conspiracy fatigue?

I’ll start by saying this: I like Advent Conspiracy. I’ve shown my support several times here before. The call to “worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all” during this season of incessant me-centered spending is greatly needed. I continue to lead my church through the project (we’re conspiring now for the 3rd time).

But I wonder, has Advent Conspiracy run its course? I’ve noticed less cyber-buzz as in past years. Have we reached conspiracy fatigue?

Here’s the problem as I see it. I’m not convinced a conspiracy can sustain itself. Can and should Christian faith and practice (in this case, Advent) be framed as a conspiracy? I like the counter-cultural undertones, yes. Jesus was very counter-cultural himself. So was the early church and many other examples in the past 2000 years. No, my concern is that conspiracy is a limited concept. People conspire together for a specific task, like the overthrow of a government. A conspiracy by definition, is temporary and measurable.

Advent - the season of expectation and remembrance of the coming of Christ into the world - is in many ways unlimited and immeasurable. We celebrate it every year. You don’t overthrow the government every year (I hope not at least!). And more importantly, I believe, is the message that Christ’s coming is a permanent reality that calls for a radical change in our whole lives - to “worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all” are not just practices to seasonally conspire at. I worry that Advent Conspiracy becomes a droning “do do do” that, ironically, ends up mirroring the very busyness it’s trying to conspire against.

I don’t mean to be negative or cynical. The movement has wonderfully raised millions of dollars for clean drinking water and hopefully inspired millions of people to reconsider how they celebrate Christmas. And I pray that continues. But as a conspiracy, I worry that the change in behavior is temporary, which I don't think is the intention of the movement. Perhaps Advent Conspiracy has served it’s purpose. It’s raised awareness and new action. But in our conspiracy fatigue, perhaps it’s time to move on.

I want to suggest that the conspiracy needs character. Perhaps a new name is in order: Advent Character (boring, I know). Instead of practices just at Advent we need character to sustain us the other eleven months of the year. The fruit of the movement needs the fruit of the Spirit! The traditional Advent themes - hope, peace, joy, and love - are needed to sustain our conspiring actions. Worship, giving, and love, while represented in the actions of Advent Conspiracy, are rooted in our character as God’s people. We are worshiping people. We are giving people. We are loving people. As we embrace this character of our identity, practices will come naturally. We don’t need a conspiracy if we have character.

No doubt my suggestion won’t become popular. Or turn into a movement. Nor should it. If we’re honest, the path of Christian character is difficult and frustrating. Our ideals bump up against the reality of sin and brokenness every day. Darkness overwhelms glimmers of light. It’s hard to wait for the world to get better.

But that’s what Advent is all about, is it not? Waiting. Advent character can help us as we wait.


Anonymous said...

I think you identified it. Advent Character. It made me chuckle because it just doesn't have the same ring as a conspiracy, yet it's so true.

Suffering to perseverance to character to hope. Not an easy way for getting to hope:) but it's the way nonetheless.

Brian C.

David Warkentin said...

Yes, suffering and perseverance are a hard sell!

Thanks Brian.

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