A few days after a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a crowd of over-eager bargain shoppers last month, a candlelight vigil was held outside the store to remember the man and to raise public awareness about the perils of excessive consumption and materialism in everyday life.
The vigil was led by a charismatic performance artist named )
Their joyous sound contrasts sharply with their message warning against the "Shopocalypse," which Talen says looks a lot like the current world-wide economic crisis. ()
"What we in the Church of Stop Shopping do know is that for years we have been told by our governments, by our religious institutions, by our economic institutions, that everything is going to be okay if you just shop until you drop!"
The real solution to our woes, Talen says, is to take a break and slow down; consume less, buy less.
"We're addicted to shopping the way alcoholics are addicted to alcohol. We are stuffing a hole in our soul with things we are purchasing," he says.
Talen says the best response is to build healthy neighborhoods and relationships.
"I don't need to buy a product to talk to you," he says. "Let's just do it!"
Reverend Billy sermonizes about core human values - and shopping isn't one of them. You can see him at work in the 2007 Morgan Spurlock documentary What Would Jesus Buy?
The film follows the Church of Stop Shopping on a bus tour across the United States during Christmas season. En route, the troupe stages impromptu "interventions" in shopping malls, churches, at people's front doors and in Disneyland, where Billy and choir in full costume are at first mistaken for Disney fantasy characters. They are soon escorted out of Disneyland by the police.
While Talen is not a religious man, he has genuine faith.
"You can't shop your way to happiness," he says.
Asked his wish for the New Year, the preacher in him can't resist an impromptu sermon.
"The earth has a message that is unmistakable. It is coming in the form of tornadoes, floods, fires and droughts. We have to help each other to slow down our consumerism, and we have to do it at a rate that is radically fast. We need to change," he says, "Changealujah!"
With his trademark wisdom and wit, Bill Talen, as Reverend Billy, hopes to make the world a better, happier place - not only at Christmas time but throughout the entire year.