The Story of Stuff

February 25, 2009



Since its internet debut, over 3 million people have viewed “The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard,” and I can now count myself among those who have not only seen it but have been changed by it. In fact, I am going to lay myself on the line and open myself up for criticism at the outset by saying that this video is perhaps the most succinct and most compelling short film that has been released in the last 10 years.

Even before I began rallying leaders and laypersons within my home denomination (through The Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative), God began planting tiny burden-seeds in my heart–seeds that have now grown into a pile of freight that my heart lugs everywhere I go. If you were to open me up and look pull out the hodge-podge contents of my burdened heart, I imagine you would feel like you had reached into Mary Poppin’s handbag. Among the things that burden me are consumerism, materialism, environmentalism, and various justice issues too numerous to name.
I guess that these issues have become an integral part of my heartbeat for two reasons:

1. I am one of the worst offenders. I coddle my inner materialist, I think racist thoughts, I excuse my destructive habits. And I do almost nothing to alleviate these problems in my community, much less around the world.
2. I truly believe these would be the issues that Jesus would care the most about if he were here among us still. If you walk in the wake of Jesus’ ministry, you will wade through wads of compassion and love. Aren’t we to be His hands and feet in His (physical) absense?
Unfortunately, non-Christians have claimed the moral high ground on many of these issues. They are fighting the good fight that too many of us have been unwilling to fight too long. (I have a friend who works with an adoption care ministry who said, “I think a lot of people don’t take time to see poverty and injustice because they don’t want to be accountable to fix it.”) As I try to articulate the need for aggressive action on these things to my fellow believers, I often find it difficult to strike balance between proof and practicality. Either I rely mostly on facts and bore people to death or I rely on hollow emotion that does little to convince the logical listener.

The Story of Stuff does both with clarity as it takes you down the path our “stuff” travels from extraction to disposal. I urge you to watch it with an open mind if you have not already done so. Then, come tell me what you think. If you are unimpressed or even offended, say so. If you are captivated and compelled–and I believe you will be–tell me.
If you are a follower of Christ who truly believes we must love our neighbor, care for the “least of these” with selfless compassion and strive to live sustainable, responsible lives, this video will touch you deeply. It is about 20 minutes long, but well worth the investment. Take it from viewer number 3-million-and-1.

This post originally appeared on

Jonathan Merritt is a Christian faith and culture writer and spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative.

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