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Consumerism: A Subtle Corroder of Virtue
Catholic Online ^ | 8/30/2004 | Dr. Ray Guarendi (interviewee)

Posted on 09/30/2004 7:39:02 AM PDT by ArrogantBustard

Consumerism: A Subtle Corroder of Virtue

Psychologist Tells How Christians Can Resist Materialism

UNIONTOWN, Ohio, AUG. 30, 2004 (Zenit) - Jesus Christ spoke out against greed more than any other vice. But despite those warnings, Christians are still incredibly susceptible to the allure of a materialistic lifestyle, says a Catholic psychologist.

Dr. Ray Guarendi, author, radio host and father of 10, told us how Christians in the West are plagued by consumerism and what damage greed can do to Christian marriages, families and individuals.

Q: Those in a free society are awash in choice in virtually all aspects of life: housing, employment, appearance, relationships, possessions. What would you say are the major areas where consumerism has deeply affected Christians' behavior -- without them realizing it?

Guarendi: Consumerism seems to me to be the Number 1 corporate sin of Christians -- it's the sin that affects the most of us the most. We are simply so deep into it we don't see it anymore.

Our desire for stuff supersedes everything. We are distracted, owned, tempted and seduced by it. We simply think less of God and more of "it" -- it consumes more of our waking moments than God. That may be why our Lord spoke more of greed in the New Testament than anything else.

Part of the problem is that the American culture views consumerism and stuff as part and parcel of normal living. It just is; it's how people get by. How can that be wrong? But it goes to the core of who we are. Consumerism equates with self -- self-centeredness, self-fulfillment, self-satisfaction, selfish desires.

Virtually everyone lives to the limit or above what they can afford. That leaves no margin to give of money, to give of time and to simply have extra. Often, when missionaries come into parishes and take a second collection, the number of $1 bills is pathetic. Catholics are the richest religious group in the country and we give the least.

Unfortunately, we don't see it because we're like fish that don't sense the water around us. We need to make an effort to sense consumerism and try to resist it in our society.

When kids go anywhere -- the store, restaurants, parties, other homes, even churches -- they get prizes. We get stuff as often as we breathe; it becomes part of our lifestyle. We have to consciously and willfully fight to recognize that this is happening.

If we gave to the Church the amount of money we spend eating out and shopping -- or how much we pay on interest for things we don't really need -- the Church would be able to help so many more people.

In our culture, being a consumer is seen as the good life -- but it distracts us from the infinitely good life. Adam and Eve had everything, except for one tree. And of course, that's what they wanted the most.

Q: With the growth of consumerism, how have you seen this phenomenon play out in Christian marriages, families and children?

Guarendi: As a therapist, one of the first things I do with a child who has a behavior problem is ask the parents to reassess the child's goodies, activities and privileges. Kids are awash in things and leisure opportunities, and it affects their behavior.

One of the top three stresses in marriages and families is finances. We are the wealthiest culture the world has ever seen, but our discontent over our finances, homes and ability to buy things is sky-high.

Because of the degree we want stuff, we have to work. That means that Daddy and sometimes Mommy are away from home all day so that they and their kids can have everything they want. This leads to what I call the "working parent compensation system."

Moms often don't want to work, but think they have to work because of spending habits in the family. They are tired when they come home, they feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children and they are hesitant to spend that little time punishing their kids for misbehaving.

That affects their resolve to discipline and be, in effect, parents. If parents are working long or extra hours, they can't supervise their children; their kids are on their own to raise themselves.

Husbands often pursue their toys more than wives because they are told they gotta have them to be a man's man and enjoy life. At a superficial level, guys want the newest, best stuff, and sometimes that includes wives. They think, "My wife is getting older; there must be a better, newer model out there."

When you learn to want things, your wants don't just stop at inanimate objects. You want other people and relationships that seem better than your current ones. When you are dissatisfied with what you have, it doesn't stop with consumer goods. This often leads to affairs and an overall pattern of discontent.

Discontent is not related to what we have, it's the distance between what we have and what we want.

Q: Increased affluence over the last decades has contributed to freedom of choice by giving people the means to act on their various goals and desires. How has this affected a Christian's ability to commit to a lifelong vocation, especially to the religious life and the priesthood?

Guarendi: The gap between what religious accept as their lifestyle and the available lifestyle in the West is large and has grown wider in the last few generations. African vocations are exploding in part, it seems, because religious life in Africa is an educated and appealing life compared to others' lives in that culture.

In the West, compared to the rest of society, religious life has very little perceived "payoff." The gap is huge, so the commitment is bigger. Commitment to priestly or religious vocations has to be fostered daily, because daily one is reminded of what he or she is giving up.

Kids these days have a lot of stuff. For them to respond to a call to religious life, it has to be pretty strong. They have to turn their back to a lot of the "good life" to commit solely to Christ.

We live in the culture where the attention span is short. We define the goodness of life by its variability, its progressiveness and change. Committing to something for life, such as marriage, can be looked at as psychologically suffocating. We can't commit to just one thing. Tradition, commitment and stability are looked down on.

We have succeeded in psychologically deigning as good those very things that can bring down our culture.

Q: How can Christians gauge how much consumerism influences their lives? What are questions that people, and especially parents, can ask themselves in order to determine its pervasiveness?

Guarendi: Here are some things you can ask yourself.

If I am asked to give to the work for the Church, can I do it? Or do I say that I would love to, but I can't financially? That is an indication that we are living at or beyond our financial limits.

How many things do I need? People often think they can't give to the Church because they have too much stuff to buy, too many payments; they don't have extra to give.

How much margin is there in my life? Do I have free time? Do I have free money? Free energy? I'm too busy to do anything for anyone? Look at busy-ness and look how much is necessary.

You have to look at what demands your time and if you can justify it. Even if you can afford things, you don't have to have them. Look how much you use things, especially your toys and big things. Ask yourself: Am I neglecting others in order to take care of all my stuff? What kind of time do I spend with my kids and family?

If you own a big home, even if you can pay for it, maintaining it eats up a lot of your time. God won't ask how big your house was. He will ask you how much time you spent with your family.

How much stuff do my kids have? Kids need about five toys, if that. They can draw, read and make up things. I use as a rule of thumb: Get rid of 90% of what kids have. It improves your frustration level with them, and it improves their gratitude and behavior. Give it away. I am not saying live like St. Francis; just get down to a healthy level.

Does my stuff interfere with my ability to help and have relationships with people? The more you own, the more you are owned by it.

Q: How can Christians respond to and combat consumerism?

Guarendi: Very simple way to deal with it: Give it away or don't buy it. Go through your house; count all of the things that are just sitting there. They serve no purpose but to adorn our lives.

Look at how you spend your money. If someone is hurting and needs your help, are you contributing only $5 to help them? Why are you not giving them more?

Most Christians see tithing as the standard of generosity. Tithing in the Old Testament is a small percentage. In the New Testament, the standard is to give your second coat to another -- that's giving 50% of what you have.

Consumerism does not help in the life of virtue. It is a subtle corroder of Christian virtue. It is devastating to a Christian's walk with the Lord because it flows in tandem with preoccupation with self.

Consumerism is a continuation of self-absorption -- life is to get, not to give. Materialism is completely antithetical to Christian living and the giving of ourselves, our belongings and our lives.

We need to look at ourselves, our homes and how we live with an objective eye. Look at what is helping you get to heaven, and what is keeping you from walking with God.


TOPICS: Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; Mainline Protestant; Moral Issues; Orthodox Christian; Other Christian; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: consumerism; poverty; wealth
Deserves its own thread.
1 posted on 09/30/2004 7:39:03 AM PDT by ArrogantBustard
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To: Convert from ECUSA; GirlShortstop; NYer; sandyeggo; dsc

This article got referenced on another thread (thanks GSS); I thought it deserved a thread of its own.


2 posted on 09/30/2004 7:40:34 AM PDT by ArrogantBustard
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: ArrogantBustard
>Materialism is completely antithetical to Christian living and the giving of ourselves, our belongings and our lives

Well, someone could say,
every time I get something,
someone has to give

it to me. Therefor
I'm helping them be Christian.
By wearing the yoke

of a consumer
I help others be Christian.
And what could be more

Christian than taking
a tough task to help others?
See? It all makes sense.

4 posted on 09/30/2004 7:54:07 AM PDT by theFIRMbss
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To: ArrogantBustard

Thanks, AB!


5 posted on 09/30/2004 7:55:13 AM PDT by Convert from ECUSA (tired of shucking and jiving)
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To: ArrogantBustard; sandyeggo
This article got referenced on another thread (thanks GSS); I thought it deserved a thread of its own.

You're welcome for the 'tip' A.B.  Thank you for posting it.  Now the onus is on one of us to remember to bump it when [normal] Christmas shopping time is in full swing.

Consumerism is a continuation of self-absorption -- life is to get, not to give. Materialism is completely antithetical to Christian living and the giving of ourselves, our belongings and our lives.

Good excerpt choice sandyeggo.  Pax et bonum.
6 posted on 09/30/2004 7:55:56 AM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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To: ArrogantBustard
Well, Guarendi seems to feel that the solution to consumerism is for Catholics to have less stuff, and take the money that's left over and give it to the Church.

The Church, however, has a responsibility as well. What are Catholics to think when they forego a new or second car only to see the Church build quarter billion dollar cathedrals and bishops living in million dollar residences?

Or, they see the parishes they've attended their entire lives and given money to closed in order to pay off sexual abuse claims?

Catholics in the West are gripped by consumerism because those who run the Church are gripped by that same consumerism.

Set an example, clergy, and the people will follow.

7 posted on 09/30/2004 7:59:29 AM PDT by sinkspur ("John Kerry's gonna win on his juices. "--Cardinal Fanfani)
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To: sinkspur

It depends on what you mean by "Church" consumerism. If a diocese spends a quarter-billion dollars, and gets a structure that doesn't glorify God, then we have a problem. But if the money is well-spent on a classical cathedral, then I don't think it's a problem. Sometimes, we can come dangerously close to being like Judas Iscariot, who criticized the woman who spent money on expensive oil that she used to anoint Christ's feet.


8 posted on 09/30/2004 8:04:14 AM PDT by Pyro7480 (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix.... sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper...)
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To: sinkspur
Guarendi: As a therapist, one of the first things I do with a child who has a behavior problem is ask the parents to reassess the child's goodies, activities and privileges. Kids are awash in things and leisure opportunities, and it affects their behavior.

This doesn't happen because bishops build palaces. It happens because (grand)parents are trying to buy the kid's affection, and trying to compensate for their absence. It has a seriously corrosive effect on childrens' understanding of the relationship between "work" and "stuff", and consequently on the value of "stuff" and the necessity of "work".

9 posted on 09/30/2004 8:04:49 AM PDT by ArrogantBustard
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To: Pyro7480
If a diocese spends a quarter-billion dollars, and gets a structure that doesn't glorify God, then we have a problem. But if the money is well-spent on a classical cathedral, then I don't think it's a problem.

You miss the point, Pyro. This is not about spires versus flat roofs.

Bishops and priests who turn churches into monuments to themselves or modeled after their own preferences are not good stewards of the hard-earned money of parishioners.

Quarter billion dollar churches of any style are a scandal.

10 posted on 09/30/2004 8:15:36 AM PDT by sinkspur ("John Kerry's gonna win on his juices. "--Cardinal Fanfani)
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To: ArrogantBustard
This doesn't happen because bishops build palaces.

I didn't say that. But many priests and bishops in the West are simply not models of Him who had nowhere to lay His Head. And Catholics see that.

11 posted on 09/30/2004 8:17:42 AM PDT by sinkspur ("John Kerry's gonna win on his juices. "--Cardinal Fanfani)
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To: sinkspur

Oh dear.

This is the first time I've ever agreed with you about anything.

One of us must have been kidnapped by aliens and replaced with pod people.

Either that or blame the full moon!


12 posted on 09/30/2004 8:17:53 AM PDT by karenbarinka (Trust no one who slandered Mel or Passion)
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To: sinkspur
Catholics in the West are gripped by consumerism because those who run the Church are gripped by that same consumerism.

Chicken or the egg?  Not enough Catholics go to church enough to be influenced in that way, imho.  We could speculate that a reason they *don't* is because of their consumerist lifestyle... not wanting to think about how influenced they've been/become.  I sort of see it a a new religion.

My bellyache at my parish is that the pastor gives the clear impression that he's a businessman first (and he even stinks at that based upon communication in the bulletin).
13 posted on 09/30/2004 8:26:13 AM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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To: diamond6
People often think they can't give to the Church because they have too much stuff to buy, too many payments; they don't have extra to give.

diamond, this article seems to be on target with your quote [from your dad] a ways back.Pax et bonum.
14 posted on 09/30/2004 8:31:13 AM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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To: sinkspur
Bishops and priests who turn churches into monuments to themselves or modeled after their own preferences are not good stewards of the hard-earned money of parishioners.

Yeah, if clerics build churches for selfish reasons, then they aren't good stewards.

Quarter billion dollar churches of any style are a scandal.

How much what it cost to build the Basilica of the Immacualate Conception, whose basic stucture was only completed 50 years ago? I bet you it would take a few 100 million.

15 posted on 09/30/2004 8:33:16 AM PDT by Pyro7480 (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix.... sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper...)
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To: sinkspur

Sorry, I messed that question up. It should be, "How much would it cost to build the Basilica today?"


16 posted on 09/30/2004 8:33:55 AM PDT by Pyro7480 (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix.... sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper...)
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To: sinkspur
Well, Guarendi seems to feel that the solution to consumerism is for Catholics to have less stuff, and take the money that's left over and give it to the Church.

Whenever I have a few extra bucks left over after all the bills have been paid I'll send it directly to the local "Pregnancy Care" or "Birthright". Sometimes I'll put it aside for disaster relief or send it to the local food bank.

I don't up my weekly contribution in the Church envelope, precisely because I have issues with the way some of it is spent.

17 posted on 09/30/2004 8:38:33 AM PDT by marshmallow
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To: sinkspur
Quarter billion dollar churches of any style are a scandal.

Do you know how much it cost to build EWTN's Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament?  Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!
18 posted on 09/30/2004 8:48:43 AM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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To: GirlShortstop

Good memory shortstop!!


19 posted on 09/30/2004 9:15:08 AM PDT by diamond6 (Everyone who is for abortion has already been born. Ronald Reagan)
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To: ArrogantBustard

No, this is blasphemy!!! The Church is just filled with commies because they think basing one's life on what they can buy and consume is spiritually harmful.


20 posted on 09/30/2004 9:54:27 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: ArrogantBustard
I agree wholeheartedly with this article. I've finally gotten a good paying job (4 years out of college and single, for reference) yet find that I'm still crunched for cash. So I've decided to pay off all my debts (college loan, car loan, credit cards) within two years. I clip coupons and bargain shop (saved $21 on a $73 supermarket trip today) and buy generic when possible.

I want to control my debt, not let it control me.
21 posted on 09/30/2004 10:01:00 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: diamond6; sandyeggo
Good memory shortstop!!       :)    For a smile, thanks to sandyeggo:

The Senility Prayer

God, grant me the Senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
The good fortune to run into the ones that I do,
And the eyesight to tell the difference.


22 posted on 09/30/2004 10:01:09 AM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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To: Conservative til I die
I clip coupons and bargain shop (saved $21 on a $73 supermarket trip today) and buy generic when possible.

That's commendable C-t-I-d.  I think paying full price is for suckers.  :)
23 posted on 09/30/2004 10:04:02 AM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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To: sinkspur

Gee, how did I know you'd somehow find some issue with this article.


24 posted on 09/30/2004 10:04:41 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: Pyro7480; sinkspur

Sink's right. We should be worshipping in abandoned storefronts like the Pentecostals. Mmmmm, I love the smell of must and waterbugs.


25 posted on 09/30/2004 10:08:16 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: sinkspur

How do quarter billion dollar cathedrals justify rampant consumerism on the part of the laiety?


26 posted on 09/30/2004 10:09:24 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: GirlShortstop; sinkspur

She's just a rampant consumerist.


27 posted on 09/30/2004 10:10:50 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: ArrogantBustard
Go through your house; count all of the things that are just sitting there. They serve no purpose but to adorn our lives.

Good article. I try to do the above at least once a year. Amazing what you can bag up and give to the Rescue Mission etc. Makes you really ponder the question of "why do I have all this stuff I never use?"

28 posted on 09/30/2004 10:11:26 AM PDT by Gerish (Choose God, he has already chosen you.)
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To: GirlShortstop
Yeah. I only buy name-brand or not-on-sale when it otherwise isn't feasible. Things like cat food, cat litter, soups, things like that. Even then though, I always buy larger sizes for the bulk discount, savings that aren't noted on your receipt.

I've got better things to spend the money on, like saving up for a nice condo(ownership society and all). I'd much rather put down $15,000 and pay a $900/month mortgage than be like my idiot friends buying glorified studios in the city with poor ventilation, uneven floors, noisy neighbors, and a beautiful view of the wall of the next building for $1600 a month.
29 posted on 09/30/2004 10:13:28 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: Conservative til I die
I don't disagree with the premises of the article, nor its intent, to encourage Catholics to become less materialistic.

However, it's time Catholic laymen held their clergy responsible, and forced them to be good stewards of the treasure entrusted to them. Building palaces for themselves and ornate monstrosities called churches ought to be questioned by those forking over the funds.

30 posted on 09/30/2004 10:32:21 AM PDT by sinkspur ("John Kerry's gonna win on his juices. "--Cardinal Fanfani)
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To: Conservative til I die
She's just a rampant consumerist.

LOL... and Religious Catalog just proves it!!    
31 posted on 09/30/2004 10:32:35 AM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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To: sinkspur
However, it's time Catholic laymen held their clergy responsible, and forced them to be good stewards of the treasure entrusted to them. Building palaces for themselves and ornate monstrosities called churches ought to be questioned by those forking over the funds.

I have to agree with you sinkspur.
32 posted on 09/30/2004 10:34:05 AM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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To: Conservative til I die
How do quarter billion dollar cathedrals justify rampant consumerism on the part of the laiety?

Sets a bad example.

33 posted on 09/30/2004 10:40:15 AM PDT by sinkspur ("John Kerry's gonna win on his juices. "--Cardinal Fanfani)
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To: sinkspur
So you think that Catholics don't posess the free will needed to not be consumerists? C'mon, that's like saying laiety will molest kids because some priests do.

Laypeople using "THe Church does it too!" are just looking for a quick, cheap excuse to justify their own selfish actions.
34 posted on 09/30/2004 11:32:27 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: Conservative til I die
Laypeople using "THe Church does it too!" are just looking for a quick, cheap excuse to justify their own selfish actions.

I'm for removing the source for the excuse.

35 posted on 09/30/2004 11:34:10 AM PDT by sinkspur ("John Kerry's gonna win on his juices. "--Cardinal Fanfani)
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To: GirlShortstop; sinkspur; Pyro7480; ArrogantBustard

Comments #7, 10, 11, 30 - Sinkspur, good points!

#8 and #15 - Pyro7480, I'm just across the Potomac from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and it is a beautiful church that looks like a church. It was built in a very different era than the one we live in, when we didn't have the scandals we have live through recently, and I don't think most - if any, bishops in the US lived in fancy houses. But that is my opinion. Personally, something like the Shrine is, to me, worth contributing to. A beautiful church which takes one's mind toward God inside and out, is priceless. However, monstrosities like that hideous what-ever-it-is in LA (Taj Mahoney) is another matter - other examples are in Mike Rose's "Ugly as Sin." As you put it well in #8, money spent on a classical catherdral is well spent.


36 posted on 09/30/2004 11:37:28 AM PDT by Convert from ECUSA (tired of shucking and jiving)
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To: Convert from ECUSA
I don't think most - if any, bishops in the US lived in fancy houses.

Actually, far more bishops lived like princes in the early and mid 20th century than do now.

The idea of a "bishop's mansion"--something fairly common throughout large dioceses--should be revolting, but it wasn't.

37 posted on 09/30/2004 11:40:54 AM PDT by sinkspur ("John Kerry's gonna win on his juices. "--Cardinal Fanfani)
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To: Convert from ECUSA; sinkspur
...monstrosities like that hideous what-ever-it-is in LA (Taj Mahoney) is another matter - other examples are in Mike Rose's "Ugly as Sin".

LOL... as my father would wryly remark:  "their taste is all in their mouth."   teeheehee
38 posted on 09/30/2004 1:10:31 PM PDT by GirlShortstop ( O sublime humility! That the Lord... should humble Himself like this... )
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Comment #39 Removed by Moderator

To: ArrogantBustard
I think that it is the author's purchase of 4x4's, cell phones, computers, internet service provider, central A/C in his home, house slippers, newspaper subscription, TV's, take-out food, etc... that is the destructive consumerism he is talking about.

I am not guilted and will continue to spend my money as I see fit.

40 posted on 09/30/2004 7:18:36 PM PDT by Lester Moore (Islam is begging to be destroyed by a Christian Crusade! Forthcoming!)
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To: Convert from ECUSA
However, monstrosities like that hideous what-ever-it-is in LA

What it is, is an appropriate target for saturation nuclear bombing, that happens to be located too close to too much "collateral damage" to ever get what it truly deserves. The Loizeaux family should be allowed (nay, encouraged) to practice their art on it.

41 posted on 09/30/2004 8:32:02 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard
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