From my friend Joel, leader of the 20s30s at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. We partner with their 20s30s group on lots of activities and this is one that we are especially excited about. Check out his message to group about reverse black friday and a screening of What Would Jesus Buy?
As we approach Thanksgiving this week, and by extension the Advent and Christmas season, we will be confronted by a cultural phenomenon that has come to be known as “Black Friday.” We all know what Black Friday is: that day after Thanksgiving when all of the stores advertise huge sales and open their doors at the crack of dawn to massive crowds who will fight (in some cases physically) their way through the stores looking for the best deals.
Black Friday has been the biggest shopping day of the year for the past 10 years, except 2004, when it was topped only by the Saturday before Christmas. The amount of money people spend on Black Friday is unbelievable. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, despite the worst recession since the Great Depression, record-high unemployment, and record-high household debt, both the number of shoppers and the average each of them spent increased. In 2011, approximately 226 million people spent an average of $398.62 EACH, for a grand total of $52.5 billion spent! That means that the day after we’re supposed to give thanks for all that we have, over 2/3 of the people in this country made the statement that they didn’t have enough.
What sort of effect is this having on us as Christians and as a culture? And why even bring this up?
I would like to extend my Reverse Black Friday challenge to all of you.
I’m sure that most of you have heard of Buy Nothing Day, a response to Black Friday calling on people to not shop on that day. But the problem with Buy Nothing Day is that it focuses only on consumer behavior (which is indeed out of control) and doesn’t offer any chance for spiritual growth and reflection; ultimately it is a call to inaction.
Reverse Black Friday takes that idea and makes it a call to action. Not only does it involve not shopping on Black Friday, it involves getting rid of things by giving them away. Instead of going out on Black Friday and buying more stuff, use your day off to stay at home and clean out all of your stuff. End the day by donating everything you need to get rid of to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or some other charity, church, or non-profit. Use the time to reflect on all of the blessings that God has given you over the past year, and to be thankful.
The first reading for November 23 from the GROW Journal that we’ve been doing as a church is Galatians 5:13-26, which seems especially apropos for Black Friday. Here are the first few verses of that from The Message:
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?”
Having done Reverse Black Friday both last year and this year (I had to do it this past weekend, as I’m out of town on Black Friday proper), it’s hard. It’s hard to overcome those “compulsions of selfishness” that Paul talks about, hard get up the motivation to do the cleaning, and hard to avoid the deals that will be offered to us on Black Friday. It’s amazing and baffling to me that I try to convince myself that I still need some trinket-god (to steal my favorite term that The Message uses a little later in that same passage) that I haven’t used or even seen in years. If ever there were a clear sign that we are too greedy and beholden to our stuff, it’s that.
But it’s been great both times, and I would encourage every one of you to do it this year. It’s a very freeing experience to be rid of things that you don’t need, and it’s a good and necessary spiritual exercise to put us in the right frame of mind as we approach the Christmas and Advent season. As any of you who have been here for the past 2 Christmases know, Pastor Dan constantly talks about taking back that season from the greed and over-commercialization that have come to characterize it, and helping us focus first on waiting for, and then celebrating the birth of our Savior. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to get rid of all of our excess stuff (and avoid accumulating more), freeing us, as Paul suggests, and allowing us to choose to be “led by the Spirit.”
In the spirit of Reverse Black Friday and in preparation for Advent, I would also like to invite you all to join us this Sunday, November 25 to watch the movie What Would Jesus Buy?
The movie is a documentary that follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they travel across the US in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Admittedly, it is a little silly at times, but it is a great way to put some of this in perspective and help us think about what this season means, and what our place is in the culture as Christians, not consumers. Here’s a link to the trailer for the movie: http://youtu.be/sGi21YQFjMM
We will be meeting in The Cellar on Sunday at 5pm to watch the movie. We’ll have coffee and hot chocolate, so feel free to bring some snacks along. Afterwards, we can all go get something to eat together as we discuss the movie.
Hope to see you all there, and Happy Thanksgiving!