A Rousing Street Preacher Crusades Against Commercialism

It may be a sign of the rising disgust at hyper-commercialism that the New York Times Sunday Magazine on August 22 devoted three pages to the hilarious yet serious antics of actor/performance artist Reverend Billy, the self-styled spiritual leader of the Church of Stop Shopping.

Rev. Billy (Brooklyn-based William Talen) has staged “register exorcisms” at a number of Starbucks, enough to earn a court order enjoining him from getting within 250 yards of one in California. He has organized a churchly choir of confederates to stage a conga-line calvacade of shoppers pushing carts in Wal-Marts. He has rallied to support street vendors in New York City who Mayor Bloomberg wanted to clear from the streets during the Republican Convention.

But Rev. Billy’s antics are not just guerilla-theater street protests. The use imaginative performances to break through the saturation consumerism and marketing that now passes for everyday life in America. His mock-evangelism come eerily close to a real spiritual experience, using anti-commercialism protest as a back door to entering into a real community of the human spirit. As his partner, Savitri Durkee, put it: “I would say we have enough people who come to every show that there’s a regular sense that people are going to church. Strangely enough.”

For more, check out Rev. Billy’s website.