Well, here on the Saturday after “Black Friday” we are a bit puzzled, as always. It is a roller coaster ride around here: we try not to put out too much of the Christmas decorations and merchandise before Thanksgiving (don’t ya hate seeing Santa decorations in September!) Yet, church leaders need Advent resources for their planning, and shoppers can’t be faulted for wanting to be less stressed in December by doing some early holiday preparations. We’ve tried to be less legalistic about our principles on these matters, slowly adding new Advent music, calendars and the oodles of devotionals we stock. Sure folks complain about stores who put out Christmas merchandise too early, but they still buy the darn stuff, and we truly don’t intend to inconvenience our loyal friends. So we’ve been at it for a few weeks.
Still, Thanksgiving night is a hectic time of clearing out the family and getting to work over in the shop, late into the night. (So what’s new, our best friends wonder as they roll their eyes at our odd schedule.) We get geared up for the next weeks of craziness of the retail world.
Since so many shoppers are doing that “black Friday” thing, going out in the middle of the night—my own youngest daughter had to get to her job at the mall before 6 am—we here in Dallastown aren’t so busy as you might think (nor as we might wish. No, for those who care, we have not moved into the black yet for this year.) This time of here we do think a lot about shopping, consumerism, buying responsibly, supporting businesses we care about (offering our vote in the marketplace, as they say) and fair-trade products and the like. We are glad that the fabulous folks at Herald Press, the Mennonite Publishing House (we get in every one of their new releases, by the way), just re-issued the classic Living More With Less, a varied and fun collection of reflection on a more simple lifestyle. The new edition is better than ever, and glancing through it reminded us of how influential that book was—on the heels of the first edition of the More With Less Cookbook and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and books by the late Art Gish—as we, in the 70’s, tried to keep some of the counter-cultural rejection of materialism alive and stave off the early signs of 80s decadence. Kudos to Herald Press for the new, expanded, 21st century Living More With Less, a resource of lived theology and helpful guidance which we need now more than ever.
We are, for reasons that I hope are not self-serving, want to suggest that the “Buy Nothing Day” movement isn’t all that helpful. Sure, we like the “holy mischief” of Geez magazine and appreciate the deconstruction of secular consumerism in Adbusters. Protest is always a good first step. Next-level sorts of normative practices, though–what we do after “buy nothing day”— have to be explored. Eating “more with less” (or, as their more recent cookbook suggests, eating Simply in Season) is appropriate and good. Such practices help us in so many ways to be oriented to the goodness and limits of creation; Christian faith is never gnostic, and we must do “all things as unto the Lord” thinking faithfully about the most mundane and human activities.
Eating Well edited by Kirsten Vander-Geisen Reistma is a small little book, part of the *cino Road Map series, that explores this wonderfully and broadly and practically; I even have a bibliography in it, and we love the grass-roots feel of the book, with lots of ordinary folks, even students, contributing fresh ideas and good writing. These are the sorts of guides we need to move beyond disgruntled complaints about black Friday shopping.
So. Just saying no to shopping, as if were somehow inherently evil, is just nonsense. Nobody in the Western world can not shop, and my frustration with the lefties who want to “buy nothing” is similar to my frustration with the tea party folks who seem to want to have the government “do nothing.” Shopping isn’t a sin, and neither is paying taxes, and while we all should join in efforts to reign in bad notions of shopping, and untenable views of statecraft, both economics and politics are part and parcel of the world that God declared to be “very good.” Sin and idolatry has brought distorted views about, and stupid practices of, spending money (in families and in governments) but the sloganeering of “just say no” isn’t adequate, at least not as a sustainable impulse for the true reformation of culture.
If “buy nothing day” is merely a good PR stunt (and it is that, at least) what should be we thinking and doing about shopping, buying, resisting consumerism, and the commercialization of the holiday rush, and reforming our financial lives, especially this time of year?
Allow me to list just a couple of quick suggestions.
First, read about buying local. Learn about the implications of the “big box” chain stores. I may be stretching things a bit, but our human-scale, inefficient, and personalized website order form page is our way of helping keep a customer/shop-keeper relationship alive (as opposed to the increasingly de-personalized “shopping cart” world of you-know-who.) If you order from us, Beth or I or one of our staff (Diana, Patti, Amy or Kimberly) will write back. We will have some small connection, and we think that matters.
Are we local? Well, we are in a real space, in a real town, unlike some internet stores. In cyberspace, we try to maintain a small-scale, real-world, small-business ethos; we hope this has be helpful to you, our family of readers. Of course we would be happy to know of you supporting a morally-serious indie store in your own town. But, if there is no such place, we’d be thrilled for you patronage. We are not opposed to internet business (obviously) and see our clients here as, almost always, as a part of our authentic circle of friends.
Here are a few articles about the redemptive aspects of shopping, buying
local and such.
I’ve linked to this before as it is one of my all time favorite short essays. “The Flash of a Fish Knife” is Calvin Seerveld’s fond remembrance of his father’s hard work as a fishmonger. It is an inspiration, and shows, without fastitidious doctrine, the genius of the Protestant reformation’s view of the dignity of labor. http://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/276/
Facts and stats on what happens when you support out-of-town chains versus locally owned businesses. There are large practical benefits for local economies when you buy from local folks. Why aren’t newspapers doing stories on this essential truth of our modern economy? Thanks to *cino for the heads up. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/11/there-is-more-to-local-than-just-food.php
A great brief piece by a friend and H&M customer on his relationship with a Pittsburgh farmer from whom they buy: http://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/2352/
I’ve been wanting to cite this for a while; books really are great purchases, aren’t they? They are lovely things to own and give and cherish and use. http://www.catapultmagazine.com/good-books/article/why-i-buy-books
Find your local indie bookstore. Tell ’em we said hi. Be sure to watch the little video which is very inspiring and informative. http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder Here is another store-finder search offered by our friends at the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association.) http://cba.know-where.com/cba/
For those interested in exploring this more here are a few well-chosen suggestions.
Living More With Less: Thirtieth Anniversary Edition Doris Janzen Longacre (Herald Press) $14.99 Newly re-issued, this practical follow up to the famous More-With-Less Cookbook, includes tons of great new stories, reflections, ideas, and celebrations about living sustainably and well. Re-edited by Central Pennsylvania writer Valerie Weaver-Zercher, this is not only a classic in the Kingdom Hall of Fame, but as fresh and necessary now as ever. Shane Claiborne calls it “a cookbook for life” and Bill McKibben endorses it, as does Nancy Sleeth, all important authors whom we respect. Marva Dawn writes of it, Exceptionally wise, urgently necessary for the sake of saving our
planet, pertinently and personally practical . . . who could not but
rave about this book! Visit their webpage about it here. Dedicated to the memory of the late Doris Janzen Longacre.
Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight Norman Wirzba (Brazos Press) $20.00 This is in a similar series, “The Christian Practices of Everyday Life” which are weighty and substantive meditations of “thinking Christianly” about everyday practices as experiences in our contemporary culture. Here, Wirzba opens up not only ideas about Sabbath-keeping, but asks how those sustainable, restful, ways might influence our daily choices. Not about shopping exclusively, but he brings important insights which can help us frame our more detailed questions about stewardship of time and resources.
Money Enough: Everyday Practices for Living Faithfully in the Global Economy Douglas Hicks (Jossey Bass) $17.95 The latest in the essential “Practices of Faith” series edited by Dorothy Bass. This nicely explores ecumenical theology and daily lifestyle choices as we reflect on how to think about, handle, spend, save, and give money in ethical ways. This whole series is great, of course, and this thoughtful reflection will take us a long way to foundational thinking about these topics. Very impressive.
Everyday Justice: The Everyday Impact of Our Daily Choices Julie Clawson (IVP) $16.00 Please, please, please: this is the very best book about fair-trade and ethical shopping in many different areas, from coffee to energy, from candy to banking. I did a hefty review of this here. Julie is outspoken and yet pleasant, funny and passionate and we like her a lot! We think this is great information to know, and she walks us through the complexities of knowing where our products come from, with great insight and care. Please visit the book’s cool website (and roll your eyes at the dumbly incongruous amazon link. Perhaps they don’t know about Indie bound.) We’d so love to sell this widely–very nicely done. Yay!
Shopping: Christian Explorations of Daily Living Michael Gonzalez (Fortress) $15.00 This is yet another new series offering theological implications of and for different aspects of daily living; kudos to Fortress Press for bringing this serious little paperback series, “Compass.” (The other one published so far is called Playing by James Evans, with a forthcoming one called Working by Darby Kathleee Ray.) Gonzalez has a broad, mainline denominational orientation, a bit academic, greatly aware of the injustices of globalization and such. More needs to be done on this topic, but it’s an important contribution and a great kick-off to an important series of punchy, critical studies of the ethics of ordinary life.
AND, then, therefore, friends—ahem—drum roll, please: the big ending, the upshot of all this: Please consider buying, viewing, using, showing, or giving a copy of the book/DVD set, The Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay ^ Greg Holder (Zondervan; regularly $29.99)
This beautiful work nicely frames the conversation about consumerism and economic justice by the wonderful story of Advent and our invitation to worship and love well. What does it mean to celebrate the baby Refugee who grew up telling us to “consider the lilies” and that it is hard for those with much wealth to inherit the Kingdom of God? To adore the One who taught us to love the outcast? Does that kind of a God, incarnate in that kind of a Messiah, whose people are commissioned to point signposts to that kind of a Kingdom, deserve a certain kind of birthday party? (Whose Birthday is it Anyway? says the poster and bulletin insert available from Alternatives for Simple Living.) This is put together by Rick McKinley (himself an author of two spectacular books, Jesus at the Margins and This Beautiful Mess) and Chris Seay (author of one of my favorite books on Jesus this year, The Gospel According to Jesus) and Greg Holder (the author of, uh, never mind. I’m sure he’s a genius, too, like his co-authors, but he isn’t an author.) Holder’s a pastor from Missouri, so you know this is show-me, reliable stuff that is designed for real-world use. What a great collaboration this project is! The five-session DVD usually sells for $19.99, the book for $12.99, but if you get ’em both, they are batched together for a packaged price of $29.99. WE HAVE AN EVEN BETTER DEAL, as we are really trying to get this out there. We cut our Christian reading teeth on Living More with Less, you’ll recall, and recently raved about the new Shane Claiborne project, The Economy of Love book and DVD, so you know we are advocates for the importance of this content. Happily, the AC is not simplistic or prudish and nicely links our worship and way of life in the world without trafficking in guilt or fear. We recommend it.
The Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World book and DVD set is the best resource we know of to facilitate this kind of a conversation this time of year. It is very hip, creative, compelling, and open-ended for all kinds of local adaptation and congregational use. It is good for home use, for Bible study groups, for Sunday school classes, for youth fellowship groups (please consider using this with teens, whose lives hang in the balance with this consumerism stuff.) I know some who have shown it in campus ministry fellowship groups and I know of regular congregations who have shown portions of it in their regular Sunday morning worship services. The topic, naturally, can be anxiety producing, but I really think they do a fine, up-beat job, making this a joyous invitation (and not a hair-shirt tirade.)
The five DVD sections are on their four “slogans” or concepts: Worship Fully – Spend Less – Give More – Love All. Not bad, eh?
The book is nicely designe
d and almost 150 pages. Three quarters of it is an easy-to-read, inspiring call to join this groundswell to take back the Advent season and restore the soul of Christmas; the final portion is a provocative and very useful guide to the DVD. I believe the book is useful on its own, but the DVD is the powerhouse. Stimulating, cutting edge stylings make it especially appealing to those used to new media, but even we older folks will appreciate the innovative visual presentation and, more, the sheer profundity of the message.
Perhaps (if you are trying to decide if you can purchase this from us) you can review my description of it from last year. Please visit here. Or, check out the AC website, which itself has tons of stuff to download such as website banners, bulletin inserts, posters and such. They even have a children’s guide, which is a wonderful and important little piece. We think the on-line support that AC offers makes this an even more valuable educational tool, although, of course, one needn’t do any of that. Just watch the thing, call up some friends or relatives and say “hey, I found this pretty interesting. Wanna borrow it?” Or tell your monthly small group that you ought to do something special for the holiday besides a cookie exchange. That is how a conspiracy gets started—one breath at a time, spreading the word, taking risks to share the good news of the real meaning of Christmas, and how to experience it.
Enjoy the great, great clip at the Advent Conspiracy website. Embed it at your facebook page if you can. Savor the irony if you must, but we really think that to explore this most helpfully you should consider buying the book and DVD. Spread this news. Help us promote this resource. Order today at the sale price we are offering, as long as our supplies last. We took a risk and bought a bunch of these simply because we believe in it. We hope you do, too.
Order Advent Conspiracy Book & DVD
regular price $29.99