Simple Living Works!

Posts Tagged ‘non-conform


The Five Life Standards, the essence of voluntary simplicity, are detailed in Doris Janzen Longacre’s classic book, Living More with Less (now available in a 30th Anniversary edition):

  • Do Justice
  • Learn from the World Community
  • Nurture People, Not Things
  • Cherish the Natural Order
  • Nonconform Freely

Free support materials for Living More with Less: blogs, video, audio, text, podcasts, etc.

Life Standard #5: Nonconform Freely

We are not talking anarchy here. We are resisting the pressures created primarily by advertising.

The forces against us living more simply are extremely powerful and devious. Some of them are quiet, unwritten… like how we dress in church, how our house will look at Christmas time. But many of them are loud, in-your-face forces that work to get as deeply into your pocketbook as possible everyday.

We all have basic physical needs… for food, for shelter, for community. It’s helpful to have information about where we can meet those needs. That’s one reason for advertising. What’s objectionable is advertising that creates false needs, really wants or desires…when advertisers play with our heads, trying to get us to think that we will be better people by the beverage we drink, that we will be sexier if we buy a certain kind of car, that we will be more popular or successful if we wear certain kinds of clothes or perfume.

When I’m watching TV, I ZAP the commercials… mute the sound. Are aggressive car and soda pop commercials the price of admission? That’s exactly what the advertisers want us to think. But the air waves belong to the people. We owe advertisers nothing! (Remember Screen Free Week  in April from Commercial Free Childhood – formerly Turn Off TV Week – and Buy Nothing Day, Friday, November 29. Yes, that’s the day after Thanksgiving!)

Sioux City is a nice place to raise a family. This past summer a billboard selling sun tan lotion showed three young, attractive people. They happened to be naked. It was no big deal. There was no outcry. Just another billboard selling something. At the same time a group in Des Moines was working to promote breast feeding. They were turned down from buying billboard space because their subject was TOO OFFENSIVE!

In the name of “research,” some advertisers — without your permission, even without your knowledge — place cameras in grocery stores to photograph your eyes as you shop. When you are looking at cereal, for example, the cameras record your reaction to various boxes and even count the length of time you focus on each box. This “research” helps advertisers to decide what appeals to you.

We have permission to follow our religious principles, our faith, instead of our culture, instead of advertisers who pressure us to buy things we don’t need, probably don’t even want, and that break down on schedule. Nonconform Freely.

(Also see May 12, “Phony Alert!”)

Simple Living and the Five Life Standards on The Common Good Podcast

In episode 27 of The Common Good Podcast, Lee Van Ham and I find common ground in the micro-economics of voluntary simple living and the macro of Jubilee Economics. It goes way beyond “class warfare” in America to global fairness… seeing the interconnection of our small choices and purchases to the larger systems of governments and corporations. Everything’s connected.

In episode 28, I go beyond the concepts to the practical. Subscribe for free at The Common Good PodcastAuthorHere are my blogs at Jubilee-Economics.orgDate

Peace, Gerald

courage_brochure-frontThis collection of essays by many well-known writers takes a look at our culture and asks, “Do you have the courage to think differently?” The book is tenacious and passionate. It is a rich resource for missional thinking about the Christian church.

Written and edited by George S. Johnson.

In the Preface, Walter Brueggemann says,

Johnson sees clearly that the Gospel in its central intent is not about saving of souls, as in much traditional piety. It is about the rule of God in the world and the ways in which that rule impinges upon matters of economics and politics. Johnson has recruited a remarkable cast of our most courageous activist thinkers.

In the Foreword, Frances Moore Lappe says,

As I see it, today’s hyper-tribe, herded by global institutions of media and corporate expansion, is paddling right over Victoria Falls. That is, we appear headed toward mega-catastrophe, whether it’s the specter of massive climate dislocations, species decimation or “simply” economic inequalities so vast we can no longer communicate as a single species.

So, today, staying with the pack, which once ensured life, now means certain death for all we love. Simply put, we must break with the pack to protect life, even though it’s the scariest thing of all. That’s why I rank courage as today’s critical virtue.

And it is why I love this book. It calls us to think deeply about what it takes to “think differently.” How do we build courage? How do we spread it?

Courage to Think Differently falls squarely into several of the five Life Standards of Voluntary Simplicity – Do Justice, Non-conform Freely, etc.

Self-published with the help of friends, 300+ pages for $10 with generous quantity discounts for an Adult Forum or book club. Order direct from the publisher, or 1-800-678-7006 (or, if you dare, from

George S. Johnson is the author of Beyond Guilt and Powerlessness, Critical Decisions in Following Jesus, and co-author of Evangelism and the Poor. He has served as the Director of the Hunger Program for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Third World Opportunities. He served parishes in MN and CA, and now lives with his wife, Vivian, in Laguna Woods, CA.

Read his essay Grace Yes, But Not Only Grace.

Read my brief blog about meeting George. Click, then scroll down to Post #71.


Graphic: Spirit of Simplicity: Quotes & Art
1. Voluntary Simplicity

Hi, Gerald.  I was fishing around on your blog when I discovered something fascinating and greatly consoling as your pastor.  I love that you are occupying wedding fairs. I know when I was a bride-to-be, I would have given anything to have someone deflate my anxiety balloon.

While that might console my social politics, I was much more relieved to discover you’re family doesn’t take you or your vocation seriously all the time. I worry for you about that sometimes.  But it seems your perspective is in good hands.

Blessing, Pr. Amy

Rita’s reply

The children and I have had lots of practice giving Gerald little slaps upside the head and calling him back to “appropriate” American cultural behavior. That does not mean that we are always successful but it does mean that sometimes he looks to us for advice about how his actions will be perceived by others. Elysha and I had already told Gerald that he cannot wear his Wikileaks T-shirt to Elysha’s wedding. His response was, “Oh, darn!” with a wink and a grin.

Gerald’s reply

The Fifth Life Standard of Voluntary Simplicity from “Living More with Less” is “Non-conform Freely.” That’s why I sometimes wear my ugly red socks. To remind myself that it’s OK to be different, to paddle against the current.

Fortunately, when I was a teen, I was big and I was smart, so I didn’t get bullied for being a Christian. I have been able to develop a sense of detachment from popular culture. That may be one benefit of being an introvert – one doesn’t seem to need so much approval from others that comes with conformity, fashionability, trends and fads.

I never leave the house without wearing a message shirt: “If You Want Peace, Work for Justice,” “You Are Here [Earth],” “Free Speech TV,” “Democracy Now!” I wear my “WikiLeaks” shirt to church!

I want people to know what I stand for. I may not be able to engage everyone I meet in conversation, but I may be able to make some small impression. If they’re progressive, they know I’m with them. If they’re fundamentalist, they know I will resist them. And my shirts almost always lead to encouraging conversations.

If we dress like “normal” people, we send the message that everything’s OK, even when we know it’s not.


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