Re-Thinking Christian Criticism of Black Friday
I have to be honest – this post is quite different from my norm and has been a struggle for me to write. In part, I really do not want to publish it because I haven’t quite discerned whether or not the post is a reflection of my own self-righteous mindset. I do write it, however, hoping there is important perspective I may be able to offer regarding the rhetoric we often use on social media and mindset we Christians often have this time of year.
It is becoming more and more difficult to not find myself frustrated by Christian criticism of Black Friday. I am often ashamed that the main witness many Christians offer to the world is a judgmental glare.
To be clear, yes, I believe materialism and consumerism are very real dangers to the Christian soul. Likewise, as Christians, I believe we are to embody values of simplicity and generosity that stand in stark contrast to the world. These values should constantly challenge our daily lives. I do not expect the world to accept or promote the values of simplicity and generosity, however, which means I believe we Christians have to be very careful of how we engage conversations about such matters.
As a Christian, my witness shows forth through both my rhetoric and my actions. This is why I want to offer some perspectives we Christians should bear in mind before making judgments or taking to social media to offer up our criticisms this Black Friday:
1.) Black Friday can be an issue of stewardship. Some people would rather spend less money on the same items that others will buy at the same locations for more money at another time.
2.) Black Friday is one of the few days some people do any shopping. I have some family members whom I really respect for their continual lives of simplicity. They do not regularly go to malls, shop at Best buy, make purchases on amazon.com, or buy the latest items from their favorite technology company. For them, Black Friday is a way to continue to practice simplicity so that they can also practice more generosity.
3.) For many lower-income persons/families, Black Friday is a prime time to purchase necessities like clothes and items for the home. Sure, unnecessary items are purchased as well, but without Black Friday, some people wouldn’t have the opportunity for the luxuries a lot of us live with every day.
4.) Evaluate your own spending habits before criticizing others’. A few questions that may be helpful: Do I ever spend money on things I don’t really need? Will I be purchasing Christmas gifts this Christmas season, and how much money and time will I spend on those purchases? In what ways do I justify my own spending habits?
5.) Many people actually do go out with family on Black Friday instead of neglecting family. I constantly hear stories from friends who have very cherished memories of their time together going out with their families on Black Friday.
6.) There are those who struggle at Thanksgiving because it is not a happy holiday. In the midst of broken home lives, struggles in relationships, and financial worries, the last thing a person needs to hear is another condemning voice.
7.) Some workers need the pay. Another day off would actually be a financial burden for some people, especially those making minimum-wage jobs who struggle to get close to forty hours a week on a normal week. To get more hours or to get overtime pay for working on Black Friday is a great blessing to some workers this time of year. So is the care and thanks that some customers will show to them for having to work.
8.) A lot of workers really hate working on Black Friday. So let’s not make it any worse for them, okay?
9.) Active service is a better Christian witness than passive condemnation. If I (as a Christian) expect Christians to become judgmental and condemning this time of year, what do non-Christian expect? Perhaps we can show a better witness by finding opportunities for service. For instance, a church in my town decided a couple of years ago to pass out hot chocolate at 5:00 AM on Black Friday to people waiting in line at Best Buy. I know a family that takes $5 Starbucks gift cards with them to give out as a thanks to the employees they encounter who work on Black Friday. To me, such acts of service speak volumes louder of Christian witness than self-righteous tweets, posts, and blogs.
I admit the alternate perspectives I offer are quite brief. A lot more could be (and perhaps should be) said about each one. My goal isn’t to justify each point, though. I simply want to help us think through varying perspectives before quickly making criticism.
Wherever and however you spend your time this holiday season, may it be a blessed one. And may we all seek out ways to be a blessing to others.