Reflections on Black Friday

Reflections on Black Friday November 25, 2011

Black Friday is not Good Friday.  Paraphrasing Tony Campolo, “It’s friday but saturday’s coming”–meaning any day, even tomorrow, must be better than Black Friday.

I never cease to be amazed at what the media and advertisers can do to create a sensation. Today, one day after giving thanks, many people pressed into stores just after midnight to over spend and celebrate American consumerism. Once again, as for several years now, we will see reports on the evening news of being being trampled, tear gassed and even shot over attempts to get into the stores before others.

What is America’s real religion? Well, there’s probably no single answer to that.  But consumerism has to be right up there near the top of the options. It’s a pagan religion that almost nobody acknowledges, but the ultimate commitment it gains from many people reveals its quasi-religious status (to use Tillich’s terms).

A while back I blogged about the advertising industy and how it seems to be caught up in deceit and manipulation.  Just about a week ago a colleague’s excellent book on consumerism and advertising was published by HarperOne: Shiny Objects by Jim Roberts (or James Roberts).  Jim teaches marketing at Baylor School of Business.  His book is filled with relevant statistics to demonstrate that Americans wrongly equate spending and acquiring, often things they don’t need, with happiness. And he justifies my claim that many in the advertising business seem to lack scruples about manipulating people into buying things they don’t need and that really won’t make their lives better in any way. This book is an excellent example of prophetic cultural criticism.  It isn’t explicitly Christian, but it makes a Christian point with secular statistics and arguments–that rampant consumerism is not the path to happiness as many people wrongly assume (because they have been taught it by the media).

I can’t recommend Shiny Objects strongly enough; it is a book every American ought to read because it addresses a (perhaps the) major American habit of the heart that is false from the first and ultimately leads into inauthentic existence.

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