they would never sign a 3-year contract because none of the phones they sell are designed to last 3 years. Seriously?!
I’ve known for a while that society in general tends to prefer the disposable these days. I’m annoyed and frustrated, however, that there are fewer and fewer options out there for people like me who would prefer to repair things rather than replace. I’m bothered that even when things CAN be repaired, society is being encouraged to replace them – last month my 2-year-old laptop was in for repairs under warrantee, and the people there were already trying to sell me my next computer, claiming it might be better for me than the machine that I have now.
So what happens with all this ‘old’ stuff that we throw away? Is it recycled just because we toss it into a blue bin, or does it eventually end up in a landfill? And what about the ‘new’ stuff that we accumulate- where did the materials come from to make it? Was it made using ethical practices?
And how do we as Christians respond to our disposable society? Does our faith influence our consumer habits? Should it? I think it should. I think that we, as people of faith, should be showing the world leadership in all that we do – what we say, how we act, what we buy. It may mean that we choose to buy fewer things of higher quality to decrease our waste. It may mean that we research where our things come from and how they are made, then choose to purchase things that truly respect the dignity of every human being and the integrity of God’s creation.
I think that being a Christian means that everyday we have to make difficult choices, and one of those is to do our part to reject the disposable society. We’re called to be leaders in the world, and we can’t do that when we’re willing to simply cast aside and throw away something for something new and shiny. The Earth and her resources are finite, not disposable. The people of God are beloved, not disposable. Our faith is strong and enduring, not disposable – and the choices we make every day can show the world just how strong that ‘old’ faith can be.