Call me a hypocrite, but Harriet and I did go out last Friday. While visiting my dad, The Chester, we ventured out to Hobby Lobby in Greer, SC, mid-morning. Christian music played in the background, giving the store a civilized ambiance while customers browsed through holiday niceties, manger scenes, crosses, and other seasonal fare. Harriet bought a 2016 calendar with her 40% off coupon. There weren't any fist-fights or tussles or riots, like the one is a stylish boutique, pictured above. I walked for twenty minutes. logging 2,500 steps.
Black Friday creeps me out. We fought the crowds and wrestled over more expensive sale items a number of years ago but gave it up for Lent soon after. And, it's not just the dark depraved nature of human kind that brought us to that decision. The whole thing creeps me out because of what it's become. Suddenly, Black Friday is the epi-center of The Secular City that liberal theologian Harvey Cox predicted way back in 1965. It is mobility an anonymity in spades. Five distinct black marks make it a creep- out zone for me.
1. The obvious black mark is that it plays on the depraved nature of man.
Classic liberalism affirms that mankind is good and is getting better. Of course,
you can Google "Black Friday fights" and see how greed and envy and
self-absorption characterizes our species. Lower prices, limited supplies, long
lines, and the native competiveness that beats in the human heart are
maximized in the build up to Black Friday. Advertisers play on the dark side,
and create an environment that ignites our worst instincts. All the stuff about
love and acceptance and tolerance and kindness and peace are lost in the
consumer culture of good deals.
2. Black Friday is suddenly the beginning of the Christ season.
As a traditional Christian, the Christmastide season has always begun on the
first Sunday of Advent. With Black Friday as the make-it-or-break-it sales day
for most retail business our Christmas celebration is now fast-forwarded a
couple of days and is now defined by consumerism and not spirituality. There's
just something obscene about Christmas decorations out in the open before
Halloween, the set-up for Black Friday.
3. Thanksgiving has been blurred by Black Friday commercialism.
Of course, Thanksgiving all the time is the biblical standard. But, in the United
States, we've observed Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November
since 1941 as a national day of thanks and prayer. Originally, Black Friday
happened on the day after Thanksgiving. But, in recent years the competitive
nature of retail marketing and sales has moved the beginning of Black Friday
to Thanksgiving Day. While some retailers close on Thanksgiving Day, most are
open for business and advertise their greatest sales bargains late Thanksgiving
Day. So, the lines start forming, people camp at the entrances to many retail
establishments, and Thanksgiving Day is shoved into the background.
4. Black Friday isn't always such a great deal.
OK, we all want to save money on the big tickets items. As a result, Black
Friday deals are offered at what appears to be record low pricing. However,
college Marketing 101 taught me about loss-leaders and the many ways these
low prices lure the spending of impulse purchases beyond the advertised
pricing bonanza. Yes, there's one born every minute, and someone has said
that there's no such thing as a free lunch. In the greater scheme of things,
Black Friday isn't always such a great deal.
5. There's a values inversion in the Black Friday hype.
Suddenly you're un-American if you don't participate in Black Friday. Yes, there
are a good many grouchy people like me who don't prefer the crass
commercialism, huge crowds, and greed of such a giant sales day. Today, these
people, including me, are viewed as negative, intolerant, often religious
fanatics who would rather spend a nice quiet day at home rather than join the
mania of crowds vying for those large ticket items that draw so many to the
mall and large retailers.
Then, there's the football weekend. And, what red-blooded American male would rather spend Black Friday shopping when you can be preparing for Grudge Saturday college football. I mean, let's get the values thing down to the basics.
Seriously, though, there's this conforming to the world thing too. And, there's much more to this life than a good deal. You know, like time with the family, genuine moments of gratitude, and anticipating the joys of the season.
For whatever it's worth.