I do not believe in Black Friday.
This will not come as a surprise to many of you. My friends, and others who know me, are well aware of this curmudgeonly aspect of my personality, because I’ve made no secret of it.
To me, as a Canadian, Black Friday makes no sense. It makes sense in the USA, because it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and many Americans have four days off for Thanksgiving Weekend, Thursday to Sunday. So they’re not going to work on Friday anyway; what better way for them to spend the day, according to the high priests of American consumerism, than at the Mall? And how will we tempt them to do that? By giving them sales they can’t resist (to the extent that they’ll end up spending more money than they would have if there hadn’t been a sale).
But in Canada, Black Friday is not a public holiday—at least, not yet. I fully expect that sooner of later, it will be. After all, the goal of national governments is to do whatever it takes to keep the masters of multinational corporations happy.
As yet, though, Black Friday in Canada makes no sense. This will not, however, stop it. It has been proved to be mightily profitable for the retail industry. Why should the logic of the calendar get in the way of that?
But I don’t believe in Black Friday. In fact, I don’t believe in anything that tempts me to spend more money on things I don’t need. To me, that’s a snare, not a celebration. I will not participate.
Notice how I’m using the word ‘believe’ here. I’m not saying “I don’t believe Black Friday exists.” Of course it exists; our society has created it, and people spend money on it, and it makes the retail industry happy. Whether I like it or not, it’s a Thing.
No; I’m using the word ‘believe’ here in the sense of ‘something or someone I can get behind.’ When I say, “I don’t believe in capitalism,” I”m not saying “I don’t think capitalism exists.” Of course it exists, and has existed for centuries, to the point that many people can’t imagine any other way of organizing their economic life. But I don’t believe capitalism is a good system. I believe that, on the whole, it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. I believe it works by appealing to greed, which as a Christian I can’t recognize as a good thing. So no—I don’t believe in capitalism.
Why am I talking about this today?
The fundamental faith statement of a Christian (and also of many people of other religions, too) is “I believe in God.” Greta Vosper notwithstanding, you can’t be a Christian if you don’t believe in God. God is at the centre of our faith.
I note, however, that you could understand that word ‘believe’ in a couple of different ways.
Some people understand it to mean “I believe there is a god out there somewhere.” It’s one of their opinions. It helps them answer the question “Why does anything exist?” God set the whole thing in motion; God is why anything exists.
But for many of those people, the existence of God doesn’t have a lot of impact on their daily lives. They don’t think a lot about any commandments God might have given. They assume that if they’re in trouble, it’s their job to get themselves out of it (or their friends/family/government etc.); they feel awkward about asking God for help, because they’re not exactly on speaking terms with God. God might exist, but God isn’t very relevant to their daily lives.
But think about this for a minute. If I were to say, “I believe in capitalism,” I wouldn’t just be saying “I believe that capitalism exists.” No; I would be making a statement of trust and approval. “I think capitalism is a good system. I believe in its goals and its methods. I’ll participate in its activities, and I’ll promote it on election day.” In other words, I would be making a statement of faith: “I trust capitalism to keep its promises.”
In the same way, the central belief of Christianity isn’t “I believe there is a God.” It goes a lot further than that. “I believe in God” means “I trust God, I believe God is good, I believe in God’s dreams and priorities for the world and I commit myself to God’s methods for bringing them about. I will be a willing participant in God’s purposes. I trust God to keep God’s promises.”
The English words ‘faith’ and ‘faithfulness’ are closely related to each other. ‘Keeping faith’ doesn’t just mean ‘continuing to believe.’ It means making a commitment of faith to God, and then being faithful to that commitment, with God’s help. If I trust my doctor, and then my doctor says to me, “Tim, I can make you well again; here’s what you need to do,” then faith means listening to what he says and putting it into practice. Likewise with faith in God; if I trust God, I’ll commit myself willingly to living by God’s wisdom, God’s teachings, God’s ways.
I don’t believe in Black Friday; that is true. But I do believe in God—not just that God is real, but that God is good, that God’s dreams for this world are good dreams, that God will ultimately keep God’s promises. And so I make a commitment of faith; I will trust God and ask God’s help to live by God’s good and wise instructions. Ultimately, that’s what it means to be a person of faith.