Recently a friend gave me a copy of a book published in 2008 by Adam Hamilton, called Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics. Hamilton is a United Methodist pastor, and the book is published by Abingdon Press, the United Methodist Publishing Company. So far I've only skimmed the book so I'll stop short of "reviewing" it here. But I like it that Jim Wallis wrote the Forward and I like the Introduction, "Are Jerry Falwell and John Shelby Spong Our Only Options?" The book is about the fact that the writer thinks there is a third way.
I also like this quote, from that great Anglican priest, John Wesley:
"Would to God that all party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world were forgot and that we might all agree to sit down together as humble loving disciples, and at the feet of our common master to hear his word, to abide in his spirit, and to transcribe his life in our own."There is a prayer worthy of Advent new beginnings, I think. But as I said, I don't really want to talk any more about a book I haven't yet read. Rather, I want to reflect on Black Friday, from the perspective of this Saturday morning.
Let me first put a few things on the table that most who know me well, or even not-so-well, know about me. While I think life is too short to drink cheap wine, when it comes to shopping for material things that cannot be put on the table to be consumed, I'm not a very good capitalist. I hate shopping and I cannot imagine why anyone would go out on the evening of Thanksgiving or early the next day to save a few bucks. I think it is terrible that stores cannot take a break and therefore disrupt sacred family time on what is truly a national holiday. It makes me a little queasy, in fact. So it would be very easy for me to write a blog condemning "Black Friday" (even the way it's marketed doesn't make sense to me!) since it is not even a remote temptation for me to shop for Christmas before Advent begins.
I came across this blog post posted by a friend of mine on Facebook, and as I read it I found myself wishing I'd written it. I commend it to you. I think she is right that there does seem to be a tipping point (in both extremes) this year - the over-the-top marketing of "Black Friday" and the self-righteous resistance to it - what Weinstein calls "the social justice arugula of the season." (That's just great writing!) Her more serious point is this: there is a lot of classism in this issue.
So from the perspective of this Saturday - this Sabbath Day - I wonder if there isn't another way to look at this. While I personally hate shopping I have to admit I have a stake in the shopping habits of others. What if everyone stayed home not only on Black Friday, but all month? Just stopped buying anything at all? The already fragile economy would slip back further. My retirement funds would decline! Whether we choose to admit it or not we all have a stake in an economic recovery, and higher employment, don't we?
On the other hand, we all need Sabbath. The economy is not God. I have also begun reading Walter Brueggemann's Disruptive Grace: Reflections on God, Scripture, and the Church. One of the chapters in there is a lecture on Sabbath, that I will need to ponder further. In fact you may be hearing lots more about the book in future posts here but for now the point is that Sabbath is a gift we've lost, and Black Friday does seem to be a kind of "tipping point" since Thanksgiving is one day that people of all faiths and no faith share in common and now it is in danger of becoming "the Eve of Black Friday."
This post requires a bit more pondering and reflection on my own part. It's not finished. But maybe that's the point. We need times in our lives for rest, and reflection - for ruminating. Without them we lose all perspective. We need such times to explore the grays and go deeper than "gut response." If we mean to pursue social justice like the prophets did, then it can't just be the "arugula of the season." We need conversation, dialogue, reflection, even argument - because none of us possesses the whole truth.
I wish I had a simple answer on how to get there, but maybe the fact that it isn't so simple is the point.