Our culture’s remarkable dedication to Friday’s “religious” celebration has me thinking back to another story from severalyears ago.
(You can read about reports of this Friday’s projected madness here: http://money.cnn.com/2011/11/22/pf/black_friday/index.htm?hpt=hp_t2)
It was a crisp Tennessee day, November 28th, 2008, the Friday after Thanksgiving, when I rose early at my in-laws’ house to go for a morning run on the Nashville Greenway. The trailhead is adjacent to a large shopping center. I sat in a ridiculous line of expectant shoppers in standstill traffic, listening to the dreadful drone of pessimism from a national radio talk show host spewing about our national debt crisis and failing economy over my car radio. Whatever was failing in our economy that day didn’t seem to be affecting this particular retail location.
When I returned to the car after myjog and began the journey back through shopping hell, I tuned into the radio once again to discover that 850 miles away a temporary Wal-Mart employee in Long Island was killed in a stampede. Several were injured, but he wastrampled by frenzied shoppers who were agitated and longing to be the first ones to the sale racks. The slain man’s relatives were outraged later on that day to learn that he suffocated. Police commented that shoppers coming in were unphased by the scene and continued to bump into them (and climb over them) as theyattempted to administerlife-saving measuresto the dying employee. It was a catastrophe so senseless I almost couldn’t believe it — a human life taken by rabid shoppers. I haven’t heard much about it since then — I know there have been other outrageous stories — but none quite as poignant or depressing.
There are ghosts of Black Fridays’ past, but we are rarely so blatantly exposed to the destructive power of our view of the world in one single story. The Wal-Mart shoppers were only excited to do what they had been trained to do that day — be good consumers. We clearly derive some sense of meaning, a sense of power through buying. Black Friday they call it: an ominous but appropriate nomenclature that brings to mind Good Friday. I find it interesting, that we have high-jacked a “religious” term to label a day that celebrates the new American god. We live in a culture driven by the “hectic rush to position ourselves for another purchase that we believe will equate to happiness…”
Despite its auspicious beginnings, Thanksgiving, for most of us, is a time to celebrate family — to take a moment to actually be present with one another– with nowhere to go — and nothing to buy — to be grateful for the things that are lasting in our lives. This Thursday is also a day when many of us begin to contemplate the Advent season. Maybe rather than joining the mad rush of consumption on Friday, we should establish it as a day of rest — a day of “fasting” from the next purchase. Maybe it is time we step back and define followers of Jesus as people who will not participate in the “worship” of this Black Friday tradition. Maybe we can honor the truth of the Gospel in these next few days by meditating on the eternal blessings in our life (the ones we cannot buy) and turning our hearts toward Advent and the scandal of giving our lives to help others: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/