Mission Context - Buy Nothing Day

Ben Sheppard is a member of Christ Community and a senior at UGA. He wants to serve the church by encouraging Christians not to just consume, condemn, critique or copy culture — but to continually create a culture that testifies to the reality of the gospel. More specifically, Ben is taking a look at the places, practices, institutions, events, and cultural patterns that contribute to our cultural context in the American South, the city of Athens, the UGA campus, and the surrounding communities. 

Check out this post for an explanation of what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, and where he got the idea.

It’s that time of year again – that special time of year when people get together and gripe about how early Christmas decorations come up. I’m willing to bet that no one reading this actually likes Christmas decorations coming out at the same time as Halloween candy.  If that’s the case – if nobody actually wants Christmas to come this early in the year – why does it keep happening? 


Maybe it’s because there’s a disconnect between how we want to think about Christmas – sleigh bells, Christmas cheer, Advent calendars, Nativity scenes – and how we actually act. Stores put up Christmas decorations early because for them, “Christmas” equals “money,” and the fact that they keep getting away with it is pretty good evidence that Christmas means money to our culture, too. 


We all know about “Black Friday,” but what about “Buy Nothing Day”? Buy Nothing Day (BND) falls on the same day as our national pre-Christmas shopping binge, but obviously has a quite different focus. BND is the brainchild of activists in Vancouver, BC, and has been championed by the Adbusters Media Foundation. In addition to not buying, people have celebrated BND by hosting free parties, racing around Wal-Mart with empty shopping carts, or staging “Consumer-Zombie” walks in shopping centers. Why? What does Buy Nothing Day assume about the world should be?


Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters, offers a clue

“I found out that consumption can be as addictive as anything else. And after that, that can then change their lives. Many people have had profound epiphanies on BND and then they eventually get together with their families and want to experience a different kind of Christmas, they start talking about a Buy Nothing Christmas, or a buy less Christmas and try to put a bit more spirituality in their Christmas season.”


Now compare that quote with this one: “Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall.” This isn’t about BND; it’s talking about Advent Conspiracy, an initiative our church has been a part of for several years now. 


Through Buy Nothing Day (and the expanded version, Buy Nothing Christmas) Lasn and Adbusters are mounting the same kind of critique of consumerist culture as Advent Conspiracy. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13); Buy Nothing Day proves that even people who don’t have faith in Jesus can recognize the symptoms of slavery and addiction to money and consumption. Advent Conspiracy gives us an opportunity to address the same problem, but with the ultimate solution: the good news of freedom and abundance found in Jesus Christ. 

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