Students fast from consumer goods for 40 days, 40 nights

A group of Simpson students and faculty are attempting to eliminate or decrease its purchase of consumer goods for the season of Lent, an idea that came out of a political science course.

“The idea for 40 days and 40 nights came out of a class I teach called Citizenship,” said Kedron Bardwell, assistant professor of political science. “It’s basically a trial run for a senior seminar class in political science.”

The idea has caught on around campus. Between 30 and 35 people are actively participating in the fast from consumerism that lasts until April 8.

The rules of the fast are simple–participants are not to purchase any consumer goods that are not necessary including clothes, books, music, movies, games and a variety of other items.

“We have been talking about individualism, materialism and consumerism in class and their affects on American society, especially as it relates to civic engagement,” said Bardwell. “Those aspects of American culture can be detrimental to people’s ability to get out and engage these other issues.”

Participants are also to limit the amount of money being spent on eating out and beverages each week. The goal for this area is to spend less than $20 a week on both food and drink. Participants are only to eat out one time per week.

“Food is more one of moderation,” Bardwell said. “It was kind of secondary to our whole project. The main rule is that first rule, no buying of consumer goods.”

Spring break falls right in the middle of the 40 days and 40 nights fast. Many people had already planned trips for spring break when they decided to participate in the fast. For some, this could pose a problem.

“There was an objection raised right away about spring break,” Bardwell said. “What I’ve said to most people is if you’ve pre-planned something, keep a lid on your spending. Don’t purchase anything in the consumer-goods category.”

Junior Alison Jepsen had already planned a work trip to Mexico when she decided to join the 40 days and 40 nights fast. The trip is not going to interfere with her commitment to the fast.

“It’s a work trip so we shouldn’t be spending any money anyways,” Jepsen said. “Any money we do spend, we should be spending to help them.”

Senior Nate Nims was a part of the citizenship and social justice class that created the 40 days and 40 nights fast. He said the idea was based on information he read in class and the fact that the average American spends six hours a week shopping.

“We were looking at different ways to live that tend to give back to communities rather than focusing on yourself,” Nims said. “There’s been a good response for it. I’ll end up giving some of what I save away. It can actually go to use.”

Although giving money away to charity was not part of the rules, it is encouraged to be considered as a possibility. Bardwell says this is an individual conscience issue, a contract with themselves. He hopes it will raise awareness about how much money is spent that could be used in other ways.

“We hope that people become conscious of what they spend,” Bardwell said. “I would strongly encourage people to think about giving to charity.”