May 18, 2024

Shop at Your Own Risk: Black Friday Mayhem

Two thousand years ago, wise men (Magi—from which we get the word “magic”) from the East brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus.

Christians have been giving gifts at Christmastime since then, and millions of others have joined in the merriment.

But last Friday, Nov. 25, was an embarrassment.

So-called “Black Friday,” the big shopping day right after Thanksgiving, was marked by mobs, occasional violence, and rudeness that have nothing to do with the origins of the tradition.

The retailers are apparently happy, overall, because the sales were big and booming. They were record this year. That’s great for the economy. But it’s so sad to see us becoming such a rude nation.

Two hundred years ago, in pre-Victorian England, some activists (such as William Wilberforce) pushed for what they called “the reformation of manners.” The modern translation of that would be “the reformation of morals.” There is a link between manners and morals.

We’ve certainly lost both nowadays, it seems.

We are truly descending into a new incivility that is shocking sometimes.

For example, just a cursory look at the Drudge Report over the weekend notes some of the terrible things done during last Friday’s Christmas shopping. He labeled the day as: “Black and Blue Friday.” Here were some of his short headlines:

—Woman pepper sprays other Black Friday shoppers “to gain an upper hand”…
—“Competitive shopping” turns into chaos…
—“Girls Punching Each Other” Over Yoga Pants Sale at Victoria’s Secret…
—Mayhem over $2 waffle maker…
—Grandfather smashed to ground as he tried to protect grandson from crowd…

Have we gone mad? Who cares if you save a few bucks, if you lose your soul and your dignity in the process?


I’m not a Scrooge, but I don’t ever shop around that time. (I’m allergic to long lines.) I do think it’s great to give gifts that show our love and appreciation for our loved ones and friends. And I fully and gladly participate in all that, but turning shopping malls into mini-war zones is a different matter.

What’s really galling is the way the whole point of the holiday is left out. The word holiday, of course, is a contraction of holy and day. That’s why there’s only one l. When people wish me “Happy Holidays,” which particular holiday do they have in mind? Usually, I assume, it’s Christmas.

How is the spirit of Christmas honored in any way by shoppers being rude to fellow shoppers?

Jesus, whose birth is celebrated at Christmas, is the one who said: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

And He didn’t add: “Oh, and if that doesn’t work out—don’t forget the pepper spray.”

I remember my former pastor, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, once told an anecdote about a frazzled shopper getting in a store elevator with other frazzled shoppers. She said, “Whoever thought up this Christmas thing should be shot.” A voice from the back of the elevator said, “Don’t worry—they already crucified Him.”

It’s strange. Technically, Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ, but in many quarters of our society, He’s not invited to His own birthday.

Even many retailers make a fortune off of His birthday, but if a Martian would visit most stores at this time, he would have no clue of the origins of this gift-giving custom.

Also on Black Friday 2011, there was a 61-year old man who collapsed from an apparent heart attack in a store in South Charleston, West Virginia.

As he lay dying, shoppers went on their way. Reporter Andrew Colegrove of WSAZ notes, “Witnesses tell some shoppers walked around and even over the man’s body.”

He later died.

That is so sick. One of his friends said afterwards, “How could you not notice someone was in trouble? I just don’t understand if people didn’t help what their reason was, other than greed because of a sale.”

I remember in a recent year in another Black Friday, a shopper was trampled to death by other shoppers.

I realize it’s a cliché and a platitude to denounce how materialistic Christmas has become. But these types of incidents should jolt us into realizing how far we’ve missed the whole point of Christmas.

So many today, by participating in such rituals where they rudely mistreat others so they can save a few bucks, have thrown the baby out with the bath water—and I do mean the baby in the manger.