Black Friday and the Spirituality of Shopping

This year some department stores decided to open up their celebration of shopping en masse during Thanksgiving. This is nothing entirely new, as last year Wal-Mart opened their doors only two hours later than today. Yes, last year many Wal-Marts released the floodgates at 8pm, and this year they did so at 6pm, enticing the crowds to gather and trample through the doors a few scant hours after celebrating a simple holiday of thankfulness. The memes abound. And, while rather simplistic, evoke a profound truth: the queerness of stacking holidays that promote such contrasting spirits.  I decided to drive past the Wal-Mart in our rather small town. I was quite shocked to see how full the parking lot was. Cars were stationed across the roads because there was too little room! Imagining what it may have been like in the store was a bit overwhelming. I do not think it is quite fair, nor would it be accurate, to claim that the entirety of people who participate in Black Friday are greedy people, or otherwise addicted to consuming products. But, ultimately, that is what the “holiday” celebrates. Perhaps the better course of action is to not give into such hype. There is a very real “spirituality” of shopping. I know too many whose lives reflect it. It is the unmitigated desire for the new, and it eschews the materialism of Christianity which is found within the bodiliness of reality and the conservation of “things.” Many things that are needed are necessary precisely because they exhibit a “newness” and thus become attractive to the consumer. The simplicity of the fathers of the faith is forgotten, and instead we consume things for the action and feeling of consuming. Such actions betray obsession. What is worse is fighting, trampling, feeling anger, and perhaps even cheating in order to obtain cheaper goods. Goods that waste away, become “outdated” in a few years because companies strategically release items in order to make the consumer feel behind the times, and are ultimately second order to time spent with family during  a holiday of thankfulness. Of course, the irony is that few items are actually reduced to a significant amount. And those items that are dramatically priced often require an amount of violence (whether physical or of the mind) to obtain. Stores understand that if you are drawn in for a few cheaply priced items then you are more likely to buy other things, no matter the amount of “savings” in the new price. They want to unload their products in order to impress shareholders, not give the consumer a “deal.” Do you think Jesus would jerk a Tickle-Me-Elmo out of another person’s hands? Or race to the last breadmaker? Or spent thousands on electronics that will be outdated by next Christmas and perhaps thrown away for the “new” next year? Is the unmitigated desire for “new” a vice or a good? What say ye?

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5 comments on “Black Friday and the Spirituality of Shopping

  1. malloyd says:

    I think it is a gray area, for me at least. My wife and I were out Thanksgiving night shopping. We did not hit the 6:00 sale at Walmart, but we were at Old Navy about midnight or so. The reason it’s gray is we were not even shopping for us. We were purchasing things for a family that our church decided to sponsor. We were out trying to get more for them with a limited amount of cash. I don’t think Jesus would rip an Elmo out of someone’s hands, but I also don’t know if he would condemn maximizing our missions outreach either.

  2. Hey Malloyd.

    I think you are correct. In fact, that is why I put the qualifier in the fourth paragraph. I certainly don’t think that all people who participate in Black Friday are committing some sort of “wrong” or are in error morally. But, I do think the holiday has gotten out of hand, and that many do give into a spirit of consumption, caught up in the hype and marketing. I do think there is a difference between your experience and those people who camped out in front of Best Buy for the entirety of Thanksgiving, or those who may have neglected family so they could pick up some cheap electronics.

  3. malloyd says:

    Right you are. Plus, I saw those things being spread on Facebook about why Christians shouldn’t shop on Black Friday, but they failed to take into consideration the gas stations, restaurants, and movie theaters that are (and have been for some time) open on Thanksgiving.

    Also, you know me you goof ball.

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