Using Google, I found a fabulous essay written by a blogger who identifies himself as "MattyA." Below I duplicate his essay in full:
of greed and guilt
As a Calvinist I deal with guilt a lot. It seems like every religious tradition claims guilt as its own (how many Catholic guilt, Lutheran guilt, Baptist guilt, or even Jewish guilt jokes have you heard over the years?). It’s sad to me because the thing to be proud of, the thing we should be fighting to claim, is grace. That’s another post though – the point is I’m good at guilt. My liberal anti-consumerist tendencies have prompted many good things (consistent use of buses, libraries instead of bookstores whenever possible, and trying to get secondhand goods if I can), but I can never go far enough for myself. I’ve trained myself to feel guilty whenever even a twinge of desire stirs in my heart. I (internally) condemn Christians who I see as too affluent (imagine what the majority of the world’s Christians would do if they met me!), because they have nice things.
My point in bringing this up is to say I’ve decided I want an ipod, and I’ve decided not to feel guilty about that. It’s basic but important to say that music’s a good gift from God (as I sit here listening to Jack Johnson I heartily say amen to myself!). The same applies to technology. Obviously not all technology is good (same with music), but it’s a tool that can be used for great good. This means ipods are not inherently evil (unless Apple, as a multinational corporation, is evil – but I’ve decided that I can’t avoid supporting big businesses, nor should I boycott them completely. I should simply be aware of the struggles of small local businesses and seek to support them as much as I can).
The question remains: do I have a genuine need for an ipod? Need vs. want. What is the role of desire in Christian life? Couldn’t the money go toward something more worthwhile? But then, I could healthily survive on only rice, beans, and various fruits and veggies. Am I wrong to spend money on chicken, cheddar, or any of the other “luxury” foods I could live without? These questions genuinely give me a headache.
Another issue in play here is the reinforcement of individualism that comes with the ipod culture. I write this as I sit in a Seattle coffeehouse (The Green Bean) and the two people who sit nearest me are both listening to ipods, socially isolated and cut off even from the previously mentioned Jack Johnson.
For me, it keeps coming back to my robust doctrine of creation. We can affirm the goodness of God’s gifts to us by enjoying them and using them for his glory (how to use an ipod for God’s glory – hmmmmm, that’s “a whole nother” question). When you give someone a gift how do you want them to respond? So it still makes my stomach queasy, and I wouldn’t stand up and publicly declare it in this coffeehouse, but I want an ipod and I don’t feel guilty about it… almost.
MattyA's ultra-liberalism is evident from his support for public transportation and his dislike of big corporations and "individualism."
He feels so guilty that he can't even buy an iPod without feeling guilt. He also dislikes how iPods leads to "individualism," which presumably leads to voting Republican.
In any event, "individualism" is certainly a concept that's associated with the political right and not the political left, and I see that perhaps there is an inherent conflict between feelings of guilt and individualism. MattyA is not the first person to mention guilt and individualism being in conflict.
Perhaps this explains why the left looks down upon free markets. An efficient free market is based on each person maximizing his individual self-interest, but people wracked with guilt consider this to be immoral behavior.