A hymn for overcoming the political-consumerist-entertainment complex

Last month I wrote about how I enjoyed and recommended Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. Brilliant political theater. You can listen to some of the group’s songs: I’m especially fond of #3 on the media player, “(Shop Enough for) Africa”

But I think their anthem — my favorite anyway — is The Beyond Song” but it has rolled off the media player. The you in the song seems to be the violent power of corporations and politics to keep us distracted and powerless. (Full lyrics)

When did we start to believe beyond you?
When did the product die on the shelf?
I think you lost us we you said
“There is nothing to life but fear itself, You said – life on earth is a network of terror
and spending keeps the demons in the zoo.”

Michele Smith, a flutist and lead alto, has it for download at her site. She puts makes the rationale for Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping in a better context than simple anti-consumerism or grandstanding political theater.

Several years ago I came to the realization that choice of product has become one of the few avenues Americans have to assert their individuality and sense of self.”

Note: they’ll be in suburban Washington for a film festival next month. Hubby and I plan on being there.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I guess I’m not sure in what manner this was written. I can’t tell if this is sarcastic or what your position is on consumerism.

    Please elaborate.

    The Church, although its calling ought to be to move away from consumerism and materialism, does a poor job of translating that message to congregations. Buying things and investing in them so that they actually become you is most directly idolatry, and that message doesn’t seem to come across.

  2. I’m sorry. I’m understanding better now. I read too quickly… Thanks for sharing this. It’s why I stay with the Church for break-thrus like this.

  3. The site — revbilly.com — puts it into better context: not so much sarcasm as much as withering denunciation. Consumption — conspicuous, mindless and palliative — distracts contentious people from constructive pursuits and relationships.

    Or to morph an older idiom: we must consume (some) to live, but not live to consume.

    That said, I don’t think Rev. Billy is a particularly religious phenomenon — he is a character portrayed by a dedicated actor — but I think we’d agree that faithful people are drawn to and convinced by his message and tone.

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