Black Friday: The Anti-Thanksgiving

Today is Black Friday, the unofficial holiday immediately following Thanksgiving. Today, businesses open very early, offering reduced prices on all manner of consumer items. Customers are encouraged to flood the aisles in search of a good deal on all kinds of things - from DVDs to appliances - but, above all, electronics.

Black Friday apparently got its start back in the late Sixties, but it came into increasing prominance in the last decade, as the economy deflated and retailers became ever more desperate to sell their wares. In the past, stores would open around 6:00am; in recent years, however, this has not been considered early enough. The retail industry has been involved in an arms race, vying to see who could open the earliest. This year, a number of big box stores opened at midnight. Walmart, not to be beaten, decided to start their sale prices at 10:00pm on Thanksgiving Day.
This new move to open at midnight or earlier on the evening of Thanksgiving has elicited a response from some quarters. Some folks, perceiving that Thanksgiving is under attack by out-of-control consumerism, have started campaigns to resist this trend. Many are aware of the burden that this pseudo-holiday places on low-level workers: If stores open their doors at midnight, workers have to show up much earlier than that, depriving them of sleep, and the chance to enjoy the evening of Thanksgiving with their families. Black Friday, and its recent escalation, is squeezing out one of the few annual sabbaths that the working class could once count on.
Yet, even if Black Friday were not so terrible for working families, and even if it did not threaten to steamroll Thanksgiving under the weight of Christmas-season merchandising, I would still be opposed to it. Black Friday is the Anti-Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally a time to gather with family and friends and practice gratitude for our blessings. It is a time to cultivate awareness of all the ways in which God provides for us, and to pay special attention to providing hospitality to others who are hurting. Black Friday, on the other hand, is a celebration of greed, unbridled consumerism and disregard for others.

Thanksgiving at Occupy Wall Street

If you thought all of the occupiers would go indoors for Thanksgiving, think again. In spite of the recent police raid, hundreds of occupiers, activists, and community members are breaking bread together in Zuccotti Park. 

The OWS Kitchen working group estimates over 3,000 meals will be served with the support of local families, restaurants, and organizations who are opening their kitchens to the movement. 

When I got down to Zuccotti Park around 2:30pm there was a joyful calm in the area—friends and strangers eating together on the now bare marble benches, others walking around offering pecan pie, vegan meal plates, and other holiday snacks to anyone interested, and a small group of folksy looking people singing “This Land is Your Land” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” with guitars and cymbals. 

A nice reclamation of the Thanksgiving meal—less like the oppressive tale of pilgrims and native people we learned about in school; more like Jesus feeding the thousands, the beloved community, etc.

A Prayer For The Christmas Season

Christmas tree detail. Photo by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

Christmas tree detail. Photo by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

I have heard it said that people of Christian faith should be more about Easter and less about Christmas. Easter is a powerful hope but it deals with things beyond this life.  It is a sure and certain hope but one that eludes my imagination, confounds my concrete mind.

The crucifixion is something I can wrap my mind around.  We have only to open our eyes and our hearts to the realities of the world and we recognize the darkness of Good Friday. When the season is upon us I will dwell with great gratitude at the foot of the cross.  

But, Lord God, I want to stay for a while in Christmas where hope is something I can cradle to my chest. I want to dwell here where music sings the promise of love, reminding me of those Mary moments in my life when it seems truth and love are about to burst forth from within and change the world.  

Let me hearken to Mary’s song and hear it as a radical claim awakening me for the sake of revolution, to grab hold of the Kingdom of God already present amongst us. 

Arlo and Alice's Restaurant

For the uninitiated, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (that's its official name) is a folk classic, an epic musical monologue from Arlo's 1967 album also called "Alice's Restaurant." it tell the mostly-true story of Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25 1965 in Stockbridge, Mass., when then-18-year-old Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins, 19, were arrested by  police officer William "Obie" Obanhein for illegally dumping garbage at the town dump that was closed for the holiday. Two days later, they pled guilty in court before a blind judge.

The Feast of Christ the King

Stained glass panel in the transept of St. John Church, Ashfield, NSW.

Stained glass panel in the transept of St. John's Anglican Church, Ashfield, New South Wales. Photo by Toby Hudson via Wylio [ht

Today is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday in our church year.

I always find it a strange feast to celebrate in a democracy, in which the whole point is that we do not have kings, but shared authority vested in the people and temporarily delegated to elected leaders. What does thinking about Jesus as a King mean to folk like us?

This year it is particularly strange, for, with the exception of the marriage of William and Kate, this has been a bad year for kings. Monarchs, tyrants, plutocrats, and autocrats of every stripe have found themselves under assault from a powerful wave of populism, as the citizens of country after country have risen up to hold their leaders accountable for their stewardship of their nations. Throughout the Middle East and in parts of Europe and the United States, the official narrative of power has been held up and judged against another set of ideas, one that speaks of fairness, liberty, and raising up the poor. Ruler after ruler has heard a cry that translates, roughly: “as you did it to the least of us, so shall it be done to you.”

Christ is a different kind of king, and his authority always calls our leaders to account, whatever the form of our government or our political preferences. Christ embodies a form of leadership that is rarely seen in our world. In the ordinary scope of things, our leaders wear nice suits and inhabit the corridors of power and cut deals with the wealthy and the powerful. Christ, however, threw in his lot entirely with those whom the doors of power shut out. He would talk with anyone, eat with everyone, and, in the end, died among the refuse of his people. He was a leader who led from below.

In Solidarity with Target Workers on Thanksgiving

Target. Image by Kevin Dooley via Wylio []

Target. Image by Kevin Dooley via Wylio []

Thanksgiving Day is a civil holiday, but it is a day of religious significance when we consider the ethics of commensality, the holiness of the table meal, the physical and spiritual importance of sharing a meal with family, friends or even with strangers. We share food, time, and lively conversation. We make memories. Such occasions are a part of the joy of life. When we consider the meaning of the communion elements as not only the body and the blood of Jesus, but as elements that signify the sustenance and the joy of life, then such occasions as Thanksgiving Day are joyful days that make life worth living.

Some people who work for Target, a major national retailer that plans to open its doors for Black Friday starting at midnight following Thanksgiving, have circulated a petition in protest. They are right to say enough. I stand in solidarity with them.

Thankful, Indeed

I’ve learned that it’s especially important for those who are always trying to change the world, to remember what they are thankful for in their world as it is!

First I am thankful to God for his or her patience with us. Thankful that despite how much we human beings (perhaps especially we religious believers), so often disappoint, embarrass, and even hurt God with the things we say and do — even in God’s name; that God still continues to love us, forgive us, and call us to act more like God’s children, who should live together like brothers and sisters.

I am thankful to Jesus, who seems to have survived all of us Christians who name his name. Thankful that he is still so popular all over the world, even when Christians are, well, are not so much. But I’m also thankful for when Christians or others actually do the things that Jesus said, love their neighbors and even their enemies, just as he taught us to do, and when we do treat “the least of these” in the same way that we would treat him. I’m always most thankfully surprised by the unexpected and simple acts of love, grace, kindness, welcome, and justice that make people want to believe in and follow Jesus again....

The Afternoon News: Wednesday Nov. 23, 2011

The Afternoon News

The Afternoon News

Older, Suburban And Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle The Census. OWS Campers: What Can We Occupy Next. Social Conservatives Hold Covert Meeting To Stop Romney. In Season Of Giving Thanks, Signs That Gratitude Is Back. What Christians Want In A President. Could Gingrich’s Immigration Stance Boost His 2012 Chances? And States’ Immigration Laws Fill Leadership Void Left by President and Congress.

Thanks(giving) Be To God!

"Mi Famiglia." The author's family gathered for her son's baptism.

"Mi Famiglia." The author's family gathered for her son's baptism in Laguna Beach, Calif.

To me, "unexpected" is at the heart of how I understand grace. It is the unearnable gift, the divine reversal and sacred surprise, the still small voice that drowns out the din of the maddening crowd, the little bit extra that my Cajun friends call lagniappe, the very thing we "deserve" the least but get anyway. From God. From the One who created the world and the audacious, indescribably power of love.

Taking a cue from Nell, here are just a few of the unexpected blessings I am grateful for today:

For God's fingerprints that cover every inch of our world, seen and unseen. And for the moments where I can almost make out the holy whirls imprinted in the sky, the ocean, the sunlight, and on the faces and stories of each of us.

For the generosity and selflessness I see so vividly — all around me, all the time — even in these lean, nervous days. I saw it in Zuccotti Park, where strangers prepared and served food to other strangers. I saw it in the sober faces and strong arms of the men who helped 84-year-old Dorli Rainey to safety after she was pepper-sprayed at an Occupy rally in Seattle. I heard it in the prayers lifted at the White House, at North Park University in Chicago, and in the basement of a church in Spanish Harlem where kind, mighty souls formed Human Circles of Protection last week and stood in solidarity with the poor, the vulnerable, and the least of those among us. I watched it on display at border crossings, immigration rallies, refugee camps in the Horn of Africa, and at a glass blower's studio in my hometown of Laguna Beach where strangers arrived with shovels and wheelbarrows to help dig out an artist and his artwork from the muddy ravages of a flash flood. I saw it in the fresh coat of paint on the front steps of my elderly parents' home in Connecticut that my cousins had applied for them with great care and kindness when my brother and I couldn't be there to do it.

Rewriting History: Thanksgiving or Genocide?

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris via Wiki Commons (http://bit.

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris via Wiki Commons (

I’m not suggesting we not be thankful. But if it were up to me, I’d repeal the official day of Thanksgiving that was sanctioned by Congress because no matter how we want to re-tell or re-write that story, we are marking an event of injustice.

In removing this day, I’d encourage the whole country to express sorrow for such a grave injustice to the Native Indians and create events and various forms of curriculum in parallel. I’d express gratitude and celebration of the story and legacy of the native Indian people. And I’d put into law that ensures reparation for every single descendant of Native Indians. Furthermore, I’d create a fund to guarantee 100% funding to college for any descendants of Native Indians. This is just for starters….

In my opinion, our treatment of the Native Indians is one of the greatest human tragedies and to ignore its story and context may be the pinnacle of historical revisionism.