God is Dead. Killed by Christmas.

MassShoppingby Brad Nelson   11/28/14
The Drudge Report had a link at the top of its page yesterday about Early-Bird Shoppers Turning Out on Thankgiving. The unbridled spirit of homo economicus was evinced by a revealing quote from this shopper:

Even some shoppers who were out on Thanksgiving felt a tinge of guilt. “I’d prefer to spend the whole day with my family,” said Hector Huayamade, 34, who was shopping at Toys R Us in New York while visiting from Florida with his family. “But the stores are open, so we do it.”

The new Whore of Babylon may be the commercialization of Christmas. And yet there are those who would say that Christmas was never anything but a holiday event with mild religious overtones, at best…an excuse to make merry, a holiday self-consciously wallpapered over an existing pagan celebration of the end of darkness and the coming of light. In fact, many Christian denominations used to opt out of Christmas celebrations entirely, citing the fact that not only is the exact birth date of Christ unknown, but that there is no Biblical support for attributing anything more to this mere happenstance of a celestial event, the winter solstice.

Still, this is not going to be yet another gloomy and dour putdown of Christmas as a commercialized excess. This is now who we are and thus to criticize Christmas, as celebrated, is to dismiss much of humanity as it lives its life and struggles and tries to find a little bit of happiness. That this creature’s world view is now tied to tangible trinkets rather than to loftier goals is now but a footnote…

For God is indeed dead. Yes, killed by Christmas. But the commercialization of Christmas is just another instance of the ascendency of our secular way of life. It is certainly not the cause, for we value not values (restraint, kindness, mercy, integrity, frugality) but values (deals, specials, two-for-ones, instant rebates). And we need to find a way to live with this Godless mindset. And it’s not all bad. Being dirt-poor is no fun, and it has been a hard slog for humanity out of the gutter. Why not revel in our prosperity? There really are far worse things to fuss about.

Some of these thoughts are inspired by reading the first chapter of a biography of Samuel Adams that Timothy had mentioned. (See: 1 Timothy Recommendation). It’s doubtful I’d want to live in the mid 18th century in America. It was too religious. There were people then who really did believe this stuff, who believed that America was Providentially blessed and that our good (or bad) behavior as a nation could gain God’s favor or his wrath. (Jesus, let us hope this is not true, for we may have a Noah-like flood coming our way.)

Samuel Adams is a good example of this sort of man before the Westerner became an exclusively commercial animal. On November 1, 1997 — after receiving news of the crucial and surprising victory at Saratoga — Samuel Adams drafted a report to Congress that was adopted and which declared Thursday, December 18, as “a day of thanksgiving” to God. As noted in this biography by Ira Stroll, the resolution went on to say:

…with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favour, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance; that it may please him graciously to afford his blessing on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whole; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessing, independence and peace; that it may please him to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people and the labour of the husbandman, that our land may yet yield its increase; to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under this nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth “in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

Virtue and piety? Clearly Sam Adams, for all his rebellious inclinations, was not a Libertarian. Stroll also writes:

So, too, was the association, in the thanksgiving declaration of 1777, of liberty with virtue and piety. These ideas help explain why the American fought on in the revolutionary cause in the face of discouraging setbacks and overwhelming obstacles.

With no desire to belittle my fellow Americans and our culture — for where else on this planet are we going to live? — we can’t get through a day of leisurely Turkey dinners and football games without feeling the penetrating need to purchase trinkets on sale for half off at some mass-merchandizing mall in the middle of the night with the dinner dishes still unwashed in the sink. “I shop, therefore I am” is the battle cry of today’s culture. (Or maybe “I consume, therefore I am.”) This is not the Valley Forge generation.

God is dead. He’s been replaced by Narcissus. And maybe this is for the better, for all that shopping goes toward constructing and spurring on the most important cathedral of our creation: The Economy. So what that little Billy and Jane miss out on stories handed down by grandpa or grandma as retold by mom or dad around the good cheer of a domestic after-dinner hearth with eggnog in hand? It’s the economy we must keep burning, and we do so via consumption. We are thus taking a vital part in “creating jobs,” shovel-ready or otherwise. It is the Gift of the MasterCard.

I drove by the mall on the way home from the Thanksgiving feast last night. Target was bustling. Best Buy was jammed. Several of the stores at the mall were packed with cars. And it all seemed silly. People can’t take one day off from shopping, whether to give thanks to Dead White Men (and Women) for what they had built and bestowed to us, let alone to show a little gratitude to a Divine Creator. And rather than stoking the fervency of a bit of Calvinistic fire and brimstone, these people evoked amusement in me. As that one shopper said in that AP article: “But the stores are open, so we do it.”

That is perfectly understandable for an animal who can’t help himself. The virtue of a commercialized culture is necessarily found not in restraint. So we dress up our excesses, and our lack of a deeper personal dimension, in what amounts to whistling past the graveyard (at 50% off). Surely deep-down, somewhere, the super-shopper knows there is something he lacks. That it might be the big screen TV at Best Buy occurs to him, for what else can occur to him?

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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20 Responses to God is Dead. Killed by Christmas.

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Well, as for Black Friday (and its backward extension to Thanksgiving Day itself), the idea is to get the best bargains (and in some cases just the satisfaction of being first to get the bargains). If we go to a bookstore this evening, it will be because it’s convenient to go to that store this evening instead of another (and it’s been quite some time since we last visited Barnes & Noble).

    I recall a short item in MAD Magazine a few decades ago in which two people observed that you couldn’t tell a garish modern bank from a garish modern church — but after all, both were places of worship.

    ADDENDUM: Ricochet has a piece by Jon Gabriel (which I encountered at hotair.com) pointing out that Black Friday is a great day for affluent self-righteous types to sneer at people who need to buy as cheaply as possible. Here is the link:


    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Shopping on Black Friday (as excessive as that can get) is a whole nuther thing compared to shopping on Thanksgiving. Shopping on Thanksgiving is like cheating on your wife on your wedding day. I mean, if you can’t keep it zipped up (wallet or otherwise) for that one day, how pathetic is that?

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Ricochet has a piece by Jon Gabriel (which I encountered at hotair.com) pointing out that Black Friday is a great day for affluent self-righteous types to sneer at people who need to buy as cheaply as possible. Here is the link:

    That reminds me of a passage in Ira Stoll’s Sam Adams: A Life — the book you brought to my attention earlier:

    Required reading at Boston Latin School for a student’s first four years included Aesop’s Fables, one of the first of which is a tale of a wolf who devoured a lamb despite the lamb’s refutation of all the wolf’s accusations against him. The moral of the story, according to Aesop, is that “The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.”

    This is true of the Left. On the other hand, my critique is along the lines of: “Cannot an American take just one day out of the year to appreciate what he has instead of trying to accumulate more?” Like Sam Adams, I am not against the idea of “to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people and the labour of the husbandman, that our land may yet yield its increase.” But all things in their time.

  3. Rosalys says:

    So what that little Billy and Jane miss out on stories handed down by grandpa or grandma as retold by mom or dad around the good cheer of a domestic after-dinner hearth with eggnog in hand?

    Watching the “news” on TV tonight the second to top story was Black Friday shopping and why do people do it. (The top story, of course, being the latest [but not last!] chapter in the remembrance of Ferguson’s Gentle Giant.) One grandpa looking fellow with two little munchkins in tow said, “It’s kind of becoming a family tradition.” Suddenly I had visions of the future, my yet to be conceived grandchildren sitting on my knee and my saying to them, “Let Grammy tell you all about my first Black Friday!” Thank God it’ll never happen! (I don’t mean the grandchildren, because I do hope the kids will eventually get around to doing their demographic duty!) No. Mean it will never happen because I refuse to take part in Black Friday. I dislike crowds and I’m not particularly fond of shopping. But I think most people like the hustle and bustle and being part of a crowd. Why else would someone drive for three and a half hours on New Years Eve to be in Times Square to watch a ball drop?

    What gets me is the pushing and shoving to grab a box of crap before someone else gets it. The news showed a crowd of shoppers doing just that, but this stuff doesn’t just happen on Black Friday (or Black Friday Eve) – it happens all the time and it isn’t pretty. It made me cringe and I hope I have never done that; I can’t remember ever doing so but it may be selective memory on my part, pushing the unpleasantries of my being way back into my sub conscience where I won’t be bothered by them.

    People can’t take one day off from shopping, whether to give thanks to Dead White Men (and Women) for what they had built us, let alone to show a little gratitude to a Divine Creator.

    In many ways Thanksgiving is the most religious holiday we have. Gratitude and being thankful, anathema to the narcissist, is a very divine thing. Thanksgiving (until the advent of Black Friday Eve) has so far resisted being crassly commercialized. It is still mainly a day for family and friends. The real tragedy of turning holidays into shopping !Events! is that people who would rather be home enjoying that dinner with the family have to work instead at – let’s face it – a non essential job. A decade ago our daughter worked at Victoria’s Secret. It was the Fourth of July and I was shocked that she was going in to work. She said that they had a lot of business from foreigners for whom the Fourth is no big deal. I found this outrageous! It’s a Big Deal to US and it’s OUR country. Don’t we owe it to these people from elsewhere to show them that we are proud of our heritage? Most places are still closed on Christmas at least, but for how long.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Black Friday Eve

      You just coined the term for this high secular holiday.

      The real tragedy of turning holidays into shopping !Events! is that people who would rather be home enjoying that dinner with the family have to work instead at – let’s face it – a non essential job.

      Good point.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Of course, plenty of people work on Thanksgiving anyway, such as the staff at various football games (not to mention Macy’s parade, which is after all how Miracle on 34th Street begins). But it would be nice if retail clerks didn’t have to.

        Elizabeth and I did end up going to Barnes & Noble after dinner (we always eat our on Friday, usually with friends, a tradition going back over 25 years). We only spent about $175 between us. Mayhap some year we’ll finally finish reading our purchases. (We still have a tote bag full of purchases from our visit to Half Price Books a few weeks back, though the Samuel Adams biography was on the discount racks at Books-A-Million).

        I agree that Black Friday Eve is apt, especially remembering that such eves can be a bit sinister (All Hallows Eve aka Hallowmas preceding All Saints Day, Walpurgis Night aka May Eve aka Roodmas preceding May 1).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I went to the mall tonight on my way home. By about 8:15, things had cleared out pretty well. There was no blood on the walls and the store clerks did not have the 1000-yard-stare of the chronically bedraggled. I bought a string of Christmas lights. I’ve been decorating the office a bit, spreading a little kilowatt cheer. But with these new LED lights, they barely use a trickle of electricity. But the cheer level seems to be maintained.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            That’s only about an hour later (in terms of local time, of course) than our arrival at the bookstore. I will say that the shopping center seemed no more crowded than usual by then.

  4. GHG says:

    Count me as one of the religious nuts who believes divine providence played a role in the founding of our nation. That’s not to imply God chooses sides but rather He blesses those who seek Him and honor Him, and there was a whole lot more seeking and honoring going on back in Adam’s time. Which is to say there’s a whole lot less seeking and honoring going on today – a whole lot less!

    Every American alive today has grown up with Santa Claus being , if not the central figure, then at the very least an important part of Christmas. The theme of giving gifts like God gave His son as a gift to mankind goes way back, but the connection between giving gifts and the birth of the Christ child has all but been forgotten by the majority of celebrants. Santa is not much different than Easter eggs and bunny rabbits at Easter, or now shopping at Thanksgiving. Sadly another “holy-day” succumbs to the spirit of the age.

    No, God is not dead – not that most people would notice … or care.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One reason the colonials were convinced God was on their side was because they were the beneficiaries of a large number of miracles — such as the unusual combination of weather conditions that enabled Washington to escape from his trap in Brooklyn despite the efforts of the Royal Navy to prevent him crossing over to Manhattan. The Trenton/Princeton campaign was remarkable enough, and the providential arrival of Baron von Steuben at Valley Forge enabled the Continentals to stand up to the best British forces (such as the Black Watch) at Monmouth. Time and again, at the moment of highest peril, some apparent miracle saved the day.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Great comments, Mr. Lesser.

      I find it understandable that it’s tough to be thankful when so many of the good and necessary things are so disposable. I’m thinking about the 3/4 of a banana cream pie that was thrown away at our Thanksgiving feast. Nobody wanted the orphan. I certainly didn’t want to be tempted by the calories and take it back with me…particularly because it was good pie.

      But it cost only $5.00 and it’s not the kind of thing you can then donate to a food bank after it’s been eaten from. So into the bin it went. Lucky bin. But there were enough calories in the remaining parts to probably feed a hundred starving Ethiopians if they were pie-inclined.

      We can drive to the mall and buy trinkets and gadgets for a mere few dollars that would have been considered near magic not that long ago. And if something inexpensive like this breaks, you just throw it away. Can a culture ever be thankful of what it has when what it has has come so relatively easily?

      I can understand the Pilgrims and other early Americans being thankful just for making it through another year. When it was fairly common that only 3 out of a dozen children would survive past infancy, when there were hostile Indians and weather at every turn, when incurable disease could strike at any moment, perhaps it was easier to be thankful for what one had, although what one had was much less.

      And what one had one likely had to work very hard for, which is surely key to any kind of thankfulness. Can a materially prosperous country that sees nothing but abundant good times ahead, forever and ever, be thankful? It seems unlikely. Gratitude is something that has to be worked at. But is it even worth working at? Why try? We likely see that the real instigator of the rot in our culture was how easy we had it. Certainly this had to have been a major factor in the spoiled-rotten 50’s and 60’s beatniks and hippies who could extend the adolescent mindset of rebellion into one’s old age.

      There are other factors as well. But no country likely ever turned Leftist, socialist, Marxist, and mean because of an excess of gratitude. We see what happens when the reverse is in place — grievance — in places such as Ferguson. Perhaps Thanksgiving will one day give way to Grievancefest. In some places, it is already like that. Some minds have no other point of reference.

      • Rosalys says:

        That very same news broadcast I mentioned earlier visited with a family in the Ferguson area as they sat down at a rather nice dining room set, in a rather nice dining room, to a massive Thanksgiving feast – and all they could do was gripe, talking about how the blacks are discriminated against, kept down and suffering in poverty. The caption just didn’t fit the picture!

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Most people fail to realize that to be an American today is to be in the top 1% (probably 0.1%) of all people all time. But few people realize how rare individual freedom and (at least to some degree) power (not that many blacks in Ferguson choose to exercise that power, which then leads them to complain about the results of their failure as if blissfully unaware of their own role) as well as mass affluence. Even the poor in America live better in many waysthan the rich did a century or two ago.

          • Rosalys says:

            It reminds me of a car I had about 20 years ago. It was old and beat up and neither the heat nor the air conditioner worked. When I got a new (to me!) car which had both I was so thankful I said a little prayer of joy every time I got in for quite some time – it took a while for the memory of those cold, cold days to fade away! Then a few years ago I was thinking about that old rust bucket and it struck me that, even if it didn’t look very elegant, I was probably more comfortable than a king traveling in a gilt coach 200 years ago. Plus, I can go farther, faster, when, and where I want.

    • James Smith says:

      Well, humanity managed to kill God once but when we try to crucify Him afresh it results in our own demise.
      “For the land which hath drunk the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receiveth blessing from God: but if it beareth thorns and thistles, it is rejected and nigh unto a curse; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak:
      Hebrews 6: 7-9
      As a nation, having received the blessings of freedom, we have a lot to answer for. Please read the entire 6th chapter of Hebrews. Thanks for your comment GHG.

    • Rosalys says:

      “Count me as one of the religious nuts who believes divine providence played a role in the founding of our nation.”

      Me too!

      “That’s not to imply God chooses sides but rather He blesses those who seek Him and honor Him…”

      Amen! This is why I believe that America’s biggest problem is the wholesale turning away from God of many of her people. It is also why I believe that nothing but a huge spiritual revival of Great Awakening proportions will save the country.

      He won’t necessarily send another world wide flood. Sometimes He just allows us to suffer the consequences of our own poor choices. I see cataclysmic catastrophe on the horizon, and I have no good reason not to feel or think this way.

  5. Timothy Lane says:

    I saw reports today that Black Friday (including BF Eve) sales were down about 11% from last year. (Elizabeth and I did our part, as I said earlier, though none of it was actually Christmas shopping.) Some of this no doubt reflects people buying ever more stuff on-line, and some reflects the increasing number of bargains available for even earlier shopping as Christmas season increasingly starts not long (if any) after Halloween. But it did probably mean less turmoil than in the past (I doubt anyone has ever tried to measure this), which would be a good thing.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yup. Bu you have to give the marketers their due. They know how to extract every last dime from our wallets. But even such wallets are limited. And I think all that we’re seeing are those retail dollars syphoned off from Friday to Black Friday Eve.

      Also, I think some of the holiday binging and running up of debt on credit cards is likely stealing from January and February sales as well. Keynesian thinking, one presumes — both on the part of retail and on the part of consumers.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Well, in our case one can assume that the various books we got are ones we would have gotten later (assuming they were available) if we hadn’t gotten them Friday night. Christmas shopping would be a different matter, particularly if it involved sale prices that would not be available later. (Of course, that would affect a lot of buying, enabling people to get more for their money. We shouldn’t be surprised that this doesn’t matter to liberals.)

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