imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Subscribe Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news



CopWatch LA


A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network: africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech
printable version - js reader version - email this article - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

"What Would Jesus Buy?" (review)

by R. Plesset Saturday, Dec. 08, 2007 at 12:06 AM

What Would Jesus Buy not only documents Reverend Billy’s street theater activism as he crosses the country, but it also features interviews with shoppers, retail employees, Christmas historians, and authorities on human rights. Additionally, there is footage of sweatshop conditions in Bangladesh--making a compelling call, even for people already aware of the evils of consumerism, to at least cut down on buying for the holidays. And “if we were able to change Christmas, we would change the whole year,” says the Reverend.

"What Would Jes...
200px-what_would_jesus_buy_ver2.jpg, image/jpeg, 200x297

Since the late 1990s, activist Reverend Billy has been using his “surreal inventiveness”(1) to raise awareness about the consequences of modern consumerism—including, among other things, the destruction of communities and products made with sweatshop labor.

The Reverend was created shortly after actor Billy witnessed his home, Time Square, being “turned into a mall”(2). “Disney was signing this amazing Manifest Destiny deal to evict small vendors, and police were picking up anybody who didn’t look as if they were in possession of a credit card,” he recalls(3). “And that was happening before my eyes. . . . I had to ask myself: ‘Who’s shouting here? Who’s really getting out there raising their voice a little bit?’ It was the sidewalk preachers”(4).

Thus, Reverend Billy and his followers began entering the flagship Disney Store, holding up plush Disney characters (sometimes affixed to crucifixes) shouting “MICKEY MOUSE IS THE ANTI-CHRIST!” “GOOFY’S COME TO STEAL THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILDREN! HALLELUJAH!!” as well as imparting information about sweatshops. The Reverend also “exorcised” “customers” of their shopping habits—before getting arrested (sometimes). This is documented in What Would Jesus Buy? and to a greater extent in Culture Jam (website:

The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir began with six people and one musician and eventually expanded to 35 singers and seven musicians. The Reverend’s wife, Savitri D, became the group’s director. Choir members include high school teachers, “recovering executives,” and scientists.

As is demonstrated in the movie, the Church of Stop Shopping’s street theater has increased in scope and ambition. We see them travel from New York to “The Promised Land” (Disneyland) in California in biodiesel buses.

Not only does the film document the Church’s performance activism across the U.S. (which would have been enough to satisfy me), but it also features interviews with shoppers, retail employees, Christmas historians, and human rights experts. Additionally, there is footage of sweatshop conditions in Bangladesh--making a compelling call, even for people already aware of the evils of consumerism, to at least cut down on buying for the holidays. And “if we were able to change Christmas, we would change the whole year,” the Reverend says.

The ruthlessness of holiday shoppers is described by a lady who sells computer games. “I’ve had my life threatened,” she says. “I‘ve had people follow me out to the parking lot and try to beat me up as if I have all the systems in my car, I’ve had people cuss me out, I’ve had people actually spit at me, I had a woman who was about 60 years old cuss me out and spit on me for not having a Ps3 for her six-year-old grandson. That’s just me, too—we’ve had a lot worse in some of the other stores.”

A narrator tells us that “American stores could already fit every man, woman, and child in North America, South America, and Europe inside them at one time. It is also mentioned that our Christmas shopping habits “create five million tons of extra waste.”

As the Church of Stop Shopping travels west toward the Promised Land, stops are made at the Mall of America, Starbucks, and Las Vegas. At Starbucks, Reverend Billy likens the chain to invading extraterrestrials as he jumps over the counter. One customer yells, “WOULD YOU PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!”

At another point in the trip, Reverend Billy must go to a gas station to buy fossil fuel as the supply of biodiesel has frozen. As he pumps the dinodiesel into the bus, the Reverend drops to his knees and pleads to the “Fabulous Unknown” for forgiveness--all the while, a truck driver is at an adjacent pump.

The Church of Stop Shopping also visits people’s homes and sings carols, one of which goes: “Joy to the world in the form of goods! Consume! Consume! Consume! Buy plastic this-and-thats for screaming little brats! Take the SUV to the mall! Take the SUV to the mall! And buy, buy, buy, buy, buy, buy it all. . . .“ (Some of the Choir’s music is available at Reverend Billy’s website (, and hopefully more of it will become available. At the very least, Pacifica radio stations should start playing the film’s songs and music during the holiday season. Personally, it puts me into the holiday spirit despite (or perhaps because of) its subversiveness.)

While at a Victoria’s Secrets, the Reverend exorcizes a cash register: “Oh, Victoria! We know your secret. We don’t need a million catalogs a day to have our sexual fantasies.”

As the film reaches its climax, the Church of Stop Shopping nears The Promised Land (Disneyland). Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee, describes Disney products, including “Dress-Up: A Sticker-Activity Storybook.” “I don’t think many people in the United States would associate this Disney book with crushed and broken fingers, lacerated hands, broken bones, even deaths of young women in China,” He says. He then produces a Minnie Mouse statuette. “And the workers in the factory that made this in Sri Lanka tried to organize a union. They took the union leader out of the factory and broke his knee caps.”

On Christmas Day, the church members enter Disneyland (and seeing them disguised as tourists adds to the fun). At a designated time, they change into their Church of Stop Shopping garb and perform in front of a crowd awaiting a parade on Main Street. “STOP SHOPPING HERE!” exclaims Reverend Billy. “WE HAVE THE REAL MAGIC!” The choir sings behind him. Many tourists seem amused and/or intrigued, but Disneyland’s security is not. The Reverend is handcuffed and sent to the Anaheim Jail. The others are threatened. (Clips of this segment were played on Democracy Now! and can be viewed/heard here:

What Would Jesus Buy? is directed by Rob VanAlkemade, who previously collaborated with Reverend Billy on the short Preacher with an Unknown God (whose preview can be watched here: Also, see: VanAlkemade became aware of the Reverend in 2004 and says the performer-activist “somewhat assuaged” his “growing suspicions towards politics, protests, and even the filmmaking process.”

During the making of What Would Jesus Buy? VanAlkemade claims that 900 hours of interviews were recorded. Considering this, and the unused street theater which presumably exists, as well as countless other actions by Stop Shopping over the years, this author hopes the DVD will be very comprehensive.

In the mean time, What Would Jesus Buy? is worth seeing in a theater. The photography is often beautiful, even though the decadence of the season is strongly imparted, and the music is beautiful, fun, and meaningful.

Further coverage of the movie and clips can be found at: and


(1)Director Rob VanAlkemade’s description of the Reverend in the presskit for the film.

(2)Quote from Culture Jam.

(3)From Culture Jam.

(4)From What Would Jesus Buy?
Report this post as:
Share on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

add your comments

Local News

SAG-AFTRA video game performers on strike O22 11:04PM

Stop Circus Animal Suffering – Protestors Urge Audiences to Shun the Wild Animal Circus O20 3:04PM

KPFK LSB statement on DAPL arrests O19 10:25AM

Transit Dependent Residents Need a Guaranteed Right to Stay O15 11:36PM

My letter to JJJ on JJJ O11 12:33PM

Prop 60, Condom Law O10 12:43PM

KPFK-Pacifica Radio Archives being sold off on ebay? O10 10:31AM

KPFK struggles without re-solutions O07 2:25PM

Problems with Measure M O05 5:24PM

Stop Circus Animal Suffering – Protestors Urge Audiences to Shun the Wild Animal Circus S07 5:57PM

Nuclear Shudown News Aufust 2016 A30 3:46PM

WIKIpedia is not what we readers Thought nor is it even current about Pacifica or KPFK A24 3:10PM

"KPFK has a $500,000 deficit “ !! Can this be true? A19 6:10AM

Nuclear Shutdown News July 2016 A01 1:36PM

A 99-page report "Election fraud" from Election Justice USA A01 4:14AM

INDY's KPFK radio program being eliminated ? too ? J10 4:57PM

Bertolt Brecht Testifies Before the House Un-American Activities Committee (1947) 2 min J02 3:04PM

Pacifica-KPFK Archives, director resignation J18 4:50PM


KPFK radio elections for LSB coming Quick ! J18 1:05PM

KPFK Local Station Board Elections In-Progress J13 11:31AM

Black Lives Matter Activist Jasmine Abdullah Sentenced Three Months in Jail on Attempted Lynching Charge J09 2:08AM

Why are the Park Rangers making it even more difficult for the homeless in Los Angeles? J04 3:11PM

Bernie Sanders in Lincoln Heights M23 8:23PM

Los Angeles Sit-In to Fight Voter Suppression M18 4:28AM

War Within California's 46th CD M13 11:42AM

NPR's David Greene & Alison Aubrey along with David Ludwig Shill For Factory Farm Eggs M13 7:55AM

2016 AT&T Shareholders engaged by Communications Workers of America D9 Activists M12 11:43PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 Android Hack O27 9:04AM

I offer criminal indictments against fbi et al. O27 1:54AM

Logomachie extinctive O26 1:00AM

Video: Tom Hayden, Listen Yankee! 2015 O25 10:56AM

(A-Radio) Presentation: the Prison Strike in the USA 2016 O25 8:41AM

Clinton beginning informal talks with congressional Republicans O24 11:45PM

Video: Noam Chomsky: The Alien Perspective on Humanity, 51 min O24 7:43AM

renewed US pressure on Australia to line up against China O24 12:30AM

Art About Privilege Censored on Facebook O23 3:16AM

Paraphysique de la folie O23 2:21AM

Vote if you want to serve on a jury. O22 2:37PM

Washington moves to silence WikiLeaks O22 2:12AM

The class struggle of th Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson O22 2:09AM

What is behind the anti-Russia campaign in the US? O22 1:51AM

The Supposed "Omnipotence" of Politicians O21 10:52AM


Philippines: Duterte’s first 100 days O21 4:01AM

Fbi/police community is a threat to our people O20 11:24PM

The Shortwave Report 10/21/16 Listen Globally! O20 5:01PM

Film/TV Composer Megan Cavallari to Receive the FAHF Humanitarian Award O20 2:18PM

NYC Councilwoman sponsors ground-breaking bill prohibiting wild and exotic animal displays O19 10:22AM

Paraphysique de l'aidance O19 2:57AM

Hallmarks of f b i O18 9:43PM

Sylvia Opens October 21 at Odyssey Theatre; Tanna Frederick Stars O18 11:13AM


What the Narcissists Have Done to Our Jobs and Health O18 4:48AM

Fbi as human monster O18 1:16AM

Fbi as human monster O17 11:50PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2003 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy