What Would Jesus Buy?

Reverend Billy's Fabulous Prayers in the Face of the Shopocalypse


By Reverend Billy Talen

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Reverend Billy’s revival tour across America is the subject of the upcoming Morgan Spurlock film What Would Jesus Buy?, his first movie since the national hit Super Size Me! The book is an inspiring — love-a-lujah! — compendium of the reverend in full flow, from his exhortations from the pulpit to his reflections on why lesbian marriage will save the Spotted Owl. Reverend Billy believes big box brainless consumerism is destroying our culture and our planet.

Reverend Billy first began preaching in Times Square and has since been incessantly spreading the word at major retail stores from San Francisco to New York City. He has been regularly featured in the national media, most recently in the New York Times, and was arrested with great panache as he led prayers against consumerism in Disneyland. What Would Jesus Buy? will entertain, convince, convert, and give readers actions they can take to become a member of the Church of Stop Shopping.




Reverend Billy



This book is dedicated to the singers and musicians in the
Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, without whom
Savitri and I would not survive
The Shopocalypse.



As the Devil’s logos force us up onto the Interstates, we’ll be damned if we can tell—hey, am I just driving home from work again or is this the A FINAL MOMENT OF HUMAN HISTORY? It’s so hard to know, because the Shopocalypse is coming through the dash in the form of a sexual whisper, and it says “This is Convenience.”

We believe this—as the ocean rises and shoots through our windows. And we keep believing it, as our families are clicked-and-dragged across miles of pavement into Free Speechless big boxes. Do I have a witness? As the Smart Monks from here at the Slow Down Your Consumption School of Divinity have said, “Stop! Stop shopping! Stop!”

Now children, we are all Shopping Sinners. Each of us is walking around in a swirl of gas and oil, plastics and foil. We should all hit our knees and weep and confess together. We are not evil people, but somehow we have allowed the Lords of Consumption to organize us into these mobs that buy and dispose, cry and reload. Yes, the Rapture of the Final Consumption, the Shopture, is underway.

The fundamentalist consumers are lifted way up into the air, into the Supermall of Eternal Convenience, where there are thousands of big boxes and chain stores above the clouds, and where even breathing is on credit. Stadium-sized crowds of the Saved, entire qualifying hordes, are “shoptured up” into a staggering array of discount opportunities. Those of us down here below have been left to die because we have an uneasy feeling about all the Chosen People talk coming out of Davos and Bentonville. Yes, we walked away from the BLOW-OUT CLEARANCE SALE.

As we witness more hapless consumers vortexing straight up into the Supermall of Eternal Convenience, their second America, we must grab their ankles and pull them down, screaming, from their advertopia. They will think we’re Devils, of course. They may slap at us as we cling to their shoes and as the sales pass through to the sky. But be gracious. Simply say, “Hello, we are from the Church of Disturb the Customers. Your shopping is ending the world.”

What if we could all hear each other, and we could towncry that WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY. A real community knows how to call out a general, spontaneous warning. In the Church of Stop Shopping, we have seen the word Shopocalypse create a true community the second we shouted it in the Armageddon of a ten-acre Wal-Mart parking lot. We’ve seen lumbering Teamsters and Hispanic grandmothers and teenage Peace bloggers suddenly hold hands and shout that word in perfect unison. All together now. SHOPOCALYPSE! LET’S STOP IT!

The Spring Service

The Love-a-lujah! Revival


Stop Shopping, Start Loving

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. . . .
I love you because I know no other way.

Pablo Neruda


Greetings children. Let’s talk about Love. One of the Archangels in the Church of Stop Shopping, Emma Goldman, says Love is very powerful. How powerful?

Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful moulder of human destiny . . .

Emma Goldman


A couple decades ago, on the evening news, a small group of very earnest scientists, wearing their white lab coats and sweating heavily in front of the cameras, announced that they had discovered “Love.” The press conference was intriguing. The lead researchers were three unheard-of professors, who glowed with their triumph. “Yes, we have found the Source! The human species has never had a map to that great bright city called Love.”

Well, those are my words.

These happy men of science had isolated the pheromones that we emit from the bridge of our nose. Then, sensing the emissions of others, we may turn toward a certain person in a crowd and find ourselves utterly smitten. Suddenly we start doing grand, stupid things, sometimes for five minutes but sometimes for the rest of our lives . . . Does anyone here recognize what I’m saying? Do I have a witness?

Looking back on it, I think it’s strange that these researchers would believe that they had trapped and taken specimens of Love itself. It also feels wildly weird that they would think that we, the people, would be thrilled to have “solved the problem” of Love. The unknowability of Love drives 92 percent of all the songs that we sing (perhaps more, the figures are not in yet!) Our bafflement and aching and comic suicides echo inside a blinding tunnel of Love.

We in the Church of Stop Shopping are dedicated to this consternation. This is among the most serious jobs we have in our human project. We are Fools For Love. And is this bad? Did the scientists really believe that we would have it another way? Did they believe that Lovers everywhere would be better at making Love after seeing the mystery chemically broken down on a chalkboard? Would Love songs now begin to make references to the chemical manufacturing facility that heats the holy steam between our eyes?

Did the Chris Columbuses of Love sell their research to L’Oréal or Revlon? And if not, why not? Pick a company (most of them, it seems) whose principle image is of young, handsome people who are looking out from the product packaging. As they do, trying to catch our consumer’s eye, these actors have expressions on their faces somewhere between orgasmic and, let’s say it, rapturous. Presumably the corporations would invest heavily in the Viagra of the Big Crush. Wouldn’t the marketing departments just love to manipulate the first moment of Love? The gleam in the eye across the room goes NUCLEAR!

My guess is that our excited scientists did peddle a “Love Potion #9” to the beauticians and pharmaceuticals. My second guess is that THE CORPORATE LOVE RESEARCH STARTED LONG AGO. Major emotions are markets, and corporations are nothing if not desperate for Love. In fact, they date us, don’t they? Shall we make Confession? When we are whispering intimately, sitting on the fire escape, holding hands, the Corporation is with us. As we turn to face one another, both of us wondering if we will make love, the Corporation is wondering, too. Yes, the Corporation is always there to help in any way that it can. We begin our caresses and the Corporation races toward our bed. It is sighing, moaning, and whispering intimately. It offers us the digital music that we need, the humidity control, and advice on the bedroom paint scheme.

Thank the Fabulous Unknown that when we finally begin to gasp in sweet dirty epithets, we are no longer rational. Marketers lose our trail as we scream and scream.

But children, there is something in this hapless story that does leave us with a bit of faith, hope, and charity.

We should be encouraged that these three science guys were greeted by a great thud of silence from the world of lovers . . . from those of us who do the actual loving out here. Forget the corporations—We, The Lovers—we just turned away. We declined to dance with these heavy-breathing whitecoats.

Clearly, we demand mystery. We require an absence of explanation for our Love. We cannot do without our bafflement, aching, and foolish tunnels of Love. Without the mystery, how would Marvin Gaye have found the motivation for his long high howls? In fact, every culture has its favored lovehowlers. You see—Love may be mysterious, but it is not nothing. We know how real it is when Marvin sings and a million of us sing back. It is the always-present Fabulous Unknown.

Personally, instead of accepting outside counsel, I prefer to buy flowers, run five blocks, and get a door slammed in my face. Now, this is living! If I knew it all and controlled it all, how would I take another step in life and be interested? I am a human being. I am a Man. Spelled M—A—N. In fact, I’m a Preacher Man, spelled P—R—E—, well. . . . Listen, children. One of my job descriptions is to set out in the pursuit of Love without a map, to have a press conference of a different kind. The great writer Kenneth Patchen had a phrase, “the amorous orator on the village green.” I have always thought that a preacher should talk about Love. Yes, if God is Love then a preacher ought to love Love . . .

And if God were the mayor of a bright city of Love, then the citizens of that town would smile and pursue one another according to laws that cannot be written on a chalkboard or sold for money.

Feel like you know the place? Love-a-lujah!

And now, The Reading of the Word, one of the first great love songs:

I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O Friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.


Children, what were you thinking when you heard these words? Yes, me too.

The congregation will please rise. It is time to sing a hymn.

The following could be sung by the Song of Solomon author from those millennia ago, if she time-beamed herself into a seedy cabaret. Please sing this hymn in a sexy chanteusey sigh, next to a late-night piano with darkness and cigarette smoke. Or not. Go goth punk death metal. . . .

  • Are You My Lover? Or Are You My Logo?
  • Across a darkened room
    I’m not talking, but I interrupt.
    You’re so . . . slow motion.
  • You try to sip but not kiss the cup.
  • You find a way to ask me.
  • You’ve got to know, you’ve got to savor.
    The conversation turns and . . .
  • Well do I—don’t I—have a Lover?
  • Well, do I have a Lover?
  • What a question in a dump like this,
    But do you have a Logo?
  • My remote’s on the screen of a big screen kiss.
  • What company are you with?
    Oh this? . . . it’s my new tattoo.
    I’m feeling lots of Logo here,
    It’s crawling up my leg like you.
  • I’m listening to your Logo.
  • You whisper in my ear “now dance.”
  • A thousand songs in storage
    Reach through my wire like a thin white lance.
  • You tell me now “get bolder.”
  • You’ll have new graphics every week.
    And if I say I’m lonely,
    Your company tattoo is on my cheek.
  • I find a way to ask you.
  • I’ve got to savor, I got to know.
  • The conversation turns and . . .
  • Are you my Lover? Or are you my Logo?

The congregation will please be seated.

Children, welcome all to the Church of Stop Shopping Start Loving. What a pleasure it is to see you beautiful lovers in the pews today. Our message this morning concerns the thorny issue of Love.

Now Saint Emma tells us that Love overrules Laws. I would like to add that gay marriage is the power and the glory and is the key to reversing global climate change brought on by trapped greenhouse gasses. Furthermore, lesbian marriage is the life everlasting and will save the Spotted Owl. Allow me a moment or two and I will explain how this can be.

As society slowly rises from a time that historians will call the Dark Ages With Irony, a time when whole continents of people dropped their jaws and frowned for days, a time where elephantized humans called celebrities advanced toward ordinary people like the heads on Easter Island secreted through wires and emerging on flickering glass walls. We are, despite all, now pulling ourselves up by our own sexual rainbow, letting the gasps and giggles of personal growth fall where they may, as we dress up and go down to City Hall, with the phallic up-thrust columns of its neo-Roman façade, with its lawyers in suits, clearing their throats. See you at the Court House! I’ll see you there and we can publicly acknowledge what we’ve always done and always will do.

But Gay marriage must be more than just an Issue, children. Issues Schmissues. There is only one fact and that is the fact of Love. The same-sex betrotheds are being patient with our “Issue” because that is the stuck state of our language. That is how our description of this woman–woman man–man holy act goes out across the world, at present. We are working within the limits of language, which creates a label to accommodate our fear of same-sex Love that is long-lived, fiercely defended, and just plain sad.

Now help me. You see, sexual fear always moved words around and created JUDGEMENT LABELS, but we live in a time when lies-in-labeling is in the virulent wind of the Shopocalypse. We must not underappreciate the weird copyright on desire that commercial Puritanism claims. The Puritanized Evil of the babbling of products, of, in a word, advertising, falsely refracts the act of Love into a thousand little dances, each dance with a product waiting coyly at the end of the night. It’s very easy to spin off Gay marriage like a marketing niche. Soon everyone forgets that it was always Love. It becomes more Gay marriage, the product, and less Love, the actual life. And as it becomes an Issue, a Label, a Type, it becomes more an abstract idea of evil, and less the happy commitment that anyone who feels love in any form would always wish on others.

And sex? Would someone who has had happy sex of any kind naturally wish it for others? Sex in any form? No, sexual fear—jealousy, and especially on the massive tribal level— was always a human nightmare. But in the age of Consumption we have particular frustrations that colorize the green jealousy. We are surrounded by images of Love, unlike any other time in history. We are left in the paralyzed masturbatory moment of SHOPPING, halfway to that paradise but never quite there. Kate Moss’ mouth is open, and it’s a hundred feet across, but WHY? Marketed sex, in our present epoch, must interrupt us—even as we chase it with our dollars and pounds. SEX SELLS, BUT NOT IF IT ACTUALLY TAKES PLACE. Do I have a witness?

Children—in today’s Burning Hell of marketing—the memory of Love splatters into 500 channels and a million pixels and it can be forgotten even by good people. Sex is so over-produced and under-actualized, we can’t find it anymore. So we have this job: putting the thousand fake sex dances of commodified sin back together again, and letting them cohere into one major velvet maelstrom. Put our public Love back together again.

And that is what our sermon is about today, congregation. Let’s make a plan, shall we? Turn now to Matthew chapter 6 verse 4, “And Jesus saith, Verily verily I say unto you, LOVE IS NOT A NEW AGE CON JOB.” It is distinct. It is real. Love is the power and the glory. It is so not sentimental. It is in fact a question of life and death, a key to our survival here in the face of The Shopocalypse.

Love is the force in life that knows that life will survive if life is loved.

Just one minute. Believers and sinners. Can you hear me? I think that somebody needs to hear this ONE MORE TIME . . .

Love is the force in life that knows that life will survive if life is loved.

If you interrupt Love because you stand beneath your neo-Roman up-thrust phallic column in your suit, clear your throat and pronounce that a certain kind of Love is inciting Issues, Legal Precedents, Bad for Jobs, Bad for Families— OH IMPROPER!!—Love, in our species, in our society, picks up on this right away. Love knows. Love won’t give Life its forward motion if you allow some of it and not all of it. Do I have a witness? Love is the Fabulous Unknown. Love is the Impresario that directs Shocking Evolution. Love knows. Love is, you see, residing in both the mind and the heart, as well as behind the bridge of the nose and below the belt. Love knows.

Let’s make a deal. Shake on it. Love will survive. Amen? That means we can’t interfere. Let it go and it will persevere right through whatever fearful fundamentalist culture has been sold as normal. The life with enough Love in it will find a way to live on. Oh! There’s that round again—Love in Life knows Life lives on—and this is the strong survival Love that same-sex lovers have given us over the years, as they overcome the hatred and fear.


On Sale
Apr 29, 2009
Page Count
304 pages

Reverend Billy Talen

About the Author

The Reverend Billy is a creation of the actor and activist Bill Talen. He lives in New York City.

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