Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday: A Gift of Grace?

It's Black Friday. That means you can get great deals on things if you're willing to brave the many other people who will also be out shopping today. Cheap movies, toys, Mp3 players, etc. There's something for everyone. It's a great time to buy Christmas or birthday presents for friends and family. But wait. It's not celebrated by everyone.

It's also Buy Nothing Day. This is a movement that was started to invite people to avoid shopping on Black Friday. Why? To protest consumerism. When we were in college, we thought this idea was brilliant. We refused to shop on Black Friday. In fact, we often did things in our dorm in order to avoid being seen outside - and having people mistakenly think we were shopping. Yeah, we were very self-righteous about it. Just the thought of people shopping on this day made us feel morally superiour. And we didn't stop there. We became evangelicals for Buy Nothing Day. We put bumper stickers on our car and told everyone we knew about it. But wait. This is not celebrated by everyone either.

It's Black Friday, afterall. That means you really can get some of the best deals of the year on stuff. And some people need to save all the money they can. They can't afford not to shop on Black Friday. It's a way for folks to afford the gifts they want to give to their friends and family. For some people, Black Friday is a gift of grace in a tough economy. Thankfully, some thoughtful people and articulate articles woke us up to this reality. They reminded us that Buy Nothing Day is a luxury that not everyone can afford.

Eugene Cho had a similar expereince and quoted one of the people who woke him up to the grace of Black Friday. An African American friend of his said to him:
"Buy Nothing Day is basically a thing of and for white folks and comfy middle class and rich folks who have had the privilege of consumption their whole life. And now, they can afford to start things like Buy Nothing Day. True, it speaks to the issue of overconsumption, but how much of it is to appease their guilty consciences? I’m also very skeptical and cynical of Christians who’ve jumped on this bandwagon...Stuff like this sickens me because it has completely no idea about the plight of the poor, low-income folks, and some minorities that are just trying to survive."
Powerful stuff. And yes, stuff like this does dampen our self-righteousness when we see people shopping on Black Friday. While we celebrate the protest of consumerism, we also celebrate any time the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden are given a break in our dog-eat-dog world. These are the exact people Jesus asks us to stand with and stand up for. So perhaps, all the hype and self-righteousness of Buy Nothing Day can be exchanged for the compassion and empathy of the Way of Jesus.

Eugene Cho sums it up well:

"Black Friday shopping means different things for different folks. For many of us, it’s a game, a sport, a blog topic, and an event we mark, but for others it’s a matter of necessity. This is why I have reservations about Buy Nothing Day. Perhaps the majority of us should sincerely adopt Buy Nothing Day and let those who truly need the 'doorbusters' be the first in line — for a change."

Didn't Jesus say something about letting the first be last, and the last be first? Perhaps Black Friday is a time this can actually happen.

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