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ACT | On Your Convictions

Shopocalypse Now

Reverend Billy, New York City; cofounder, Church of Life After Shopping| Fred Askew
"This project began in the late '90s, when I started preaching outside the Times Square Disney Store. I saw Disney as the high church of the effort to privatize Broadway—people being assailed by anthropomorphized rats and crickets, by Pocahontas.

"Opposing consumerism is environmental on its face. We need to stop shopping, but we also need to do something more radical. So my earliest supporters and I created a church with our own system of good and evil. We were from different parts of the world, and most of us had walked away from organized religion, but were seeking a spiritual life.

"Our Stop Shopping Gospel Choir has traveled the world, singing such joyous anti-consumerist songs as 'Back Away (From Wal-Mart)' and 'Shopocalypse.' The choir has made appearances to drive the devil out of Starbucks cash registers and to defend independent retailers and community gardens.

"In 2007 we led Icelanders into their supermalls. We delivered a wild sermon opposing a consumer culture that demands big dams and aluminum smelters. A few years earlier we sang joyful gospel to tree-sitters in Northern California who were protecting great old-growth trees from logging.

"We began our multiyear commitment to fight mountaintop removal this spring by taking action against JPMorgan Chase, which was financing much of the violence against mountains. We gathered mud in West Virginia, and with that murdered-mountain mud we built mountains inside a Chase Bank in New York City.

"Last fall I ran on the Green Party ticket for New York City mayor. It was an experiment in going right at the greenwashers in power. On a personal level, I do my part for the environment by trying to pump my hair to its usual alarming proportions without fossil fuel." —interview by Jamie Hansen

FUEL-AHOLICS Americans make up only 5 percent of the world's total population but consume more than 25 percent of its energy.

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