Zero Shopping Days 'til Christmas

For some religious leaders, spending hundreds of dollars for Christmas gifts - ostensibly to honor the birth of one who had "no place to lay his head" - is not merely ironic, it's sinful. A group of religious leaders have joined a campaign to "take commercialism out of Christmas," saying that they have seen "the spirit of Christmas reduced to a carnival of mass marketing."

"The materialism of Christmas is the worst form of materialism in our culture," Albert Fritsch, S.J., director of Appalachia Science in the Public Interest, told Sojourners. "Here it is, a celebration of the coming of Christ, and it's been turned into a celebration of materialism - to the point that you do not any longer think of Christ as being the one who comes at Christmas, you think it's gifts that come at Christmas."

Fritsch decried what he called the "obscene" amounts of money people spend on Christmas presents, and condemned the "escalation of recreation" - the assumption that the more money spent on leisure pursuits, the more fun will be involved. Fritsch said that many pastors feel pressure not to speak out about the commercialization of Christmas, out of concern with tampering with an already shaky economy.

"When thoughtful churches begin a deliberate, intensive emphasis on the authentic nature of the birth of the Christ child," said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, "it causes people to be more reflective about what they are observing, rather than be swept away by all the commercialism."

But Parham is concerned that lessons learned are often quickly forgotten. "The irony is that many Christian leaders warn their congregants about the danger of commercialism during the Christmas season," Parham said, "and many church members feel guilty about their patterns of consumption. A few will even alter their behavior. But soon after the season is over, the issue is set aside

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Sojourners Magazine January 1994
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