Consuming Religion is a difficult read, not because its theses and ideas are too difficult, but because Vincent Miller beleaguers his readers with yawning verbosity. His editors should have forced him to be more concise. Of course, this is not to make an ad hominem critique of his book. His assessment of consumerism is comprehensive and coherent, even if largely critical and unnecessarily wordy. If he had been able to pare down the ramblings and get to the gold quicker I would have given him at least 4 stars.
His main thesis is that the general consumer culture impacts Christian beliefs, narratives, symbols and practices, and that this can be negative, but also that it holds some potential for an authentic representation and communication of Christ. The issue that concerns Miller most is that contemporary spiritual seekers no longer come prepared when they begin building their spiritual values and beliefs. They do not start out with a context of Christendom (pre-established resources, models and traditions connected with past Christian movements), but rather begin to assemble their beliefs and practices with what is on-hand in the cultural marketplace.
Some of this is healthy and positive for the church. Christendom, as it was initiated by Constantine, has certainly been responsible for some reprehensible garbage that people (and the church) have confused with Christ himself over the years. But that's a somewhat different issue. For Miller, he recommends not that Christians necessarily seek to destroy misuse of Christian traditions, symbols and practices (good luck if that's what you're after), but rather that the church needs to teach, model and support the proper use and significance of these entities. In terms of friends outside the church, shallow use of Christian commodities (such as a crucifix around Madonna's neck because "naked men are sexy") are points of contact that provide Christians with the opportunity to engage them in sincere and redemptive conversations.
Additionally, Miller recognizes that Christians who are unaware of consumerism's impact on their own beliefs prefer to think that it cannot influence them in the first place. He wants to raise readers' awareness of the issue and the potential it holds (both good and bad). His bottom line is that Christians need to move beyond mere recognition of the problem, and this book offers a step in that direction. In the meantime, it is up to each of us (as individuals and the church as a whole), to act as responsible and educated agents for the traditions we hold so dear. Most importantly, we must do so IN LOVE. Don't forget that nobody cares what we think until they know that we really care.
Consuming Religion makes a strong case, but Miller struggles to make succinct points and forces readers to wade through gallons of spilled ink to find the pearls.