Glenn Stanton shakes his head with a look of mild disgust.

"Here we are in beautiful Colorado Springs at the foot of Pikes Peak," says Stanton, social research analyst for public policy at Focus on the Family. "On the weekends, where are the most people? They're in the mall. They're shopping."

Mere miles from alpine meadows and mountain creeks, one would think more people would take the time to stop and smell the pine needles. And that begs the question, says Stanton: "How do we get people out enjoying life that is real?"

A free-market conservative, Stanton believes the American economic system is the best there is. But materialism and mall mania are taking a toll on the country, he says.

"The market is just tearing at the family," Stanton says. "It's almost impossible for parents to develop and nurture the whims and desires of their children. Because the whims and desires are really being nurtured by the commercials they see on TV."

Families should be sustained by what T.S. Eliot called "the permanent things" -- love, truth, compassion, virtue and beauty, he adds. Too often, the market is hostile to such values. "[The market] needs to expand itself, and quite tragically, it brings in new consumers at almost any price."

Some family therapists warn that the price is a culture in which people treat one another like products. In such an environment, husbands and wives may feel justified when they decide to trade in a spouse for a "new and improved" version. Beyond that, arguments about money are known to play a central role in 90 percent of divorce cases.






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