It's Black Friday and I slept in! I may wander out later on today, once the crowds have subsided to look for a few items on my shopping list, but so far I've avoided the mass rush.
Black Friday highlights the dilemma that we face as people of God, especially we who are concerned about social justice and equality. We hear the prophets speak so clearly about the dangers of consumerism. Consider these words from the prophet Amos, one of the earliest Hebrew oracles on record:
- 4 Hear this, you who trample
- on the needy and destroy
- the poor of the land,
- 5 saying,
- “ When will the new moon
- be over so that we may sell grain,
- and the Sabbath
- so that we may offer wheat for sale,
- make the ephah smaller,
- enlarge the shekel,
- and deceive with false balances,
- 6 in order to buy the needy for silver
- and the helpless for sandals,
- and sell garbage as grain? ”
- 7 The LORD has sworn
- by the pride of Jacob:
- Surely I will never forget
- what they have done.
- 8 Will not the land tremble on this account,
- and all who live in it mourn,
- as it rises and overflows like the Nile,
- and then falls again,
- like the River of Egypt?f (Amos 8:4-7, Common English Bible)
But, before we go out and "Occupy the Mall" and protest by yelling at shoppers trying to find a good deal on a big screen TV, let us remember that our economy is built on a consumerist basis. If we don't buy, then people don't have jobs, and if people don't have jobs they don't buy. I agree that it's a rather endless cycle, but this is the nature of the beast. Remember too that most retailers, those stores that most all of us shop at, will likely make a good portion of their earnings over the next few weeks. If they don't do well, they will lay off workers, shut down stores and more.
So, what do we do? How do we push our economy forward in a way that is just and equitable? I have to admit, I'm not a Marxist. Capitalism has many flaws, but it does allow people freedom to express their creative energies in ways that Marxist economies, to this point, have not.
So, if we are to be faithful to the prophetic call to "to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God" (Mic. 6:8 CEB), what shall we do? Occupying the Mall simply doesn't cut it in my mind. So what else might we do?