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I’m sickened by the number of corporations forcing their employees to work today.

Now, I understand that places with medication or gas need to be open for those in need. Some physicians, nurses, firefighters, EMTs, police and mechanics need to work for emergencies. I am grateful for their work. However, I’m not sure our society wants to forego rest and fellowship time to see how cheap we can buy TVs, shoes, various appliances and craft supplies.

Wasn’t that the purpose of post-Thanksgiving Friday (a.k.a. Black Friday – although I’m not entirely comfortable using that term)? Sure, it was odd that the day after Thanksgiving honored
the gods of consumerism. Now that day has crept into the time-slot of Thanksgiving itself. Employees on the bottom of the consumerist food chain have to choose between having a job and spending time with their families.

To me, Thanksgiving (and even Christmas) is time of communal Sabbath. No matter what your nationality or belief structures, no matter how lofty your wealth or the color of your skin, we all had these days off together – to relax and enjoy simplicity.

Back in the day, Sundays were communal Sabbaths. Now, Sundays are the beginning of the consumerism week as we hunt through papers to see what great deals we can find at stores.

When I was a child visiting my grandparents in Canada for Christmas, all stores would be closed on December 26 for Boxing Day, an additional Sabbath and time for loved ones. As I grew older, this day turned into the Americanized December 26: filled malls and widespread sales.

To think we are losing any aspect of a communal Sabbath is heartbreaking. On previous Thanksgivings, most of us have the day off. Now, those who are paid the least are forced to work while the more wealthy of us can chose between resting and shopping.

A number of times, I’ve heard theologian Walter Brueggemann speak about Sabbath as a break from consumerism. He quotes the story in Exodus 5 of Moses asking Pharaoh for a day for the Israelites to have a break from their work so they can honor God together. Of course, Pharaoh then gave the Israelites more work and tougher working conditions because of this request.

The Pharaohs of our consumerist culture are requiring more and more workers to give up our communal Sabbaths. Next year, will stores start their sales at 6pm or 3pm on Thanksgiving? Will Thanksgiving become the new Consumerist Day of the Year? And why must these fall on the backs of the non-rich in our society while the wealthy make their money from those sacrificing their Sabbath day?

Let’s skip the stores as much as we can today….

Happy Thanksgiving!