Yes my friends it is that most holy of occasions in American life, the annual celebration of Black Friday where others sane an rational people allow themselves to unleash their animal passions on the floors of our greatest retailers and on the internet. We have observed the high holy day of Black Friday where Americans of all races and religious persuasions observe a day of sacrifice to the God of consumerism often spending days in preparation carefully hoarding their treasures in hopes of scoring the best deals at the nation’s leading retailers.
Last night just for fun after going to watch the new Muppet Movie Judy and I decided to just to a drive by a few retail establishments to check on the goings on. We drove by the local Best Buy to see what liked like an Occupy Wall Street demonstration only to realize that the tents and sleeping bags contained those most hearty of shoppers huddled in the cold waiting for the doors of the store to open. Deployed near them was a news van with its antenna up and I imagine with one of our stellar local news babes or dudes out interviewing these stalwart individuals. There were a few places open the most surprising on which I thought was the craft store Michael’s. I could not believe that they were open nor could I ever imagine the vast number of cars in their parking lot. Since I have a panic attack anytime I have to go in that store I cannot imagine why anyone would elect to break the peace of Thanksgiving a day early for that. But then that is part of the mystic of this most holy day of American capitalism and consumerism gone wild.
According to our local news no one has yet been shot, knifed or trampled to death in any of our local retailers though I would image that customer number 201 in line for the 200 available the $199 HDTVs at Best Buy or other retailers with a limited numbers of Black Friday “Door buster” specials are feeling homicidal or suicidal or possibly both about now.
But I hear that in some places the holiday has been celebrated with much more aplomb than our sleepy city. I have read about shootings inside and outside of different retailers, incidents where shoppers had to be tasered by police, pepper sprayed by store security officers or even better pepper strayed each other. I can only image how fun that was for them as they wrestled for all of those really “hot” deals.
I do think that this celebration says something about us now, while many people around the world would be willing to die for a decent meal or freedom of speech we are willing to harm our neighbors because they might be the fist to get the latest gadget for a few dollars less than us. It seems perverted don’t you think? I can’t imagine Jesus or Thomas Jefferson approving such behavior but it is part and parcel of the culture that we are very much a part of and participate in and that means Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street types and everyone in between because whether we like to admit it we like our stuff and we want it for the best possible price, not that there is anything wrong with that…especially if you are a follower of Ayn Rand’s banal philosophy.
But when we let the urges for stuff overcome our common sense and any sense of decency, decorum or love of our neighbor then maybe we have lost our way.
I guess the fact that after Iraq I am claustrophobic and get panicky in big crowds in enclosed areas now makes me less inclined even to try to go to a major retailer today. Maybe that makes it easy for me to say these things with relative impunity since the thought of going out in such crowds petrifies me. I certainly am not trying to be judgmental but when I see people doing harm to each other to obtain things that are more than luxuries for most of the world I think that we need to just step back and look at ourselves.
Look at it we have massive long term unemployment, our country is financially and politically broke and we have people fighting each other and some people actually doing physical harm to others for gadgets made in China or Third World countries by what amounts to slave labor. Not only that we have people in all levels of government and corporate America that promote this culture and make their living off of the people that are committing crimes to get a deal. I think that says something about us and that troubles me. But then I guess I don’t have enough faith in the God of Black Friday.
I love Christmas and after a week of relatively serious writing I felt the need to celebrate the reason for the season. That’s right, materialistic consumerism the religion with the most followers of any in the United States. Just look around and you will see that even before Halloween that Christmas paraphernalia is already filling the store shelves and if you go to one of those craft stores you might even see a manger scene complete with Freddy Krueger and the Pilgrims kneeling at the crèche surrounded by the Wise Men, shepherds, vampires and turkeys. I tell you it is a miracle to behold disparate holidays blended together as only marketing professionals can do.
I just find the holiday spirit something to behold don’t you? I just love the solemnity of Black Friday where countless consumers spend like drunken sailors and fight like them too when they find out that Wal-Mart has run out of everything that was in the Black Friday special advertisement. It is inspiriting I tell you to excitement and mayhem of the season. I just love the soothing sounds of non-stop advertisements on television with happy people spending money on lavish gifts to the tune of popular holiday music celebrating Santa the Savior who has come from the North Pole to bring joy to the people showering them with gifts paid for by those little plastic cards that everyone carries in their wallet. Yes my friends it is a wondrous season where for a month following Thanksgiving we exhaust ourselves and spend ourselves into oblivion as the miracle that began on 34th Street gives us all a wonderful life.
Now of course as you might guess, Padre Steve is a Christian and like all Christians he knows that Jesus is the “reason for the season” because all the Christian stores that sell Jesus junk tell him so. Meanwhile hundreds, no verily thousands of Churches endeavor to fill the pews with new and exciting versions of the Christmas story, complete with Angel choirs made up of heavy metal bands, hip hop artists and digitally enhanced manger scenes in Dolby Surround sound and 3-D graphics complete with interactive menus. It is amazing and wondrous to behold especially when the offering plate comes round, joy to the world and pray that the church breaks even, if not take a second offering after all it’s better to receive than go broke.
You see it seems that even in matters of faith rampant consumerism and materialism has distorted the very simple message of the Gospel that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” (Gal, 4:4-5)
It is in that fullness of time in a humble stable that most of us would shy away from because of the stench that Jesus was born, born of a virgin. In that humble stable away from their home in Galilee a young couple found themselves with child while obeying the edict of Caesar to register in a census. In the fullness of time a child was born in an era of oppressive paranoid local leaders such as Herod as well as the ever wary and security conscious Romans. He was born in an era of religious fervor where ordinary people hoped and prayed for a deliverer but where many religious leaders were more interested in keeping their power than in welcoming a Messiah, where religious leaders made money on the gifts and offerings of devout people and where a profit could be made by selling off less than perfect animals for the offering while keeping the best for the religious leaders.
Yes my friends it was a time not very different from our own. Somehow I think that Jesus would scratch his head in bewilderment in he were to walk the mall, watch a little television and visit a church or two and see just how he is marketed but allegedly Christian people. It’s funny how little things change in 2000 years. I wonder if Jesus would get one of those WWJD bracelets or perhaps a few copies of The Prayer of Jabez? I wonder if he would turn over the tables in the Jesus junk stores and foyers of churches. I wonder if he would shed tears over the constant bombardment of advertisements telling people who are losing their homes to spend more money and of the rich passing the poor by on the streets. I wonder if he would bless the practice of usury that undergirds our economy while impoverishing debtors that so many of his people support as being good for the economy. I wonder about so much more including if Jesus would support the way that we celebrate him. Somehow I think that he would be more upset about the way that his people treat him than those that are of other religious faiths or those that have left churches because of any number of abuses by both clergy and lay people.
Maybe I just wonder too much, but don’t you?