Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us
so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky,
the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”
God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27 Common English Bible)
Questions of identity - Who am I? Why am I here? - have often plagued the minds of philosophers and theologians. Since the Enlightenment, we have received various attempts to answer these questions - some have been helpful, some not so much. These are important questions to wrestle with, for the answers to them - even the processes one goes through on the journey toward an answer - will provide some insight as to the motivation behind the choices people make in their day-to-day lives.
Since the Enlightenment, the identity of people has shifted from being primarily communal to being concerned with the individual (for the sake of brevity I make this great reduction). Even more of the last 150 years, our identity has shifted to the individual “consumer”. We are identified this way by economists, government, retailers, advertisers, news pundits, etc. Somehow, the measure of our consumption - how much we buy and use - is an indication of the “health” of the economy and it seems to follow, the “health” of the nation.
We need to explore this because our sense of identity shapes how we think, the choices we make every day. To be reduced to a “consumer” is a betrayal of who we really are, who we have been created to be. The unfortunate reality is that many Christians - those who profess to follow the way of Jesus, the way of self-denial, the way of the cross - participate in this consumer mentality.
Whenever we approach a situation with the questions, “What will I get out of this?” or “What’s in it for me?” we have succumbed. However, most of us are largely unaware that we do this. A consumer identity denies our core identity, especially as it shapes our desires. We begin to believe we should have everything we want - like a bunch of toddlers running around yelling, “Mine!”
When it so happens that we actually cannot have everything we want, we do not quite know how to handle it. The confusion can lead to depression, because we cannot make the world give us what we desire. Often, the response is disdain, withdrawal, fear, even anger and violence toward self and others.
Scripture tells us that we have been created in the image of God, and God is relational, Father-Son-Holy Spirit. The divine image is familial, communal, other-centered. A consumer identity is completely self-centered. As children of God, the whole of humanity created in the divine image, we must seriously question and resist the consumer identity.