A Black Friday Prophecy

BlackFridayToday is the annual high holiday of American consumerism…Black Friday.

While I personally have never had any interest in participating in the shopping melee that is taking place across our nation today, I understand also that, for good or for bad, many hardworking people will rely on today and the upcoming holiday shopping season for their livelihoods.

Somehow we have created the ultimate irony.

We have built a society which places high value on material possessions. That value requires people to create and distribute those possessions. In order to make those possessions as affordable and widely available as possible, we demand that those people work for low wages. Inevitably, the consequence of people working for low wages is marginalization and, ultimately, impoverishment.

In our Western Christian heritage, we have attached the giving and receiving of possessions to one of our holiest days, our celebration of Jesus’ birth.

And so our consumer culture has merged with our religious culture. A religion which claims to worship the ways of a radically self-giving God attempts to do so through a consumeristic celebration of God’s incarnation into humanity.

The result is a kind of religious schizophrenia. In order to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we have created the very kind of marginalization and impoverishment Jesus consistently condemns.

Ultimate. Irony.

In the biblical narrative, God’s intent was for Israel to be a nation which valued all people equally and sacrificially cared for one another, and which demonstrated that kind of care as a counter-cultural picture to the rest of the world of what humanity could be at its best.

During the period in which the books of the prophets emerged, many in Israel had become very prosperous. Ironically, wealth and power came largely through enslavement of the poorest and most vulnerable.

The prophets arose as a voice to critique what Israel had become. Their job was not so much to predict the future as it was to point out the consequences for the nation’s behavior. Israel, ironically, had risen from enslavement in Egypt to enslaving its own people. The consequence would be exile and enslavement in Babylon.

Enslavement always leads to enslavement. Mistreatment of others always leads to being mistreated.

As another Black Friday leads us into another Christmas shopping season, we would be wise to remember the voice of the prophets.

This is not a call to monasticism or asceticism. I’m not advocating that we stop buying or giving. I claim no moral high ground from which to cast blame on anyone. I am as culpable as any.

I simply hope that by confronting our own religious schizophrenia, we might begin to be more truly generous, more counter-culturally compassionate, and more truly human.

One thought on “A Black Friday Prophecy

  1. First, I want to be clear, I don’t want you to think I am in any kind of disagreement with you post, in fact, I would offer a hearty “AMEN” to every line of you blog. I just thought I would throw in my unrefined thoughts as I am still trying to work out how to best view the shopping frenzy of the weeks leading up to Christmas. You need to know that I LOVE buying stuff for people. I really get excited going out and picking out gifts for my friends and family (especially my little sister) and not just at Christmas, but all throughout the year. That being said, I also have a pretty serious disdain for our (humanity’s) obsession with stuff (except for books, books don’t count). I’m not asking you to be my moral compass on the issue, but how do you think we best counteract the rampant materialism in our society when at the same time we are trying to participate in our favorite gift giving holiday? Jesus got gifts, he gave gifts(although his weren’t material, unless you count bread, fish, and a new earth), clearly it is not wrong to receive a present and it is especially not wrong to buy somebody else something they need or you think will bring them some sort of happiness. Now I am wondering at what point are we contributing to the problem if materialism by buying somebody stuff that will make them happy? Is it the stuff that brings me joy? Is it really the thought that counts? Just some late not ponderings whilst i lay awake listing to my wife snore.


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