What Would Jesus Buy?

Lambasting Walmart is a pastime in which I tend to indulge quite frequently. Given the love that DPJers have for sustainable living, staying local and human rights, I would imagine that most of the people reading this article have probably thrown a barb or two Walmart’s way as well. But, it is one thing to bitch about Walmart when you’re at The Roosevelt with friends, and it is something completely different to take the message to the streets… in costume… with a full gospel choir.

The guy with the balls to do that is “Reverend Billy,” the nom de guerre of Bill Talen, the leader of a street performance group known as the Church of Stop Shopping, featured in the documentary What Would Jesus Buy? The film, directed by Rob VanAlkemade and produced by Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame, follows the postmodern minister and his followers as they travel across the country singing anti-consumerism songs in gospel choir style and accosting the outlets of evil empires like Starbucks and Disney.

To get the flavor for how Rev. Billy and his Choir operate, one classic scene takes place at the gargantuan Mall of America, a monstrosity of a monument to overspending and overindulgence in Bloomington, MN. They travel through the mall in choir robes (except for Rev. Billy, who is dressed like a cross between Jim Bakker and Bishop T.D. Jakes) slowly breaking into song, building up to a crescendo in which they take over a stage at the center of the mall singing anti-shopping gospel songs.

“We’re on a mission to save Christmas… from over consumption. We want people to discover another way to give gifts to each other this year.”
— Rev. Billy

As with most of the street actions in the film, their takeover of the mall results in them being escorted off site by the police, never breaking character, and blessing people along the way. That is the appeal of the Church of Stop Shopping. They are not a parody; they are barely even doing what I would call “performing.” Their devotion to the cause of keeping businesses local and using resources ethically is just as deeply held as the religious faith that a “real” gospel choir would have.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie features Rev. Billy buying a sweater from a small downtown merchant whose business has been decimated by the opening of a Walmart. The store owner tells him about the changes that have happened in their downtown since Walmart opened; what once was a vibrant community where people would stroll the sidewalks and spend time in the local businesses until midnight has now become a ghost town.

The movie reaches its apex when the church members covertly sneak into Disneyland and break out into song, only to be arrested by the Anaheim police as Rev. Billy shouts, “Stop shopping here!”

Just as the annoying holiday commercials start coming on the air, I can’t recommend What Would Jesus Buy strongly enough. Sure, you will probably end up buying a bunch of crap for your friends and family from Target, but maybe you will think a little bit about how you are contributing to what Rev. Billy calls the “Shopacolypse.”

There’s a new brunch in town

After all of that hating on Starbucks and the evil corporate empires, I was delighted to sit in on a sneak preview of the upcoming weekend brunch service at Postino Central (beginning November 22). The morning started out amazingly with a French press of Cartel coffee. I love French press restaurant service, and I think it suits Postino perfectly. The menu was still in trial mode, but let me tell you, you are in for a treat. The Postino team took their penchant for simple but classy food at reasonable prices and created an amazing brunch experience.

We started off with a walnut toast served with amazing berry preserves and triple cream brie. The flavors blended perfectly, although I would have liked a bit more bread (I am told more toast will be served when the menu is finalized). I ordered grilled foccacia with eggs and asparagus, with a tomato salad on the side. The food was stellar. A great mix of textures and tastes, and of course it was served with classic Postino style.

With delicious brunch items running around $8, Postino Central will give Fez a run for its money — and the amazing coffee at Postino will kill Fez’s nasty swill any day. The brunching starts in a week, so I hope to see you there!