Faith Page for The Washington Post
online, Black Friday, November 2011.
Why Christians should resist
By Aiden Enns The Washington Post [online]
November 24, 2011
Many church-going folks love to shop. Heck, I’m
one of the organizers of a campaign called Buy
Nothing Christmas, and I still find a
perverse pleasure in looking at prices comparing
features and, yes, even paying for products at
But, as one inspired by the teachings of Jesus,
not shopping has become an important expression of
my faith. Let me explain:
To me, Black Friday is essentially our version of
a religious pilgrimage. We worship in the mega
stores, make schedules around holiday deals,
display allegiance to brands and low prices, offer
tithes to the cashiers. Masses of people swarm the
stores with hype and fervor. But where’s the
meaning? The deep meaning?
We know we’re placating the gods. Which is why
Christians need to pull back from the biggest
shopping day of the year. Retail products occupy
too much space in our homes and hearts.
It’s not that there’s something more important
than the economy, it’s that the economy needs to
be re-fashioned. Jesus acknowledged wealth and
power (give to Caesar what his Caesar’s) and
sought to undermine it (woe to the rich, blessed
are the poor).
By resisting the impulse to shop for deals on
Black Friday we stand at the feet of the retail
titans and, with the power of non-cooperation, we
challenge the injustices of poor labor conditions,
exploitative hiring practices, unfair monopolies,
and irresponsible resource extraction.
It’s dumb to say it this way, but Jesus was like
Gandhi before Gandhi was Gandhi. He came alongside
the poor masses and gave them hope because he
stood up to the enforcers of empire.
Worship of the deal is the way of the rich; it’s
also the way of out-sourcing labor to Mexico,
China and probably the moon. Chasing the deal
fractures our communities.
Christians resist Black Friday because they want
to build community by giving gifts that are
hand-made, home-baked, bartered among friends or
obtained from a locally-owned, fair-trade retailer
who (obviously) can’t afford to (and doesn’t want
to) cut prices to keep up with the cut-throat
practices of industry.
It’s deeply rewarding to cultivate the discipline
to say “no” to the best deal or the newest gadget.
When you take a consumer fast from Black Friday,
you develop the personal power to resist
Okay, this is not sexy. But it’s character
building. It’s also a step towards spiritual
fulfillment -- that great and noble goal which ads
can only mimic and possessions can dilute.
Seven reasons to resist Black Friday
To conclude, I offer seven incentives for
Christians to resist Black Friday.
1. Save money. Sure, this is a crass
appeal to your inner pocketbook. But it’s true!
You can save money if you shift your Christmas
gift giving habits. Give a few very special
things: a family heirloom, a scrapbook of memories
or fond thoughts, a favorite meal or celebration.
And hey, Jesus didn’t shop to show his love, he
gave a buffet of bread and fish and provided
2. Find inner peace. Away from the din
of deals and under the clutter of gadgets is a
sense of serenity available to you. It sounds like
fortune cookie wisdom but it’s true: quiet
resistance to consumer culture is the way to
3. Celebrate non-material joy. This
might sound boring, but for those who already have
the basics (and I don’t mean a second car and TV
for every room), the secret of joy and happiness
lies in developing non-material riches: build
relationships, foster generosity, acquire skills,
volunteer in the community.
4. Practice social justice. Jesus
challenged the powers of his day (Roman rulers and
religious overlords) and chose solidarity with
people at the lowest ranks. We can challenge
economic powers with what we buy, who made the
goods and who profits from them. Most of the deals
on Black Friday won’t qualify as fair-trade items.
So stay home and support other shops another day.
5. Teach kids new values. Let’s teach
children to show love in the most precious way:
through kindness, loyalty, creativity, affection,
self-sacrifice, humor and devotion. Let’s not
associate love with the size or price tag of a
present. Besides running the risk of emotional
bribery, it fosters low self-esteem when the
purchasing power wanes. Elevate the splendid,
intangible riches of love and we well equip our
kids for whatever comes.
6. Suffer a little. To stay home on
Black Friday is to be counter cultural, out of
synch. You might even miss out on some special
prices for gifts you want to buy. Principled
restraint welcomes solidarity with those who have
less. Voluntary poverty is the way of the Christ.
Voluntary simplicity is an appropriate lifestyle
for those caught in the web of a global super
7. Incarnate love. Imagine you are a
chaplain on Black Friday. Don’t enter the frenzy,
be a calming presence and show an alternate way.
Aiden Enns is the co-founder of buynothingchristmas.org
and the founder and editor of Geez magzine in
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He holds graduate
degrees in religion and journalism. Each year he
and his partner make Christmas gifts for their
18 nieces and nephews.
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