I'm predisposed to agree with arguments against participating in Black Friday. So I was prepared to nod my head to Aiden Enns's essay in The Washington Post's On Faith blog, in which he lays out reasons why Christians should avoid today's madness.
Instead I found myself wondering how many people might be persuaded to take Christianity more seriously if the know-nothings who write under a Christian label would take up some other occupation.
There are plenty of reasons for a Christian not to participate in Black Friday. Most of these reasons are applicable to every human being with a modicum of good sense. If you value your time, for example, you don't want to squander it in some of the longest lines of the year.
If you value your money, and you've been paying attention, you know that retailers are desperate. (Does anyone think it's a coincidence that you could still smell the sunscreen on people when shopping centers started hanging wreaths and playing pseudo-Christmas jingles?) Which means the longer you hold out, the better deals you can get, unless your loved ones absolutely have to have whatever trinket is exceedingly popular and rare this year.
And they don't, by the way, which means the power lies in your hands to teach them an important lesson about letting go of what they covet.
Finally, if you have any fashion sense, you know that black is out this fall season, making Black Friday terribly passé. What's more, there's no way to congregate with a bunch of sweatpants-wearing, bargain-addled shopping addicts who've been up since 4 a.m., and look good. No way.
These are all valid reasons to eschew Black Friday. What is not a valid reason is virtually any of the argumentation offered by Enns. "It's not that there's something more important than the economy," he claims, "it's that the economy needs to be refashioned." By this he means we need committees of smart people to address "poor labor conditions, exploitative hiring practices, unfair monopolies, and irresponsible resource extraction."
History shows that people who don't really understand markets generally make things worse when they start monkeying around with them in the name of "social justice." But there's a deeper problem here, which is Enns's tacit assertion that there is nothing more important than the economy. This is not uncommon among those in the social justice wing of Christianity, who are at their hearts first and foremost about economics over faith.
But the real howler is where Enns writes this: "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."
Here's a writing tip: If you begin your sentence with, "It's dumb to say it this way," that's a real strong clue that what you're about to say is, in fact, dumb.
Jesus was no Jewish Cesar Chavez. He didn't just chose "solidarity," as Enns asserts, "with people of the lowest ranks," as at least one centurion and one powerful tax collector can attest. He comes as King, and He overthrows the power of sin and death, not passing economic monopolies and labor injustices. To write about Him otherwise is to cheapen Him, and cheapen Christmas.
So fine, fellow Christians, stay home on Black Friday. Heck, abstain from shopping during the entire Christmas season. But do it not because Jesus wants socialism; do it, if you choose, because Jesus has more important work, with you, me, and our neighbors, than fussing over whether that new spatula we're about to buy meets a set of Fair Trade standards.