From Thomas McKenna’s perspective, consumerism reduces everything, including religious tradition and altruism, to commodities that are removed from their original contexts and lacking in meaning. Elements of consumerism are identified; their combined effect leads individuals to only value short-term engagements with what appeals to them, makes them feel noble, or makes a statement about their identity. McKenna examines how Frederic Ozanam’s life and work can be used to counteract this. According to Ozanam, Christians should mediate between the rich and the poor to alleviate class conflict and ensure justice for poor persons. His mandate for direct service means that neither suffering nor altruism can be reduced to commodities, and that personal contact is the basis for practical solutions to social problems. It was Ozanam’s insight that service should be done in community and be directly tied to religion, or what would today be termed theological reflection. This strengthens those who serve, encourages further action, and, in McKenna’s view, preserves religion’s imperative force, meaning, and context.
“Frederic Ozanam’s Tactical Wisdom For Today’s Consumer Society” is an article published in 2010 in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 30, Issue 1, Article 1 available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol30/iss1/1