I should not be surprised by this religious movement against Black Friday:
William Doherty won’t be among the throngs in the shopping malls Friday morning. He will be in church.
Doherty, a professor in the Family Social Science Department at the University of Minnesota, is part of a growing backlash against the commercialization of Christmas. Last year, he helped his church, Unity Church Unitarian in St. Paul, hold a worship service on what has become known as Black Friday, the official kickoff of the holiday gift-buying bonanza and biggest retail shopping day of the year.
This rejection of the commercialism of Black Friday seems somewhat different from the push to “Put Christ Back in Christmas.” That movement originates with more conservative, “family values,” evangelical Christianity. This opposition to Black Friday seems to reflect more progressive opposition to commerce and consumption. (That’s an assumption on my part, but conservative evangelicals are not often found in Unitarian churches — or in universities.)
Importantly, the two movements are united in their basic aim of stripping the supposed stench of commerce from Christmas. Ultimately, that means replacing the cheerful tradition of exchanging gifts with loved ones with the dull duty of serving the poor, the needy, and the unworthy. That’s the operative moral ideal — explicitly:
At New Hope Baptist, the Rev. Runney Patterson Sr. was excited by Unity’s experience. It meshed perfectly with his concept of giving. “Most of what we consider holiday gift-giving isn’t giving at all, it’s swapping,” he said. “We’re just trading gifts. True giving is when you find an individual or a family that is not able to give back to you.” [Emphasis added.]
Notice, the goal is not to help some worthy person, struggling to make ends meet due to hardships beyond his control. The goal is to prevent you from trading with others: you must not benefit! That’s truly the moral imperative of altruism: it’s not that you help others, but that you don’t help yourself.
That’s wrong every day of the year, including Christmas. Every holiday should be a celebration of human life and achievement!