10 Things Christians Should Consider On Black Friday

10 Things Christians Should Consider On Black Friday November 26, 2014

supermarket with blurred bokeh background
Every year Americans kick off the Christmas season by heading out to the stores to score some deals on what has come to be known as “Black Friday,” and this year will be no different. Before that day hits us at the end of the week, however, there are a few things I hope that we as Christians will consider and take to heart:

1. The timing of “Black Friday” couldn’t be more ironic if we wanted it to be.

Seriously– it’s almost laughable. The day after we supposedly pause to be grateful for what we have, we revert to alternate personalities by camping out in the Walmart parking lot and throwing punches over Cabbage Patch Kids? That doesn’t sound very thankful to me. This year, may we consider what thankfulness and contentment really look like.

2. We are called to be people who are different than the world around us.

The word “holy” means “different” or “set apart,” and as Christians, we’re called to be a testimony to a God who is different than anything in all creation, by living differently than everything else in all creation. This means that Jesus followers are invited to opt out of the American consumerism way of living, and to strive for a more simple way– one that doesn’t need to always be consuming.

3. Our Black Friday behavior might be greed, and greed is the second most condemned sin in all of scripture.

Greed is simply defined by the “selfish and excessive desire for more,” and sadly, this is a very accurate way to describe the bulk of American culture. Unfortunately, this selfish desire to always have more is something the bible calls idolatry– meaning as Christians, we must shed off greed wherever we find it in our lives. This year, may we purchase what we need but resist the desire to always have the next best thing, and to have more of it.

4. The Bible teaches that whatever possessions we own should be modest.

When Paul warns about modesty in the Bible, he goes as far as saying that we must not even wear “costly apparel” (1 Tim 2:9-10). Sure, God wants us to have our needs met, but he doesn’t want us to flaunt it or have in excess. Whatever we purchase, we should purchase in a way that is modest– we don’t need the biggest and best of everything; that’s not modest at all. Christians should be the people who are content, not the people need to have the biggest and best wide-screen television.

5. Remember, you won’t be taking any of the stuff you buy with you.

1 Timothy 6 warns us against the pursuit of “things” and reminds us of the ultimate truth: all this stuff is staying when you go. I think one of the most eye opening truths someone has ever told me was the reminder that everything I now own will one day be sold at a lawn sale for a couple of bucks. Why? It’s just stuff, and it’s not going with us when we die. We’re far better off to practice a detachment from “things” in the right here, right now.

6. Think about the poor around us who look to us to model the Kingdom of God.

On Thursday, many of the poor in America will spend the day like any other day, as big Thanksgiving meals just aren’t in the cards financially. Tracy and I will be having some African immigrants over to our house who otherwise would not have much of a meal– $140 in food stamps does not go very far. What kind of “Christian” message do we send to the poor when they can barely eat, but we can spend thousands of dollars on Black Friday? Whatever message it sends, let me tell you, it’s the wrong one.

7. Consider the message our Black Friday consumerist behavior might send to our children.

Are we teaching our children that life is all about having a lot of “stuff” or are we teaching them that there are a host of more important things in life? Furthermore, when we shower our children with too much “stuff” we usher them into a consumerist, “enough is never enough” way of living that can haunt them in adulthood. Let’s teach them that enough, actually is, enough.

8. While we’re out amassing stuff on Black Friday, people around the world will die from causes that you and I could help prevent if we’d spend our money differently.

On Black Friday, the following will happen: over 9,000 people will die from lack of clean water, over 21,000 will die from hunger, and thousands more will die from other causes that would largely be preventable if the world’s rich (you and I) would spend our money on people instead of things. Consider taking some of the money you’d spend on Black Friday and giving it to a reputable charity.

9. Remember the words of Jesus: “wherever your treasure is, there will be your heart also.”

This principle is easy: the more money you spend on things, the more you love things. The more you spend your money on people, the more you love people. The option for a Jesus follower should be an easy call to make– we must invest in people while rejecting the need for more “things.”

10. Jesus never asked us to buy a bunch of crap for his birthday.

Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Christ– a homeless Rabbi who famously told one of his disciples to sell everything and give it to the poor– the same Rabbi who taught that those who do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked or welcome immigrants, will not go to heaven. Loading up on the latest electronics and spending our money on more things for ourselves, is perhaps the most utterly insulting way we could celebrate the birth of someone who lived and taught simplicity and generosity.

This year, may we– the people of Jesus– live differently than the world around us. May we reject the need for excess material possessions, may we embrace lives of simplicity and generosity, and may we remember that loving people should always be more important that having more “things.”

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  • Amen brother! That’s a word Christians need to hear. In the world not of the world includes the holidays too. Thank you for this article! Be blessed!

  • Patti

    Love this.

  • My wife and I have started a new tradition for our little family. On Black Friday, instead of going out shopping, as a family we stay at home and make enough homemade canned applesauce to last us the year. It builds memories and relationships with us as a family, aims for sustainability and modesty, supports local food producers (local orchard) rather than large corporate farms, and is just plain fun. :)

    We’ve gotten so disillusioned about the whole Black Friday thing… to watch and see the rampant greed displayed on that day… and now that greed is pushed back to Thanksgiving day itself… makes one weep…

  • Lady Blue

    I have to agree with yah on that. I don’t care about much about Black friday, but I did shop a couple of times for stuff I needed or to give gifts for people. All those people who shop. I also have to point out, in recent years, stores have been abusing this day where some workers are having to go into work on thanksgiving day when they should be spending it with family. I know because at McDonald’s, people have to go into work at 8:00 pm on thanksgiving. Don’t get me started on Christmas. It’s one thing if you work for the police, fire department, hospital, etc. you are contributing to socities needs. Stores do not.

  • Lady Blue

    I have to disagree. Many holidays like Christmas and thanksgiving started with christian origins and it turned into something else.

  • Lady Blue

    My mom and I use to can Apple sauce when I was a kid. That is good times.

  • The first official Thanksgiving dinner (not the largely mythological one) was held in 1637 and hosted by Governor William Bradford. It celebrated the brutal massacre of 750 innocent Pequots, mostly women and children.

    So you might want to hesitate before you rush to claim Thanksgiving’s ‘Christian origins.’

  • You’re a filthy communist. Who clearly hates America.

  • *I just wanted to be the first to say it.*

  • gimpi1

    If I may, I’ll put in a plug for my favorite Christmas gift solution: Heifer International. You can buy livestock, seed or training for people all over the world, and the ability to buy “shares” makes it affordable for almost everyone. Get with family-members, go in together and buy an impoverished family a cow, ox or a couple of goats in all your names. You don’t get a bunch of stuff that you don’t need, want or can use, you get to do something as a family, and another family has a real boost in life. It’s win-win-win!

    I didn’t include a link, since I’m not sure about Ben’s policy. Just google Heifer International.

  • gimpi1

    You have apples bearing in late November? I make applesauce, but in early September. Of course, I’m in the Pacific Northwest, that might make a difference….

  • irena mangone

    The trouble is many people don’t want to acknowledge. That their history has atrocities. It’s always the other who is guilty not the all mighty white person. And yes I am white but that does not by any stretch make me superior. To others

  • Herm

    It was easy teaching my children about coveting in that it was all right to want things but not want what was already other’s things. It was easy teaching my children that ownership is only what is recognized as in my name and therefor was a burden of responsibility until it was someone else’s. It is hard to teach that God will really provide for them and their children as the time is most right for them.

    I found that throwing someone aside, or putting myself in a position to be thrown aside, to get an affordable deal before they got an affordable deal does not put any faith in God’s presence and grace to provide even what we didn’t know we needed. I have found that taking my time to shop, outside of known competitive environments, so that I am calmly in the right place at the right time is so much more economical with the graced resources at my disposal. I am sure that it doesn’t matter if I spend a higher amount to be the proud owner of yet another responsibility in my name when our Father lets it be known to our heart and mind we are ready to grow through the struggle of ownership. I am absolutely certain that if a vendor tells me they are selling below cost for my benefit I will refuse their kind offer. It was easy to teach my children that nothing is free. It was easy to teach my children that all we have is graced to us as in the image they could understand that their parents graced to them all the responsibilities they owned in their name. It was easy to demonstrate that all that was theirs could be taken from them.

    God bless you all in this moment of reflected thanksgiving! We have been all graced so much even if all we have left is the opportunity for more.

  • Lady Blue

    Alright you two. Stop, just stop. No holiday is going to perfect. Thank you for sharing that bit of history, but thankingiving also does have christian origin with christians acting like a community. Google thanksgiving wikipedia because for some reason, it won’t let me post it here. Second off, if you don’t want to celebrate, fine, but don’t you dare condem others that do. Some people use thanking giving as a way to feed the homeless and I think that’s a great way help the community. It’s all about what your heart is. Second, what does being white have anything to do with it? Google Irish Slaves. You will be shocked to learn there was white slaves and they were often treated worse then african slaves if we are getting into history.

  • Dan

    I have to greatly disagree with most of your post. In your first point, you say “we revert to alternate personalities by camping out in the Wal-Mart parking lot and throwing punches over Cabbage Patch Kids?” Well you might but as for myself and most of my friends, we don’t. As for your 2nd point, this is exactly why we need to go out and be among the sinners as Jesus was. My wife makes a point to be overly friendly and thankful to each and every person working at the stores. By not acting like all of the crazies, we are setting ourselves apart and are being a good testimony to those around us. On to your 3rd point. Greed? Really? It is the exact opposite. We go out to shop for others. We are buying for someone we love, not ourselves. As for points 4 and 5 see what i said on point 3. As for your 6th point, yes some crazy people spend thousands but not us. The reason we shop then is because we can save money. And really if you are going to think like that, you will never do anything because somebody always has it worse than you. If you are going to stop doing things because somebody has it worse, don’t make any plans to do anything. On your 7th point, it is like anything else in this world, there is a right and a wrong way. As parents you are responsible for showing them the right way. Point 7, see what I wrote about point 6. Point 9, I agree totally with what Jesus said. That is why we buy our presents for others. I am spending my money on another person. Point 10, another use bending the Bible the way you want. Just because He didn’t say it doesn’t mean He doesn’t want us to do it. I’m not saying He does either because we don’t know which means you don’t either. Rather than basically ripping Christians who shop on Black Friday, your time would be much better spent telling them how to do it correctly and always remember others are always watching our actions.

  • Christmas was a bit of a pagan thing too, so we took it from them. Many Christian fundamentalists won’t celebrate Christmas and Easter since they were originally pagan holidays.

  • Probably more like a socialist, but you’re on the right path.

  • I’m actually going to do a post about creative Christmas gift ideas, I love these guys and will include them!

  • Didn’t rip folks who shop on Black Friday, so you might want to re-read the post. It’s a post about modestly, resisting excess, and remembering the others in our midst.

  • No one condemned any one that celebrates Thanksgiving. I celebrate the modern festival of Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean I’m not mindful and respectful of the atrocities that gave it its start. But hey, if you want to claim those origins as ‘Christians,’ go right ahead. Just makes your tribe look worse.

    And this is off topic, but the myth that there were ‘Irish slaves’ is just that – a myth and a lie. We have never been bought and sold as chattel since before the eleventh century. Ever. You are not going to mangle the history of my own people to support your agenda of whitewashing history.

  • Black Friday is the sport of the American Lunatic and wages war on Thanksgiving. How absolutely insane is it that people would fight and injure one another for the sake of saving a dollar. Every year, there are casualties as folks are literally trampled to death over electronics and jewelry in this dystopian game. Big Business has created a manic hysteria out of shopping which is immoral and irresponsible. Santa is now the mascot for Corporate Greed and he’s suffering the consequences at the hands of a very disgruntled Thanksgiving Turkey at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-war-on-thanksgiving-one-turkeys.html

  • Ellen Polzien

    Actually, my (Lutheran) understanding of the word “holiness” is that it connotes “wholeness” — not asceticism or separation. I suspect that your definition of “holiness” may be due in part to your formerly fundie background. In any case, while I fully support the idea of Christians addressing consumerism and greed in a critical manner and modeling/encouraging other responses to the holiday season, might I suggest that framing that in terms of moving toward wholeness/balance in our spiritual/social/intellectual lives is perhaps more helpful to readers than language that suggests we adopt an adversarial attitude toward the people around us?

  • Lady Blue

    I should know, my mother is decended from the Irish who came to America during the 1800’s and you should know this. The Irish were treated like they were trash. Many of my ancestors were treated for good for nothing dirt here in America. How you can not claim to know of the invasions and rebellions the Irish had against the british?
    That is history and yes, thanksgiving does have christian origins.
    Here a modern day proof that there is still anti-Irish hate that still exists
    And the way, I mix of english, Irish, German, Native American, and some middle Eastern heritage. I never once claim it. You did, you were saying white people were lording it. In everyday country, form or another, they had some form of slavery. No country is not guilty of this even with mondern day slavery. I’m not slavery is right but you had no right to say all white people are bad. That is like saying my fiancé race are parts of gangs and thieves, which they aren’t. And where are your sources? Yes, some of mine are from wikipedia, but they can be backed, again sources pleases.

  • I hear what you’re saying, but set apart doesn’t mean adversarial– and it’s not a fundamentalist concept that Christians should live differently than the way the world operates– I hope that would be a basic Christian tenet. If the way of Jesus is unique, it would by definition, make those who practice it unique as well. Living it out is inspiring, and invites others to give it a go as well.

    My definition of holy comes from the Greek term used in the New Testament which actually means set apart, which is why I used that definition since the Greek definitions are typically the best way to understand NT concepts. See: http://biblehub.com/greek/40.htm

  • Charles Wolfe Masden

    Well if this is how we should feel as Christians then we need to apply this to our entire lives not just to Black Friday. Also I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where it says Jesus was born on Christmas day. As Christians we should be Celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ everyday not just on Christmas. The Bible teaches that sin is sin, no sin is going to get you blocked from heaven more so than another. The Bible says that where sin is God is not present so whether the sin is greed, murder, or lying its all sin. And not everyone that buys stuff on Black Friday goes out to get a bunch of stuff. Some go out to get a specific item when it’s on sale so they can maybe use the rest of their money for something greater….

  • T.A. McDonnell

    Wonderful article; however, I must take exception to comments promoting animal exploitation as some sort of ideal “alternative” or “progressive” gift, i.e., Heiffer International. Not to get too far off topic, but we as Christians have yet to seriously deal with the profound moral implications of (literally) enslaving, torturing and consuming countless nameless sentient beings, fellow creatures of God, for reasons no more compelling than palate pleasure, convenience or “tradition.” This is, indeed, conspicuous consumption and greed at its most brutal and destructive. The numbers are staggering: according to the UN, humans kill approximately 53 billion animals—that’s 53,000,000,000—for food per year, not including fish and other sea animals, a level of slaughter that is almost incomprehensible, and which not coincidentally is largely hidden from us – we pay others to “do the dirty work” – that is to say, “out of sight, out of mind.”

    Yet “all that is hidden will be made clear.” Indeed, we desperately need to expand
    our conventional Christian perspectives about who “the least of these” may
    include, to address this outrageous “blind spot,” and to stop confusing the idea of “dominion” with “domination.”

    I pray you will pardon my expanding on this subject, but the real “inconvenient truth” that environmentalists and Christians alike have ignored for far too long is that the animal industry is the #1 source of deforestation, species extinction, global poverty & starvation, water pollution, water depletion, ocean “dead zones” and, last but certainly not least, greenhouse gasses and global warming. The consensus is growing that for us to fail to put this issue prominently front and center will ultimately be the downfall of the climate change movement and its laudable goals. Indeed, to ignore this issue while promoting things like shopping
    locally, participating in “meatless Mondays” or using compact florescent bulbs
    is equivalent to trying to stop a tsunami with a small water bucket.

    The recently-released documentary, “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” ( https://cowspiracy.vhx.tv/buy ) offers a compelling overview of the absolutely catastrophic effect our consumption of and greed for animal products has on our planet, and equally horrific, the fact that *none* of the major environmental groups, much less Christian denominations, have thus far summoned the courage to address the issue. This is the proverbial “elephant” in the living room of most of those who consider themselves to be environmentalists as well as progressive and compassionate Christians. Richard Oppenlander, in his recent book, “Comfortably Unaware: Global Depletion and Food Responsibility” ( http://www.ebooks.com/669014/comfortably-unaware/oppenlander-richard-a/ ) also provides ample documentation as to why we ignore this issue at our peril.

    From a Christian perspective, arguably even more important than the almost unbelievable environmental devastation of the animal industry are the profound ethical problems of animal exploitation. In essence, all forms of violence and domination are the same: one group is deemed “the other” and exploited accordingly. Whether someone chooses to exploit another because of their age, gender, sexual preference, skin color, or species – all are expressions of the same insidious disease, and all are intrinsically evil and unjust. For more on the ethical implications of exploiting non-humans, I most highly recommend http://www.abolitionistapproach.org.

    This is not “just” about animal rights, or “just” about factory farming; indeed the carbon footprint of “grass-fed” cattle is almost laughably unsustainable by comparison to factory farming. In fact, we as Christians need to be saying
    to people like Michael Pollan and other gurus of the “happy exploitation”
    movement and their “foodie” disciples that actually, no, it really doesn’t matter how “nicely” you think these enslaved creatures may have been treated, or
    how much extra cash you spend on “organic” milk or “cage-free” eggs or “grass-fed” beef, or how warm and fuzzy you feel inside after finishing off your “local” piece of pig flesh, the fact remains that these are fully conscious beings, fully capable of joy, pain, fear, and emotional distress, and all of whom profoundly, instinctively want to live, just as we do.

    Gary Francione has astutely compared the whole insidious phenomenon of self-professed “conscientious omnivores” championing the joys of “humane slaughter” to the ancient Catholic tradition of buying indulgences. It makes *us* feel better, but the animals are still enslaved, brutalized, mutilated, killed, bought and sold, consumed, and consumed, and consumed. Again, it’s “all about us.” The very term “humane slaughter” is a classic oxymoron, chilling in its Orwellian double-think.

    St. Francis said it best: “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” Tolstoy was saying essentially the same thing
    when he wrote that “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be

    These “hard sayings” must be addressed unequivocally by any serious environmental leadership (by which I would hope we would include any serious disciples of Christ), along with the strong and clear message that going vegan is the single most powerful thing an individual can do to care for creation at this point in history. Healing the earth, our call of “Tikun Olam”, will be utterly impossible without this moral and environmental evolution.

    At my home parish, served by Franciscan friars, we often sing the wonderful hymn attributed to St. Francis, the “Canticle of the Creatures.” I am often compelled to remind fellow Christians that the first line reads “All Creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing.” Not “All Humans of our God and King” – all *Creatures*.

    Yes, whatever we do to the least of these, we do to *each other* – whether a “Thanksgiving” turkey or a dairy cow who has been shackled, forcibly and repeatedly impregnated and robbed of her calves so that we can sell the milk for profit, or the chicken, similarly enslaved and robbed of her eggs and being sent to the same slaughterhouse in the end, all of it the commodification of what should be perhaps the most sacred, profound and mysterious gift of all, that of the generation of life, a gift that is instead turned into so much packaged merchandise for us to thoughtlessly consume, oblivious to the horrific suffering, brutality and injustice intrinsically necessary for us to do so.

    I conclude with the words of C. David Coates, who summarizes most eloquently the vicious circle that is speciesism:

    “Isn’t man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife—birds, kangaroos, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice, foxes, and dingoes—by the millions in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billions and eats them. This in turn kills man by the millions,
    because eating all those animals leads to degenerative—and fatal—health
    conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year sends out cards praying for Peace on Earth.”

  • Ian Moore

    I teach a sociology class to 15 year old students and this video is one I always show them. It’s called ‘What would Jesus buy?’ and it’s about an activist who brings a traveling road show across America dressed as a fire and brimstone preacher, Rev Billy, trying to get people to curb their consumption. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAxuNdtZt7c
    It makes a lot of the points made in this excellent article.

  • Matthew

    Absolutely spot on Benjamin! I just read an article that Black Friday is even creeping its way over here (Europe) because of the likes of Amazon. UGH! SAY IT AIN´T SO!

  • Matthew

    Do these Christians who shop on Black Friday REALLY need what they are shopping for? If they are buying gifts for someone else, do these friends, relatives, etc. REALLY need the “stuff”? The only reason Wal-Mart exists is because as an enterprise it figured out how to allow the average American to buy even more low quality “stuff” they don´t need at lower prices. Products that used to be out of reach for the average American became within reach. I actually have a friend who once said this phenomenon is a good thing. I couldn´t disagree with him more.

    There is something horribly wrong with an economic system that depends on more and more consumption and spending in order to survive. There is something very wrong with an economic system that doesn´t encourage simple living, living within one´s means, and saving. There is something awfully wrong with an economic system that encourages selfishness and greed while leaving the most vulnerable out in the cold. (Please be advised that I am also preaching to myself as I too need to save more, consume less, etc.)

    I know the argument that capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system, but my question is do the benefits really outweigh the costs?

  • Kentanza Safaris

    when you have Jesus you have life, there is no any other friend like him,And in every you do and you believe in him always there is a break through. i have witnessed myself.

  • Chip

    Heifer is good. I most frequently use World Vision and occasionally Samaritan’s Purse.

  • Dave Stewart

    You might want to hesitate long enough to get some facts before you attempt to influence the narrative. The first “Thanksgiving Feast” happened in 1621, was presided over by William Bradford, and included Native Americans. The “massacre” you refer to was actually a war that lasted 4 years, 1634-1638, and both the Mohegan and Narragnset tribes fought with the colonists. And yes, war is horrible.

  • A WONDERFUL and thoughtful list, Ben. We laughed out loud at #10. I want to share this on my podcast Selah Project. Any chance you could come on it to talk 10-15 minutes on the list? I think it powerfully challenges and encourages us. I’ll tweet at ya … not sure best way to send contact info if you’d like to talk.

  • alskdjalskdj

    you buy loads of crap to show generosity towards others. with this said I disagree with what is said above.

  • Sure, would be happy to. You can send me a message through the contact tab at the top of the page and we can figure out the logistics.

  • Mark Caponigro

    Excellent essay! Donating to Heifer International is a horrendously unsatisfactory way of “feeding the hungry.”

    We can’t do enough to promote that true Franciscan charism, to join with ALL of God’s creatures in giving God praise. And “joining with” them means discovering the unique beauty and preciousness of each of them, and especially caring with compassion for all those who can benefit from our compassion.

    According to the Greek philosophical ideal that theologians of the 13th century, including followers of Saint Francis, recognized, the true happiness of human beings, our true “human flourishing,” can be based only on our cultivating all that is finest and best in our human nature. And whether or not people back then would put it quite like this, that includes acting with justice and compassion toward all sentient beings. Therefore, when we act to spare animals from injustice at human hands, and cruel treatment by humans, we are doing something good not only for the animals, but for us ourselves.

  • Mark Caponigro

    I agree with you, Ellen. Either Benjamin or his source (“biblehub.com” being quite narrow in many ways) fails to understand that “hágios” and the related “hagnós” are cultic terms, referring to what is appropriate for inclusion in divine worship (and never mind who the “divine” refers to; Aphrodite is no less divine than Yahweh). Hence, “pure,” i.e. not contaminated by what might defile and render unworthy; hence, “set apart,” in that connexion.

    Therefore it should NOT be taken in an ethical way, which Benjamin wants to do. In fact a very important part of the message of the Hebrew Prophets is that we should avoid making the deadly mistake of confusing cultic piety with moral virtue.

    There are indeed excellent reasons, central to the gospel, for Christians not to participate in the multi-directional destructiveness of our consumerist society. But in order that we may “set ourselves apart” is NOT one of them.

  • Well, now that you’re done trying to whitewash history, you’re going to get the facts you wanted.

    The 1621 “Thanksgiving Feast” is largely a mythological construction. It’s likely the Wampanoag weren’t even present. They certainly weren’t invited. Accounts vary. But the Christian children’s scene of Natives and Pilgrims sitting down together has barely a shred of historical accuracy. Also, I said ‘official’ Thanksgiving dinner, as in, organised specifically by the colonial government as a feast to give thanks, of which the 1637 event was the first.

    You are apparently completely unaware that in 1637, a Pequot man killed a colonist and that Bradford organised an attack on the remaining Pequot. You are apparently unaware that this attack was led by Jon Underhill. You are apparently completely unaware that the Pequot were slaughtered over the course of one night on 26 May. You are apparently completely unaware that the massacre was recorded and celebrated by Bradford himself in ‘The History of the Plymouth Plantation.

    “Those that scraped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escapted. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.”

    You are apparently completely unaware that casualties from this one real massacre are estimated at 400 – 800 by modern historians.

    You apparently believe that saying ‘war is horrible
    is justification for your whitewashing of the atrocities done against the native tribes.

    It is strongly suggested that you read. Perhaps this would work.


    It is finally recommended that you don’t challenge someone to use facts when you are entirely lacking in them yourself.

  • Brandon Roberts

    Agreed with you on black Friday. Honestly I just avoid that thing I don’t wanna bludgeon someone just to save a few bucks on a flat screen TV and I prefer to stay in and eat leftovers

  • Matthew

    Sadly enough it has certainly made it across the Atlantic. Black Friday has officially landed on European shores. I just read an article on the BBC news website about people in the UK going absolutely mad at some major retailers today. The pictures of shoppers all smushing together in order to grab a discounted TV are shocking. I simply cannot believe the Brits are falling for this horrible American tradition.

  • Shiphrah99

    Didn’t watch the vid, but you must be talking about Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. They’ve been in Ferguson and are about to protest at Monsanto. Way fun to spread a profound social gospel message.

  • Shiphrah99

    Bread for the World and Oxfam.

  • Shiphrah99

    The Hebrew root K-D-Sh gets translated as “holy,” but it means to set something apart for a special purpose. Ben is right on this one.

  • T.A. McDonnell

    Thanks as always, Mark, for your encouraging and salient words. I have significantly expanded the essay and posted on my Facebook page, should you care to visit: https://www.facebook.com/cecelialexandra

    My very best wishes to you and your loved ones.

  • Well…tried to send a message but it kept rejecting the capcha code … try twitter or philladden at gmail dot com and I’ll get back to ya. Thanks!

  • T.A. McDonnell

    Ten Reasons to say “no” to animal gifting and groups like Heiffer International: http://freefromharm.org/agriculture-environment/10-reasons-to-say-no-to-animal-gifting-hunger-orgs/

  • Mark Caponigro

    Ben is NOT right in the way he applies the concept. The “purpose” for which something/someone is set apart is cultic in the first place. In Genesis 38, Tamar in her prostitute disguise is referred to as “kedêshâh,” “consecrated woman,” i.e. a woman set apart for the special purpose of being a temple prostitute, to have sex with whom was a pious action, intended as a kind of prayer to the god such a woman served, in the hope that the man’s offering of his limited sexual power may move the god to share his/her much greater power in the increase of the man’s crops. And in Isaiah 6,3, “Kadôsh kadôsh kadôsh is the LORD of hosts!” is properly said of Yahweh in his temple.

    So Ben’s re-application of this concept to a large group of people in a pluralist society is quite a stretch. How visibly and physically should these people make clear their separation?: will he next be requiring the men to wear kippahs, and the women to wear hijab?

    The Hebrew root that he really has in mind is not K-D-Sh but P-R-Sh, as in Hebrew “perûshîm,” Aramaic “pharîshâiâ,” = NT “Pharisaîoi,” “the separated ones,” viz. “the Pharisees.” And we all know what the NT authors thought of them: “O Lord, thanks for setting me apart as this brilliant pillar of virtue such as I am, and not like that miserable disgraceful tax-collector back there.” (Cf. Luke 18, 9-14.)

  • Shiphrah99

    That is utter bullshit.

    Kadosh means set aside for ANY special purpose, but particularly for religious ones. Kidushin = marriage; kiddush = blessing of the wine on Shabbat; Gen. 2.3 = vaykadeish oto = declared it [Shabbat] holy. Yes, at the end of the Tamar narrative she is referred to as a kadeshah, a cult prostitute (although at the beginning of the story she is referred to as zonah, an ordinary harlot); indeed, such a one IS set aside for a special purpose, whether you like that purpose or not.

    As for the Pharisees … well, you think you know what the NT authors thought of them, apparently based on a pshat understanding of the texts, forgetting that Jesus himself was a Pharisee, a non-aristocrat (i.e. Saducee) concerned with keeping the spirit of the law and finding a halachah that would work for the common person. The Pharisees did separate themselves – from gentile pagans.

    BTW, “Yahweh” is also incorrect, in addition to being offensive. You’re not the high priest and this isn’t the Kadosh Kedoshim and today isn’t Yom Kippur. You don’t have the right to (mis)pronounce The Name.

  • Ishan

    So well said. You make a strong and heartbreaking point. There can be no serious conversation about climate change , sustainable living , or the like , without our relationship towith animals at the beginning , middle , and end of the discussion.
    Here is to the collective unconscious…… Wake -Up.

  • Matthew Bade

    As always, Ben, you’ve delivered another brilliant post that is both incisive and highly topical. Thank you for your thoughts on the scourge known as Black Friday. We would all do well to take heed of your advice. I am fortunate vis-à-vis Black Friday in that we live on a fixed income; it’s all dispersed on the first of the month, so by November’s end, we’re broke, and therefore unable to join in on the shop-til-you-drop festivities. I am grateful to be able to enjoy a simple day-after-Thanksgiving with kith and kin. As we frolic with the kids and spend a peaceful day together as a family, my wife and I are teaching them to eschew the maddening rush of this oft idolatrous day, a day which sits ignominiously atop the apex of the altar of American avarice. My teenage daughter and I spent this morning doing some modest volunteer work for our church. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to give her just a sliver’s glimpse of the Kingdom while her friends and their parents were out numbing themselves with the apparatus of commerce and other sundry accouterments which serve as a badge of honor for denizens of the Western world. A friend of the family deliberately chose Black Friday as the day to sit down and sort through all the charitable requests he gets throughout the year. He sifts through them all, makes appropriate choices, writes out the checks, and then off to the mailbox to post his alms and thereby pitch his own little protest against rampant consumerism. My wife helps him out with this task, and our children either tag along as “helpers,” or are afterwards duly apprised of the fact that while the rest of the world was busy spending, he was busy giving. These are just a couple of small examples of how we are learning to appreciate the immeasurable riches of God’s Kingdom, catching a peek of it where and when we can, abjuring for the moment the weary ways of the world and the egocentric hungers of the natural and rapacious self. Now, we’re no saints, believe me—I’m probably the lousiest Christian on the planet—but that’s kind of my whole point. Since I’m not yet the Jesus-follower I want to be, I feel so grateful to God for His give and take: giving me the opportunity to feel a little closer to the Kingdom, while at the same time taking away the need to outspend and out-consume the Joneses who we will never be in a financial position to keep up with anyway. Now, and by way of anticipating the counterpoint, I will stipulate that Black Friday can mean different things to different people; it need not be about mere acquisitiveness. God desires for his Creatures to bring to bear a wise stewardship over our resources, and money is indeed a resource of which we are called upon to exercise ways and means over. If one is so inclined to use Black Friday to procure goods that would otherwise and at other times be acquired at greater cost, then perhaps the sagacious consumer can—with the properly attendant restraint, discernment and planning—use this day to make sapient consumer choices, i.e. do one’s ordinary shopping in an extraordinary milieu. But this day is so rarely about frugality, and therein lies the rub—the hidden paradox, if you will: a day devoted to snagging good deals is really at bottom all about permitting your wallet to be ravaged into anemia, spending MORE than you can afford, thanks to the magic of consumer credit. Black Friday, far from being a magical day designed to snag bargains, is rather more of a gauntlet erected to fuel a hyper-capitalist locomotive by draining folks of their scarce resources, urging us on to wring every last drop of euphoria out of those charge cards and bank accounts.(Not that capitalism per se is a maleficent force, but our version of it is on steroids, and it can never be sated.) The ravenous stench of this spending frenzy is played out to the frenetic beat of a party atmosphere, replete with the glitz and the glamour of the shopoholic lifestyle, wherein you’re either “in” or you’re “out.” Resistance is futile. Still, I tip my hat to those who somehow do manage to resist the big-box Siren song and vote with their feet by staying home. I also salute those who are able to craftily hammer out a serious and sane game plan which will enable them to conserve precious financial resources without compromising the dignity of oneself or others. This means not degrading the humanity of our fellow shoppers, who are in reality fellow travelers on this lonely little orb, and of whom each one is a unique and precious creation, crafted with care by our Maker in His very image. People are decidedly NOT obstacles to that marked-down flat screen television. And to the rest of the world, to those who brave the dizzying instruments of commerce at its most delirious, I offer no judgment, since I am—once again—the lousiest Christian on Earth.

  • Matthew Bade

    I’ve heard amazing things about Heifer International. What a lovely Christmas gift idea! One year I recommended that we all give to charity in lieu of giving each other actual presents, but that one sort of quietly died down and never materialized. :( Also, Undiluted is a great gift idea.

  • Ishan

    Your passion is on the mark , and your civility is genuine.
    What a combo.

  • jack

    You may not buy as much stuff on Black Friday, but how much did you spend on all your degrees? May there is greed for knowledge? There is the Holy Spirit who knows all so why all the degrees? Does it take a degree to feed the poor and help the needy? That is getting a little closer to the radical message.

  • Mark Caponigro

    (Please, in the future, show respect for the forum, those who provide it, and those who participate in it, by refraining from using such words as “bullshit.”)

    Your examples of separation for a special purpose make my point very nicely, that the purposes are cultic or ritual, not originally ethical or moral. Saint Paul’s use of “hágioi,” “saints,” to refer to the members of Christian communities bespeaks their new status, delivered through faith in Jesus Christ from subjugation to sin and death, justified and redeemed to a new life of grace, on the way of salvation, ultimately to a predestined glorification. Paul may wish to draw certain conclusions on the proper moral conduct of the saints, but they come later, and are not part of the essence of the term.

    On Pharisees and “pshat” (or “peshat,” under which spelling there is a Wikipedia article), viz. a literal or superficial way of interpreting sacred texts: No, I certainly do not wish to share in any literalist reading of those passages in the gospels about Pharisees, with the view to promote the idea that all Pharisees must have been very bad people. It seems that one of the purposes of the creation of the gospels was to provide polemic material for use against non-messianic Jews; and for historical reasons, the Pharisees became convenient targets in the Synoptic gospels, especially Matthew. And it is, as a result, one of the greatest failings of Christianity, that for almost 2,000 years now, the gospels have in effect been teaching and authorizing people to be anti-Semites.

    In fact I have great respect for the Pharisees, as intellectual ancestors of the Rabbis who created modern Judaism in the 2nd century. And I can well believe that Jesus himself could reasonably be described as a Pharisee (though he is remembered to have allowed some contact with Gentiles; also, death by crucifixion was surely not something that most Pharisees experienced).

    But so far from being pshat, in connexion with that pericope from Luke, I was referring to the traditional moral interpretation of what was presented there as the objectionable attitude of that Pharisee, who for Luke’s readers could be taken to stand for the whole group — myself not believing that that stereotype is fair. The concepts of sanctimony, élitism, acting “holier than thou,” are in play here; many a Christian dislikes seeing those attitudes in other Christians; and I am afraid they are what I fear Ben’s recommendation would promote.

    On using and pronouncing the Tetragrammaton: Countless scholars and other writers refer to the proper name of the God of the Israelites as “Yahweh,” so in a pluralist society, in public discourse, it amazes me that anyone could find it offensive. The scruple against pronouncing it would seem to be limited to pious Jews; how can any of them be understood to have a right to constrain non-Jews on this count, in the context of discussing archaeological, historical, literary or religious matters?

    But you raise an interesting quibble, that the scholars who decided that “Yahweh” represents the correct original vocalization of the Tetragrammaton might in fact be wrong. I have not studied the arguments for “Yahweh” (which looks to me like the 3rd pers. sing. of the prefixed tense of the hiph’il of H-W[or Y]-H: “he causes to be”; but since the learned Semitists don’t say that, I guess it can’t be right), and would myself something that sounded more like “Yahu” or “Yao,” the latter a divine name appearing often in e.g. magical papyri, the former appearing often in pre-Exilic names such as Eliyahu and Yirmiyahu, as well as in the surname of the present prime minister of Israel, may God have mercy on him and guide him…

  • gimpi1

    I got turned on to this idea a few years ago. The whole family is pretty-much middle-aged or elderly, not a lot of kids. Most of us have everything we could possibly need, and the last thing we need is more stuff cluttering up our lives – sweaters we won’t wear, gadgets we won’t use, that sort of thing. We were tossing ideas around, and my cousin suggested we go in as a group, and buy shares in a cow thru Heifer. It was great! We had a nice celebration, pooled our resources and actually made a tiny difference in the world. It’s been three years now, and is becoming a family-tradition. I recommend family-giving highly. In a family that agrees on very little, we can all agree on this.

  • gimpi1

    Just FYI, for those with understandable objections to consuming animals, Heifer International offers seed and training gifts that people can sponsor or buy shares in.

  • T.A. McDonnell

    That is true; however, when choosing an organization to support financially, I would argue that we have a moral imperative to do our best to find one that does not also engage in any exploitation whatsoever, whether of humans or non-humans. If there was an organization that did all kinds of wonderful things, but had a little (human) slavery campaign on the side, I’m sure no one here would fail to vilify it. Yet because we are talking about non-humans, most people don’t even *see* the exploitation, much less object to it. Such is the horrific legacy of speciesism – similar to the blind or uncomprehending racism of whites who just “can’t understand” what African Americans in places like Ferguson or Cleveland are “so upset about.” As Albert Schweitzer so wisely observed, “The thinking person must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo.”

  • There is an ethical way to utilize animals, and an unethical way to do it. I’m all about advocating the former, but to say the whole world must go vegan is a wee bit over the top for me, and even an argument from the position of privilege by those who have the means and resources to live without the use of animals.

  • T.A. McDonnell

    That’s like saying some slave owners treat their slaves more nicely than others. It says nothing about the morality (or lack thereof) of the institution of animal slavery.

    The real question is, “What give us the right to ‘utilize’ (your word) non-humans?” For those who maintain that God gave us dominion over creation, I highly recommend the following: https://www.facebook.com/abolitionistapproach/posts/889455064407582?fref=nf&pnref=story

    As history clearly shows, any argument used to justify the exploitation of non-humans can be used (and has been used, and is still being used) to justify the exploitation of humans.

    This is why all forms of exploitation and violence are connected. To speak out against speciesism is no more elitist than to speak out against racism, homophobia, sexism, or any other “ism.”

    For those concerned about the profound connection between the animal industry and global poverty (all of us, I would hope), again I cannot recommend more highly the recent documentary “Cowspiracy” – available for download at http://www.cowspiracy.com.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it so well: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

  • Mark Caponigro

    Yes, I too have a problem with “ethical utilization” of sentient creatures.

    Your sentence in the fourth paragraph, beginning “To speak out against speciesism,” is extremely important. We should all learn to appreciate that activism against social injustice, activism against militarism and the cult of violence, activism against sexism, activism against racism, activism against homophobia, activism to confront the climate crisis, activism to confront the biodiversity crisis, and activism against speciesism are all different faces of the same underlying cause.

  • T.A. McDonnell

    For those who do not wish to support organizations involved in animal exploitation (such as Heifer), here are two humane, effective, ethical and morally-consistent alternatives: http://www.awfw.org (A Well-Fed World) and http://www.ffl.org (Food for Life Global).

  • Mark Caponigro

    If by “utilization” of animals we mean that that’s all there is to the relationship between the human utilizers and the animals being utilized, then there can be no admission of a hypothetical “ethical way to utilize animals” which involves any kind of intrusion into their lives. Human beings have a way of justifying their various forms of exploitation and extraction very easily; and the ease with which they give themselves a break is the source of many woes, for the world and for human beings themselves.

    As for “to say the whole world must go vegan is a wee bit over the top,” I can’t speak for Ms. McDonnell or the abolitionist vegans, but it seems entirely possible to hold out as a realizable ideal the post-speciesist reformation of human beings’ relationship with all living creatures, sentient animals in the first place, and so to do what we can to make moral progress toward that end. Meanwhile, reasonable observers will of course recognize the limitations of opportunity of many of the world’s underprivileged peoples. But that condition of theirs should hardly be recognized as an ongoing “necessity,” about which nothing can be done except just to accept it, cope with it and move on. That is why we say that activism against speciesism works together with all true humanistic forms of activism against social injustice and inequity.

  • T.A. McDonnell

    Absolutely, Mark. These are all different forms of injustice and violence — against ourselves, against animals, and against the earth herself; thus our ultimate cause is the cause of justice and peace.

    Toward that end, as a Catholic wiser than I once said, “If we want peace, we must work for justice” — i.e., we are not called to just sit around “waiting” or wishing and hoping for the peaceable kingdom — rather, we are called to be an active part of the cause that makes it *happen* — starting with our own lives.

    To focus on the rest of the world before focusing on ourselves misses Gandhi’s brilliant point that *we* must first “be the change we wish to see in the world.” Or as the old song goes, peace *must* “begin with me.” It may seem hokey or hackneyed to some, but the truth is that, indeed, the “personal” *is* “political” — profoundly so.

    In these violent and merciless times, the scripture that fuels me and gives me hope perhaps more than any other: “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.” ~ Isaiah 11:6-9

  • Guest

    Just because someone gets their facts wrong doesn’t mean they’re deliberately trying to “whitewash” history.

  • Mark Caponigro

    Thanks for this wise message, T.A.! It is mightily affirming, to see that we are on the same page on matters of profound importance. That apocalyptic passage in Isaiah 11 is something I meditate on often.

  • liberalinlove

    Our nations’ economic numbers are often judged by Black Friday outcomes. A good question for all of us perhaps could be, how do we reset the markers for growing a healthy economy which serves a healthy Republic.

  • Syntaxelk

    It takes a degree to heal the sick (medicine) and to house the poor (architecture and engineering). While such things can be done in ignorance of how to do them, knowledge helps one be more efficient at being able to take care of the people and world around you.

    Degrees can be expensive, but the pursuit of knowledge should never be forgone because of cost. The more people know, the more they can achieve.

  • Noah

    Greed to know more about overall Christianity in a search for truth so that many more may become disciples?

  • Don Lowery

    Currently working in retail and am old enough to understand how economic cycles come and go. When the current cycle goes bust…many of those who are doing the buying and hoarding today will see all they are throwing their money at belonging to someone else whether or not they want to acknowledge this or not. I am reminded of “The Grapes of Wrath” and other classics to show what can happen to anyone when forces beyond your control take hold.