RELIGION: Black Friday should be the same as Sunday

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RELIGION: RNS] — The congregation made all decisions regarding repairs and needs in the church where I grew up. They got bids from providers and selected the one with the lowest price. This is what we would do if we had the money. We were expected to be more responsible with church funds.

What we didn’t do was talk about the consequences of our decisions. What was the source of our supplies and how did it impact us? Who were the laborers Did we make the decision based on the church’s budget or was it about being the church within our community?

This is what I am thinking about as Black Friday approaches. We are bombarded with ads urging us to shop early, buy cheaply, and buy now, even before Christmas. To entice us, big-box stores are offering lower prices on popular items in an effort to compete for our money.

This strange way of preparing to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus is to have him born in a stable. As at Christmas, as perhaps no other holiday, we separate our faith and our money. However, we treat our faith as though they were one and the same throughout the year.

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There is a way to make our faith and finances more serious. As an adult, I was a member of a church that hosted speakers. One member of the church owned a small bookstore and ordered books from the author. He brought the books to the events so anyone who wanted one could buy it and get signed. Some members purchased their books online for a fraction of the cost and didn’t bother our neighbor.

Soon, we discovered that the small bookstore was in serious financial trouble and that a member of our church was on the verge of losing his job. We learned the truth and began to buy books from his store again. His small bookstore was able to stay open.

This is what happens when faith and finances are reconnected. When we view our money as a reflection our morals, it’s called the “Reconciliation of Faith and Finance”.

When I discuss these things, I am often told that big-box stores employ local people. However, big corporations can also take out small local stores. They are motivated solely by profit. They are designed to make money for the top 1%. Online giants are designed to send their CEOs on the moon.

Fifteen cents for every dollar spent on a big-box stays in our , community , while dollars spent on a small business stay in our community . A dollar spent online can leave our communities instantly, but dollars spent at local merchants will turn over seven times before they leave the community.

Let’s reflect upon not only why we give gifts, but also how we buy them.

Let’s look at the gifts themselves. Many 80% items that are sold in shops are made from plastics that are hazardous for the environment or with cheap materials. They are often made obsolete within months. These items are often made from exploited labor. They are often sold by companies that lie to their workers and don’t offer their workers more than what the market requires.

This free-market economy, and the consumerism that it has fostered, are not a reflection on all that we cherish. They do not reflect God’s economy.

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At the Eucharistic Table, we are reminded of how much there is. Are we participating in an economic system that wants to ensure that everyone has enough? Is it more interested in those who have enough and less in those who don’t? How would it look if every dollar spent this season was a reflection of our faith?

We would spend differently. Would we spend our money differently to create a more equitable local economy? To address the racial wealth gap and meet the needs of our neighbours? This seems to be a better way to commemorate the birth of Christ, according to what I have read of Scripture.

(The Rev. Rosa Lee Harden serves as executive producer at Faith+Finance. She co-founded SOCAP, the largest conference about investing for social change, and was canon for money at the Cathedral of All Souls, Asheville, North Carolina. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Religion News Service. )

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