If you follow Anglican and Episcopalian blogs right now, or you have clergy Facebook friends, you’re probably seeing calls for a simpler Christmas. The Advent Conspiracy is leading the charge asking people to refrain from buying too much as way of keeping Christmas. The secular media is picking up on the idea too; someone from a TV station called me last night looking for a quote decrying the latest Black Friday mayhem.
But, Diana Butler Bass points out that the luxury of conscious minimalism is really an upper class problem. Some of the people in line on Black Friday are there because they can’t afford to buy what they need at full price, and these teaser sales are incredibly helpful to them. She asks us to look at just who it is standing in line on Black Friday. It’s not the wealthy or the well off. It’s the working class and the poor. The same people who tend to attend Church week in and week out.
“By contrast, the rich—the people who aren’t in lines on Black Friday—are less likely to be religious, more likely to find meaning in materialism, and give a lower percentage of their income to help those in need. According to a recent New York Times story, the wealthy will spend most of their holiday cash at stores like Nordstrom, Saks, and Tiffany where there will be few sales and no door-buster specials.
On the morning of Black Friday, I watched a reporter interview two women at a mall, who had arrived early for the sales. He asked, “What are you going to buy?” The woman, clearly not a well-off person, responded: “Shoes.” He said, “Shoes? You’re not supposed to be buying shoes!” She said, “But I need shoes.” He pressed the issue, “Are you buying anything else?” “No,” she replied. “I just need new shoes.” Her companion was buying jeans. The reporter didn’t know what to say. How many people on Black Friday are like these two women?
And that is the morality tale of Black Friday. Yes, there will be mall riots over flat-screen TVs. But maybe, just maybe, people are shopping on Black Friday because they can’t afford the prices that greedy corporations charge on a regular basis—saving up to buy things like shoes on deep discount. And, of course, people who are suffering under the weight of economic inequality would like to have nice toys for their children and decent electronics (electronics are arguably a necessity to participate in 21st century western society) and the only time of the year they can afford such things is during the super-sales pushed on us by mega-business on Black Friday.”