Is There a Third Way in Confronting the Over-Commercialization of the Christmas Season?

Each year we find ourselves in this familiar territory of arguing over something during the Christmas season. Whether it’s public nativities, “Seasons Greetings” versus “Merry Christmas” or now the Consumerists versus who I am calling the “Buy Nothing” advocates, there’s always something and this year proves to be no exception.

First a little personal context, I never go out on Black Friday. It’s not that I prefer to pay higher retail prices, I just find the day to be unappealing. But yesterday, I had to venture out so I kissed my wife and kids goodbye, said a few extra prayers and made sure I had paid all my bills and left our life-insurance policy on the night stand (“Baby, I’m finally worth something”). It wasn’t as crazy as it was in other parts of our country.

Sadly, each year we hear Black Friday horror stories. Who will ever forget the unfortunate story of the Wal Mart employee trampled to death by a mob of people in Long Island back in 2008? This year we had stabbings, gun shots, a pepper spray incident to name a few. (This last link has quite the summary).

It’s estimated that over 150 million Americans will go shopping this weekend. Many hope that the holiday spending will benefit our struggling economy. I heard on CNN that the number of holiday shoppers yesterday exceed the population of France and a handful of other countries. Which reminds me, given the violence and rudeness of yesterday, we may owe the French an apology, compared to us, they’re nice!

Moving to the point, as much as I am concerned with consumption, materialization and the over-commercialization of Christmas, I am becoming increasingly concerned with those who advocate “Buy Nothing.” Sometimes it sounds legalistic as if we are standing on a corner beating our organic-cotton shirts yelling, “Praise God, I’m not out shopping today like these miserable materialists. We know the true meaning of Christmas.”

For semi-full disclosure, each year my wife and I have tried to be intentional with how we spend our money for others during the holiday season. We’ve participated with World Vision, Compassion International projects, and in recent years we have participated and have promoted (and maybe even bored some people) with the Advent Conspiracy (which is really cool – check them out!). But we also gift-buy as well. My wife and I use as much wisdom as we can, and many or our gifts end up being from Toms Shoes and Invisible Children and local businesses but there’s a good bit we end up getting at Target and our local mall.

Back to Buy Nothing, it’s been my observation that some end up participating in the holiday shopping next week or later on in the season. I’m not sure what the point is there, it’s not called “Buy Nothing For Now” right? It’s also been my observation that the Buy Nothing crowd freeload. I know how that sounds – but it’s been an observation. I have also seen the Buy Nothing crowd buy themselves gifts but not buy others gifts. As one friend jokingly said, “What a great strategy for cheap people!”

Now, I want all the offended to know that I rebuked my friend (after I chuckled) but I do think we would be wise to curb some of our rhetoric just as we ask people to curb some of their consumerism. Honestly, I’m not sure I can read another tweet from an Apple product (a brand I am very loyal to) condescending the holiday shoppers. I try to avoid television on days like these but I could not believe that people stayed out in the cold all night to save $100 on a LCD screen. I’m sure to that person it makes perfect sense and maybe to them, blogging seems like a waste of time and energy. We’d do well to extend respect here.

I want to encourage my Buy Nothing friends to practice their convictions with as much humility as possible and show the “consumerists” a better way without scolding them. Scolding doesn’t work with anything else, and if we do see things like consumerism as seriously as we do, perhaps a more sensitive approach would be more helpful. I’d also like to encourage my super-shopping friends to seriously consider if the commercialism is hindering their understanding of the meaning of Christmas. Further, I’d like to ask to consider gift-buying for people in need this year. Lastly, I’d like to ask all of you to check out the Advent Conspiracy video below.

[AC] Promo 2011 from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

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