Tom Beaudoin is visiting professor of theology at Boston College and the Catholic author of Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X. While most Christian writers have stayed away from commentary on the marketplace and the huge role it plays in our lives, Beaudoin seems at home in the culture and willing to take a hard look at what is going on there. He writes: "Talking about pop culture and spirituality without looking at the role of the economy was like writing about rain forests without giving any indication that there are actually trees there."

Beaudoin pays tribute to Naomi Klein's bellwether book No Logo for its insights into the pervasive influence of branding on young adults. He sees this phenomenon as a spiritual force to be dealt with since it gives so many lives meaning. Clothes and other branded products do "identity work" for youthful consumers, transmitting messages about who they are and what matters to them. Instead of moralizing against branding, Beaudoin wants to look deeper.

He sees Jesus as God's economist and points to the fact that the man from Nazareth talked about economic relationships (how to use our time and money) and concluded that we are here to help the poor and those on the margins of society. When Beaudoin looked into the relationships behind the branded jeans and other products in his life, he discovered youngsters and women in other countries who worked long hours for poor wages, were forbidden to join unions, and were subjected to pregnancy tests. Christians, the author asserts, must cultivate a mature and responsible economic spirituality based on human dignity and decency.

One of the first things we all can do is shed the sense of entitlement that leads to our putting ourselves above others and feeling that we deserve the best because we are the best. Perhaps branding can help us see that we are connected to others in far-away places and that we must accept responsibility for our economic relationships. Consuming Faith is a hard-hitting and ethically provocative book that deserves a wide-reading.