The Advent Guilt Conspiracy

As I travel around BlogWorld these days I have come across several posts labeled "The Advent Conspiracy" and usually showcase a video from their website. The central message of the video is that we Americans spend too much on Christmas and how we need to give more. Here are a few of their main points:
[Spend Less]
Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks, right? We’re asking people to consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas. Just one.  Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced something nothing less than a miracle: They have been more available to celebrate Christ during the advent season.

[Give More]
God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right? Need a few ideas? Just click here and see what others have done to give more during the advent season.
I think that I am about to make a very politically incorrect statement so hold on and hear me out. I am tired of organizations trying to guilt me into behavioral change. I am weary of folks that use manipulative images in an attempt to shame me into action. Why not just say what you mean and not cloak it in all this conspiracy language? Maybe the real conspiracy is more about them than us?

Why is it that the assumption is that people are stingy and materialistic? Why do they believe that change should be inflicted from the outside? Why can't they just speak to the heart of the issue.. namely that religious folks live out of their guilty consciences more than any of us like to admit and we are often persuaded when someone comes along and guilts us into action.

Our church has an annual Christmas donation that will be taken next week and will go to help families in need over the holidays. It is simply advertised beforehand and there is no impassioned appeals for giving. Our church leaders just believe the best about the people who will give and I am always amazed at how generous people are. The same is true for our monthly food pantry donations.

Maybe people would respond with generosity if we just started believing the best about them instead of trying to guilt them into action? I mean really.. aren't televangelists enough.. do we need somebody else talking down to us about money?


  1. Well said. It's always nice to find a post you agree with so heartily on the first visit to a blog.

    I think you're right. A simple appeal to people's generosity will often lead to surprising bounty. And the best part is that it leaves those organizations/groups/movements that specialize in emotional manipulation scratching their heads. "How in the world could they accomplish THAT without a well place guilt trip?!"

    A great serendipity to genuine generosity. :)

  2. Bob,

    We just don't seem to be agreeing on much lately ;). I don't advocate manipulating people into doing anything. I personally see this as a great opportunity to demonstrate the love of Jesus this year.

    Does this describe everybody? No. But it does describe many people - like me when I used to run up my credit card bill to buy presents and the stress that I felt as a result. This year my immediate family said enough with gift exchange among adults.

    If nothing else if it encourages people not to go into debt I think that will be a good thing.

    I don't want anybody to do it out of guilt though. That isn't the right motivation, but I'm personally excited about this.

  3. I imagine that your immediate family came to that conclusion without the advice of the conspiracy folks.

    All I am saying is that we should trust people to be generous.. just present the need and let people surprise you.

  4. Well, I'm in agreement with you. I just don't get the fuss. I only give presents to the people I love (immediate family and closest friends) I've never gone into debt Christmas shopping, our extended family only gives presents to the kids, not the adults (we decided that years ago) and I really don't understand why it's implicitly more moral to make a present than to buy one. I'm no good at making things, I don't have a crafty bone in my body, but on the other hand I'm a pretty cluey shopper, and don't mind taking a bit more time to look around for just the right thing.
    And we always give Tear fund gifts at Christmas as well-- money donated to give a donkey or a goat or whatever as well. All our immediate family get tTear fund gifts in amongst their personal ones.

  5. Hi, Bob. This is my first visit here, and I certainly don't want to ruffle feathers, but you know, I do think many more people than you and I need to hear this message. Maybe it's because I've spent the past 7 years in the posh suburbs of Northern NJ, but there are lots of people who need to feel a bit of guilt every now and again. These are folks who give 'conspicuous consumption' new definition and meaning.

    I don't want to guilt trip anybody into doing anything (my mother was a certified travel agent on guilt trips), but you know, guilt can be an important impulse for change in some situations and for some people.

    If the shoe fits . . .and if it doesn't . . .and all that.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'll come back and visit, from time to time, if that's okay with you.

  6. Hi K-Bob! Interesting take. I didn't feel guilty when I saw it - rather, just encouraged and inspired (nor was it my intention that anyone would feel guilty from watching it as I posted it on my blog. That just never crossed my mind). I don't feel guilty about having access to clean water. But it doesn't mean I don't want to consider those who don't either. :)

  7. What a great diversity of thought in these here comments.

    Wanda left her comment on the First Dog post and said my thoughts about guilt trips is right on.. I really like Wanda!

    Your thinking is in line with mine Lynne.. but possibly some need a bit of lecturing about their finances and Christmas?

    Thanks for stopping by Elizabeth.. hope my comment at your place didn't guilt you into coming here :)

    And thank you for being real Elizabeth.. your comment gave voice to some in ministry who feel that guilt is a useful tool in these areas. Of course I do understand where you are coming from.. I did grow up Episcopal in New York :)

  8. Thanks Sarah.. I think education about the need for clean water is okay but the message of clean water in the video was obscured by the other messages.. I actually went back to view the video because I didn't remember water being mentioned.. but then again I am old :)

  9. Oppps ... I'm one of those who posted the video for this. I didn't see it as guilt-inducing though ... I HATE guilt-inducing messages too. When I first saw the video my thought was about the possibilty ... about what we could do if we rethought all those useless Christmas gifts we give and receive. I just never even saw the guilt message .... But I can see how it can come accross that way. Thanks for pointing that out.


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