Educating for Discipleship in Consumer Culture
American society has been labeled a consumer culture. Consumer culture is not another term for materialism or a framework to explain one's relationship to money; it is an evolving ethos shaping our vision of ourselves, of our neighbor and the common good. The breadth and depth of commodification in the contemporary West informs the collective imagination in unprecedented ways. This dissertation brings together social science critique, educational tools and theological resources to create models for effective adult disciple building that are adequate for addressing challenges of a dominant culture's ideology and practices. Christian formation practices should heighten the Christian community's awareness of its role in dominant culture, both as inheritors of culture and as agents. This awareness requires transformation in many dimensions of one's being: a holistic discipleship. Jesus reminded his followers, "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also." One of the driving questions of this dissertation is: how can the Christian community wrestle ultimate concerns back from the consumer culture to the heart of God for the world? To address that question the discourse of the dissertation is interdisciplinary while maintaining an ultimate vision for an approach to educating for mature Christian discipleship. The dissertation is structured to include social analysis, a vision of alternatives to the dominant lifestyle promulgated by the consumer culture, and effective pathways toward achieving that vision. The first half of the dissertation analyzes the relationship of contemporary consumer culture and Christian experience. The sociological and historical descriptions of this phenomenon lead toward the question, what are the implications for religious identity and meaning-making in light of the consumerist context? Theological resources include the gospel of Luke, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Gustavo Gutierrez for highlighting key dimensions of culturally responsive discipleship. There are also two brief cases presented of organizations who are attempting to live out promising approaches to Christian community in light of consumer culture patterns.The second half explores theories that can serve as a framework for Christian education practices. Transformative learning theory is introduced as a resource for cultivating awareness of underlying assumptions shaped by culture that are operative in adult decision making and worldview. Henriot and Holland's pastoral circle is described as a transformative learning tool. The dissertation moves toward a model of adapting the pastoral circle for educating congregations to think theologically about culture for the sake of personal transformation and social action.