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Black Friday & the omnivore’s dilemma

It’s crazy out there in mall parking lots today as manic shoppers storm stores everywhere. It started here in Gainesville two days ago when people began dragging their lawn chairs and tents to the local Best Buy to wait in line.   We seem to be a nation of omnivores. An omnivore in natur…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
It’s crazy out there in mall parking lots today as manic shoppers storm stores everywhere. It started here in Gainesville two days ago when people began dragging their lawn chairs and tents to the local Best Buy to wait in line.
We seem to be a nation of omnivores. An omnivore in nature is an opportunistic feeder – plants, animals, it makes no difference, they consume everything. Ravens are omnivores.
We come off a holiday where we pigged out on mounds of food. And then – many of us not even pausing to sleep – we go pig out on sale items at the cash register. Exhausted by our consumption, we come home and sit before our TV screens and pig out on entertainment.
The question for omnivores is, “How do you decide what not to consume?” If you’re a consumer by nature, what are the limits on your consumption?
It’s the omnivore’s dilemma. Michael Pollan wrote a book by that title that examines what he calls “our national eating disorder.” He makes the point that we eat too much bad stuff. Chicken McNuggets, for example, are just one of many products that start with corn. 13 of the 38 ingredients in a McNugget are corn-based. Pollan tracks the prevalence of corn in the American diet and finds that of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter of them contain corn. We use corn to fatten chickens and cows. Little wonder that the average person is 23 pounds overweight.
But the omnivore’s dilemma is more than a food problem. It extends to all areas where the opportunity to consume is unlimited. How do you say no? Learning to say no is something a lot of us may need help with.
  • Imelda Marco needed help saying no to shoes.
  • Parents need help saying no to whiny children.
  • Lady Gaga needs help saying no to fashion excess.
  • Our politicians need help saying no to spending.
  • A lot of adolescent guys need help saying no to “World of Warcraft.”
We’re a nation that has made consumerism the flag we can all rally around. Christian/nonChristian, it doesn’t matter. It does more to unify us than 9/11 did.
Learning how to say no hits all of us living in this world with too many options.
The issue is compounded because we follow a man who asked us to delay gratification as a way of life. “The first shall be last,” he said. “Take up your cross daily,” he said.
Want to say no, but don’t know how? Learning how requires a lot of encouragement for good behavior. The good news is, Alcoholics Anonymous-type groups have sprung up across the nation to give it. Churches could do more to be places of encouragement like this. We need to come clean with one another, and then meet together regularly to talk about how we’re doing. And sites like this one, can help in the change process.
What do you struggle to say no to? What are your thoughts on Black Friday?

Comments (6)

  • Great post. Timely post…
    I have trouble saying no to people who need my help, and more than once it has crossed over to enabling. I am just becoming strong in my boundaries to start making progress in saying yes and no to appropriate things, and this has been so hard.

    I have been in an extended season of pruning and purging, and sometimes more than others, my core being rails against it and other times the releasing is so freeing I want to just keep going.

    My life has been one of excess of too many fillers…and finally I am making progress in shedding excess weight, commitments, leeching, and stuff.

    I managed to not pig out and ate healthfully. I did agree to Black Friday shopping for the first time in my life last night, and haven’t slept a wink, but spent a fun filled all nighter with my younger daughter, purchasing some carefully selected gifts, repurchasing clothing for my older daughter at 50% off that I had recently paid full price for (they have to dress up for away swim meets) and now after I get my mom up for the day we are going to make the rounds of disposing of more stuff, so so far, so good.

    I am trying to say no to the hideous consumption that surrounds me, but it isn’t easy, especially because I live in a neighborhood that I joke only went uphill…but that too struck a familiar chord, it got picked up by Shand Claiborne’s publication, Conspire.

    So you continue to encourage me and I continue to plod along.


  • Pertinent blog, but not understanding the endorsement of even “Christianized” AA groups. I know you’re strong on identity and new life in Christ. But these groups religiously confess their identity according to their sin, and base their fellowship on resisting their one sin. I know the difference when I meet those dependent on those groups, and those who are identified with Christ and set FREE.

  • Kathy, I’d trade the tendency toward legalism you find in AA-type groups to get the authenticity and transparency you find in their meetings. We desperately need it in our churches.

  • I hate to admit this, but tears welled up watching the video. Good grief. I keep thinking back to the thing I sensed a few years ago as I watched people queue up and push and shove and grab on my first and next-to-last B.F. event, “It’s not rice & we’re not starving.”

  • There’s a bone-deep emptiness in our culture today…our “spiritual bones” have become hollow and devoid of marrow.
    Looking in from the outside, Black Friday seems a rush – of frenzied proportions – to fill the emptiness with things; a macabre scene of desperate consumption, both disturbing and sad.

    America has lost its way…
    In my pulse on the culture I increasingly encounter people who feel diminished and lost, frustrated and angry.

    The American Dream, if not already dead, is surely dying.
    My former husband went to grad school with a nun who worked with the terminally ill. In facing death, many for the first time came to terms with their lives.

    I pray that in the death throes of the “American Dream” many will come to terms with the emptiness of this materialistic society…and seek God.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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