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Augie professor's Christian consumer book strings many pearls of wisdom, whimsy


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Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2011, 9:00 am
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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com
ROCK ISLAND -- Grandma was stingy, but her family looked for gentler ways to describe her.

Dr. Laura Hartman, an Augustana College assistant professor of religion, was wearing a pearl necklace given to her by her grandmother and clothes she got from Goodwill and the Salvation Army as she discussed a new book she had written, titled ''The Christian Consumer: Living Faithfully in a Fragile World.''

The pearls, she said, were fake, as would be expected from a no-nonsense stingy grandmother, who, when taken around town to look at Christmas lights, would instead point out the houses without lights that were saving energy costs.

Instead of ''stingy,'' however, Dr. Hartman prefers terms such as ''ethical consumption,'' ''environmentally friendly,'' and ''human-rights oriented,'' in her book.

She said she hopes readers won't feel scolded or ashamed of their shopping habits, but instead feel empowered to make better decisions, especially at a time of economic troubles when it's ''hard to know what's ahead for us.''

It's common for consumers to ponder what and how much to buy for the holidays, according to a college news release.

It's not just about one decision faced by a last-minute Christmas shopper, or someone going to a grocery store looking for Christmas dinner items, Dr. Hartman said. ''It's about figuring out, and then changing, your habits.''

Her studies and reflections, based on biblical views and Christian thought, have turned her into an advocate for public transit and a regular shopper at places such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army and farmers' markets, she said.

An earlier college anthropology class that focused on ethical consumption left her feeling empowered, knowing she could control her own consumption, and help others learn to as well.

There are no easy answers, or even rules, Dr. Hartman said. Her book explains a four-point ethical consumption framework -- 1. Avoid sin. 2. Embrace creation. 3. Love the neighbor. 4. Envision the future.''

''That gives us a model to discern what we ought to do,'' Dr. Hartman said.

Spending more time with family and friends instead of money on ''over-pricey, store-bought items'' is something she strongly encourages.

''What people remember the most about Christmas are the stories that are shared, not the gifts,'' she said. ''Most of us have plenty of stuff, but are poor in time.''

Biblical examples of how important the Sabbath is to God proves that ''He wants to give us the gift of time,'' Dr. Hartman said, ''time to spend relaxing and reflecting on the life God gave us.''

Or, as it's expressed on a bumper sticker she likes, what's needed most is ''More fun, less stuff.''

The bumper sticker belongs to Center for a New American Dream, an organization dedicated to changing American consumption. Dr. Hartman once spent a year with the organization as an intern.

Her book is available in the college library, at Prairie Lights online bookstores, or from a local library.

The book has information for consumers to use at all times of the year, not just during the holiday season, she said.

''In many ways, the book may be more appropriate as a New Year's resolution,'' Dr. Hartman said.

Its pearls of wisdom and whimsy are helpful year-round, she said, and they're real.





Dr. Laura Hartman

Address: Rock Island.

Birth date: April 24, 1978.

Occupation: Assistant professor of religion, Augustana College, Rock Island, since 2008.

Education: Bachelor's degree from Indiana University; doctorate from the University of Virginia.

Hometown: Lexington, Ky.

Family: Son, Theodore.

Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: ''Mary's husband, Joseph.''

Hobbies: ''Urban hiking.''

Peak experience: ''Birth of my son.''

Pit experience: ''When I almost couldn't finish my dissertation.''

One thing I feel strongly about: ''Considering our consumption deeply.''

I wish I knew how to: ''Get by with less sleep.''
















 



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  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

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1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.






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