Archives For Commerce

In a recent article titled ‘Abortion in/as a Consumer Structure’ for Solidarity: The Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics, Dr. Matthew Tan, a Lecturer in Theology and Philosophy at Campion College Australia, suggested that the Church needs to assert itself as an ‘alternative public’ in the marketplace.

Matthias Grunewald, ‘The Last Supper’. c.1500 A.D

According to Tan the real battleground where issues like abortion are to be engaged in is the ‘community called “the market”[i],

‘In consumer culture everything is reduced to a commodity and the market is the community’[ii]. He explains that ‘bodies become units of exchange. Greater value is attributed to those with the greater buying power’[iii]

Enter a ‘politics of visibility’ where bodies are:

‘reduced to a blank slate whose sole worth lies in its ability to exalt the logos that hang off it[iv]… Mere existence then becomes ‘dependent on performance and audience. Self itself becomes dependant on visibility’[v]

In response to this the Church needs to engage by seeing through the ‘lens of economic efficiency’. It needs to engage as a ‘public in its own right to challenge to the public circumscribed by state and society’.

This is as opposed to allowing itself to be simply relegated by society and politics to function in a private ancillary role e.g.: ‘chaplaincy’.

How can the Church apply its resources in presenting itself as an alternative?

Tan suggests that the language of the Sacraments meet the language of commerce, ‘in particular the Eucharist’.

Here the Church can assert itself as a direct:

‘counter-structure’ to the consumerist ‘logic of efficiency’ because the Eucharist (communion) ‘undoes the logic of efficiency by challenging the logic of resource scarcity that mandates the need to ensure efficient management. The Eucharist challenges this by positing counter-logic of plenitude where people ‘receive without charge [and] give without charge’
‘The Eucharist can challenge the very foundations on which contemporary socio-political arrangements are grounded. Because of this, the Church’s task of producing its own fields via sacramental practice will ultimately call into question the Church’s own political positioning’
‘This alternative public…contains an alternative structure and is one in which the imperative to consume others is seen as an aberration rather than the norm. If the structure of consumer practice is implicated in the normalisation of abortion, the Church can only comprehensively undercut that normalisation by supplementing its discourse asserting the personhood of the foetus with its own counter-structure.
In so doing the church will need to go beyond making claims that are allegedly recognisable to all endowed with reason. Through its own sacramental economy, it would need to be engaged in the production of practices that declare an allegiance that is contrary to the state/society/market complex’

Even though, they are in fact very political, I am not sure the sacraments (primarily Baptism and Communion – for those us reading Tan who are Protestants) should be employed as a purely political and financial tool. This is because the purposes of the sacraments are firstly about recollection. Secondly, relationship and then, only in a final sense, does it become about transformation.

I wonder though if Tan is in fact talking about marketing the church and its practices better. For example: Does this counter logic advocate that the Church view itself as a corporation and set itself apart from other corporations such as McDonalds, Apple or Microsoft?

If so, are we talking about taking up the very thing only God can do and does? Does this make or lead us to falsely make the sacraments purely transactional, bypassing Jesus Christ, to the point where something akin to the indulgences of the Middle Ages, salvation is taxed by the institution?

For the church the marketing of the message seems to be the evangelical outer workings of the people working with God, whereas the latter marketing of the church appears, at least in an exegetical understanding of scripture, to require and consist of the present participation of the Holy Spirit, in both external and internal evangelical work of God for the children of God.

Would this human effort to commercialise the sacraments then further diminish the transcendent point of reference which appears to be abandoned by modernity’s extreme focus on ‘surface over substance’; i.e.: material gain measuring a persons net worth?

I only ask this because it is my only hesitation in completely agreeing with his point of view. This doesn’t negate the strategic importance of Tan’s thinking here. There is potentially a lot good that can grow from what he is suggesting.

To witness the Church having its task of proclamation really heard and appreciated, on any level in real time, is energising. To engage as a serious alternative to the alternatives, is a privilege of freedom, that none of us in the church ought to remain complacent about or take for granted.


[i] Tan, M. 2014 Abortion in/as a Consumer Structure, Solidarity: The Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics: Vol 4: Iss.1, Article 7,p.7

[ii] Ibid, p.11

[iii] Ibid, p.8

[iv] Ibid, p.7

[v] Ibid, p.9

Article originally published April 27, 2014

1st-feb-2017-041In searching for a great way two kick-start our lessons for the second day of the new school year, I chose to adapt an activity I found on Apologia’s Instagram feed.

The objective was to draw a bird house and then write a brief blurb about it, as if you were trying to sell it.The idea wasn’t too hard to replicate.

Instead of it just being about science, I figured we could expand the activities usefulness to include commerce, creative writing and some music appreciation in the background for good measure.

So, I created my own template and as we do from time to time, we put on some old vinyl records and hit the drawing board.

The new objective still included coming up with, and drawing their own nest. The difference, though, was that it could be any kind of nest related to the ant, beaver, crocodile or bird.

After the nests were drawn, the goal was to write a description under the separate headings of features and benefits.

What we ended up with was a

Secret Ant Base” that looked like an ant and “came with 6 rooms, 1 room fit for a Queen, bomb shelter, nukes, rockets, and boats with all the accessories. [Benefits include] active security system and privacy.”

Second on the list was a

Lovely House For Beavers”, featuring ‘’lots of room, lovely interior, with storage room for lots of food. [Benefits included] It’s safe, can be hot or cold, has an [underwater] escape hatch and comes with furniture”

Third on our list we saw a for sale sign put up on Beaver’s House from Narnia,

“Situated on a frozen lake, this lovely home has two beds built into the wall, windows with amazing views of the forest and water surrounding it.[Benefits include] having good neighbours who could be relied upon for help if ever needed”

Fourth on the list we had an

Awesome Mansion For Birds”, featuring bedrooms, dining hall, attic, satellite radar dish, a boat that goes under water, guns and a scanner. [Benefits include] safety, security and peace of mind.”

Last on the list was a

Ant Colony Housing”, which features two entry ways, storerooms, two large worker sleeping quarters, and one egg chamber. [Benefits include] being situated under a massive food and water source, with connecting tunnels.”

To finish the project off, each one of our homeschoolers wrote a summary consisting of two sentences or more, about why they think this would be a great product to buy.

The primary key learning area covered, for us here in Australia, is called HSIE (Human, Society and its Environment) – this is part of the government recognised standard called the Australian Curriculum – which includes history, social studies, indigenous Australian studies and commerce.

Whilst we have freedom to choose our syllabus from infants to primary, to Junior High School, the curriculum must include the key learning areas set by the government, and we must prove that we’ve adequately met them.

This turned out to be an exciting lesson in marketing a product; learning why great product knowledge is the key to building loyal customers and making a successful sale.

Secondary key learning areas that benefited from this small project included science and creative arts.

If you’re keen to give this activity a go, I’ve added my adapted template as a downloadable PDF in the bottom of this post. Feel free to adjust it, copy it, borrow or make it your own.

PDF Link: For Sale: Build and Sell