Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The Mall as a Temple
I hadn't been to a shopping mall in a while. In fact I don't remember the last time. Let's just say it has been many months.
Every Sunday I attend Mass. I see my fellow Catholics kneeling in prayer. I am surrounded by stained glass images of the Saints. I am absorbed in devotion to Christ in the company of not just those present, but also those who have entered into Heaven, and people all around the world who are hearing the same readings from the Bible that day, and even those souls in Purgatory who are striving to reach perfection so that they too can abide in God's eternal presence. This is what the Catholic Church calls "the communion of saints".
There are prayers and incense and candles. The priest is dressed in robes appropriate to the current season in the Church's liturgical year. There is music and singing that celebrates God's love for His Creation.
And then I went to the Mall.
There were people busily going from store to store with shopping bags filled with their purchases. There were bright signs that beckoned me to enter one store or another. There was music that stimulated the inner urge to buy. There were life size posters of models in the latest fashions.
And I realized that the Mall is the Temple of modern secular society.
It's where we go to worship our secular gods of materialism and wealth. And we pray for the money to be able to purchase the objects of our desire. We go through the rituals of exchanging money for goods in order to receive the blessings of the gods of Levi's, Macy's and Abercrombie and Fitch.
We believe in the power of the brand. We have faith in the ritual of the return; and the joy everlasting of a good purchase.
We rejoice at the return of the prodigal sons and daughters who had given up shopping, because now the Malls are full again – overflowing with the communion of consumers. As our fellow consumers around the world flock to identical malls and purchase the identical products and brands that we have purchased.
We are reminded by the images of our role models, the saintly celebrities, who we imitate by dressing in the same fashions. So that we might attain the same blessings which have been bestowed upon them by secular society.
We seek to achieve the eternal fame of those who have died and have gone to live in Hollywood heaven among the stars. We aspire to become like them, and imitate their dress and hair styles and postures in order to come closer to the spotlight of fame,
We adore the iconic images of the celluloid heros and heroines of the past – blessed Marilyn Monroe and blessed James Dean. We fill our homes with memorabilia devoted to their adoration.
And every week we religiously return to the Mall. Seeking spiritual comfort in the surroundings, even when we have no intention of partaking in the ritual of the purchase. But simply shopping in anticipation of the coming day when the paycheck will rise again; meditating on the glories of buying.