Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Affluenza — The 20th Anniversary | The Merrow Report

Affluenza — The 20th Anniversary | The Merrow Report:

Affluenza — The 20th Anniversary


(Originally written for the blog of my Secular Franciscan Order fraternity in Mishawaka, Indiana)
This is the 20th anniversary of the broadcast of a documentary that has lodged itself in my heart and my mind. May I recommend it to you as a powerful reminder of the wisdom that comes to us from St. Francis, as well as Holy Scripture even more directly, and from Pope Francis more recently?
The inspirational one-hour report, called “Affluenza,” was shown on PBS and narrated by an NPR host, so you know this was not a “faith-based initiative” or a TV tract propounding Franciscanism. This was a classic, secular piece of insight from the intersection of faith and reason that passes the test of time. Although there are portions of content to which I might append a modest disagreement or cautionary note, it captures well the insights emerging in some circles in 1997 and which can help inform and reform our sense of mission and charism today.
You can watch the entire program here, thanks to You Tube and this legacy from Bullfrog Films and NPR’s Scott Simon. Please remember the definition of Affluenza it provides: “An unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the pursuit of more.” Also note the wise words of Richard Harwood, a sagacious social observer, who points out the growing realization that Americans have become too greedy, too materialistic and too self-absorbed.
Was this program a piece of prophecy explaining a lot of what has developed since its debut, especially in our everyday experiences?
There is indeed an unhappy news story that affirmed the relevance of this phenomenon—and its dangers—not too long ago. I will not go into that subject matter, but you can watch a story about it here.
The most important lessons to draw from this program for our Secular Franciscan Order fraternity, I would suggest, are the echoes we hear from those with timeless cures for Affluenza. One film responded quickly, in 1998, with some thoughts worth considering. You can watch “Escape from Affluenza” here.
But we have better resources.
We’ve got St. Francis, in Chapter Two of his Rule for Secular Franciscans, saying this:

“Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, Affluenza — The 20th Anniversary | The Merrow Report:

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