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Author Laura M. Hartman to discuss consumerism, Christian ethics

Oct 14, 2016

Author Laura M. Hartman will discuss the ethics of Christian consumerism during a discussion, “What would Jesus buy?” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 in the forum of James F. Dicke Hall at Ohio Northern University. The event is free and open to the public.

“The general question of what we consume is important to everyone, and there are certain moral and ethical considerations that especially connect the question to Christian values,” said Forrest Clingerman, associate professor of philosophy and religion at ONU. “When purchasing an item, is it really going to help me love my neighbor?”

Hartman is the author of “The Christian Consumer: Living Faithfully in a Fragile World.” She is a faculty member at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D. Hartman earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and her doctoral degree from the University of Virginia.

Rather than providing specific directions on what to buy, Hartman will focus more on the considerations behind purchasing-making decisions. “She will shed light on the decision process, how to come to conclusions and the factors we should consider rather than what specific decisions to make,” Clingerman said. “For example, rather than what car to buy, we can first consider rather we even need a car and the implications on the environment and so forth that arise from that decision. The emphasis is on realizing the moral considerations involved with consumerism.”

Hartman said, “You might expect that Christian teachings would require fasting and austerity. They do. But there are also teachings that support feasting and joyful savoring of consumption. How do we know which is appropriate, and when? It’s an important ethical question, and it speaks to a larger issue: how to live faithfully on a finite planet that we share with 7 billion other people.”

“Everything we consume is destructive in some way. Is this acceptable? Is it a symptom of a fallen world or a way for God to shine grace through daily tragedies? Or both? The Christian tradition has wrestled with this paradox – that the price of my existence is destruction of other entities – for centuries, and Christian thinkers have come up with some pretty fascinating ways to handle it,” Hartman added.

The talk is sponsored by the ONU Department of Philosophy and Religion, the ONU Chapel program, the Environmental Studies Program and the University’s Committee for Arts and Special Events.