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Rev. Billy says: Stop shopping
Why the Church of Stop Shopping's evangelical leader wants us to buy nothing this holiday season.
November 29, 2005: 3:56 PM EST
By Katie Benner, CNNMoney.com staff writer
New York City performance artist Bill Talen, aka Reverend Billy, wants to know: Are you ready for the Shopocalypse?
New York City performance artist Bill Talen, aka Reverend Billy, wants to know: Are you ready for the Shopocalypse?
Reverend Billy works the congregation into a frenzy as they worship at the anti-consumer altar.
Reverend Billy works the congregation into a frenzy as they worship at the anti-consumer altar.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - "Heidi Klum told me, 'If you buy this perfume, I'll make love to you.' But oh Lord, where's Heidi now? And what about Christy Turlington? She didn't make love to me either."

And that's the final word on the demagoguery of advertising from Reverend Billy, the fiery evangelical leader of the Church of Stop Shopping.

Decked out with a blonde pompadour, Las Vegas worthy-white suit and clerical collar, it's hard to believe that performance artist Bill Talen, 47, hasn't shared a pulpit with Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker... until you hear the gospel he's preaching.

His church wants Americans to buy nothing on the mother of all shopping days, Black Friday, as part of a global initiative to smite the devil consumerism.

"Americans are instructed that our way of life is shopping. That our democracy is shopping. Citizenship is shopping. We don't need towns and cities anymore because we have a shopping experience," Reverend Billy told CNNMoney.com.

"Our communities are collapsing. We can be so much more than consumers."

With the help of an honest-to-God choir with gospel-worthy chops, over the past decade the good Reverend has "exorcised" cash registers at Starbucks, preached in the Times Square Disney store and delivered fiery sermons on street corners to get Americans to stop their shopping ways.

For all have sinned...

Now might be the right time for the coming of Reverend Billy, a time when pundits screech about war and poverty and America quietly turns down the volume -- and shops.

Reverend Billy & the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir will use Buy Nothing Day to kick off a month-long, cross-country "Shopocalypse" tour, performing in major retail locations and confronting shoppers laden with bags.

It begins Friday with a march through the streets of Manhattan and ends Christmas Day in California.

"Change-a-lujah!" said Reverend Billy.

But why save sinners during the heart of the buying season, when the message is guaranteed to raise hackles?

"We have to go into the deep of the storm," said Reverend Billy. "What would Dr. King do? What would Jesus do? What would Emma Goldman do? This is the time."

Reverend Billy senses that Americans, in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, are ready to rethink the way they live. "The hurricanes were a tipping point," said Reverend Billy. "They showed us that we are letting our life support system go."

In what Reverend Billy has identified as the belly of the beast, the Disney store in New York's Times Square, few shoppers seemed ready to be born again.

"Whatever," said one woman to this writer, hurrying away as the words "stop shopping" were uttered.

While others were more polite, the message was the same: Reverend Billy may want us to stop, but shopping is our God-given right.


Reverend Billy agreed that the spending habit is hard to kick, particularly during the holidays. But he believes our souls can be saved.

"Make time to spend with your loved ones that doesn't involve shopping or corporations or logos," he said. "It's like getting off alcohol and noticing that you're not drunk anymore when you stop letting a corporation direct your desires."

As our half-hour gospel-thumping session drew to a close, Reverend Billy had one final prayer for CNNMoney.com.

"I would like to ask for a blessing on Sister Katie Benner and her readers. I'd like to ask the great gift giver, the thing in the sky and earth that gave us our lives and our loved ones -- help us to give in a new way this year. Amen."  Top of page

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