Black Friday: A Prayer of Repentance

 
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The following is an excerpt from Sam Davidson's Counter Liturgy: Common Prayers of Formation and Resistance (Vol 1: Advent and Christmas).

(Silent Reflection)
“And I encourage you all to go shopping more.”
- President George W. Bush

(Mark 10)
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

(Luke 6)
“Blessed are you who are poor,
     for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
     for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
     for you will laugh.
“But woe to you who are rich,
     for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
     for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
     for you will mourn and weep.”

Reflection 1
Shane Claiborne, activist and leader of the Simple Way community in Philadelphia, reflects about the story of the rich man that, “Jesus doesn’t exclude rich people, he just lets them know it will cost them everything they have [to follow him]. The story is not so much about whether or not rich folks are welcome, but it is about the nature of the Kingdom of God which has an economy diametrically opposed to that of the world. Rather than accumulating stuff for oneself, followers of Jesus abandon everything, trusting in God alone for provision.”[1]

(Silent Reflection)
Alasdair MacIntyre, a Catholic moral philosopher, writes about the classical Greek concept of “pleonexia,” the insatiable desire to acquire. He reflects that Christian theologians have historically understood this urge as a vice—one that both harms individuals and prevents the possibility of justice in society. But in the modern politics and economics of Western society, “pleonexia, the drive to have more and more, becomes treated as a central virtue.”
[2] In ways that we may not even be aware of, our lives, our decisions, and our political convictions often revolve around the simple desire for more stuff.

(Matthew 6)
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust consume
and where thieves break in and steal;

but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust consumes
and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the
one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise
the other.
You cannot serve God and Mammon.

Reflection 2
“On Wednesday morning, April 24, 2013 at 8:00 a.m., 3,639 workers refused to enter the eight-story Rana Plaza factory building [Dhaka District, Bangladesh] because there were large and dangerous cracks in the factory walls. The owner, Sohel Rana, brought paid gang members to beat the men and women workers, hitting them with sticks to force them to go into the factory. Managers of the five factories housed in Rana Plaza also told the frightened workers that if they did not return to work, there would be no money to pay them for the month of April, which meant that there would be no food for them and their children. They were forced to go in to work at 8:00 a.m.

At 8:45 a.m. the electricity went out and the factories’ five generators kicked on. Almost immediately the workers felt the eight-story building begin to move, and heard a loud explosion as the building collapsed, pancaking downward, killing 1,137 workers.

Eighty percent of the workers were young women, 18, 19, 20 years of age. Their standard shift was 13 to 14 ½ hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 or 10:30 p.m., toiling 90 to 100 hours a week with just two days off a month….Young ‘helpers’ earned 12 cents an hour, while ‘junior operators’ took home 22 cents an hour, $10.56 a week, and senior sewers received 24 cents an hour and $12.48 a week”[3]

The 1,137 workers killed by the collapse were making fast-fashion clothing for retailers in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

(Silent Reflection)
“The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh two years ago may have horrified consumers in the West, but the working conditions it exposed hardly are an anomaly in the global garment industry. Low wages, long hours, unsafe buildings and inadequate regulations are the norm. Even as the industry’s profits grew worldwide, in countries like Bangladesh, Honduras, Mexico and Cambodia real wages for garment workers declined from 2001 to 2011.

The industry is dominated by the same Western labels selling in the same Western markets. These brands deliberately source their products from factories in poor countries with inadequate labor laws and weak health and safety regulations; it’s cheaper that way.

In fact, the big brands reap billions of dollars chasing the lowest production costs they can find, moving from one country to another when those costs rise too much. This creates a perpetual race to the bottom, in which workers’ rights are squeezed by the factories that employ them and by the governments that supposedly oversee those factories.”[4]

Reflection 3
Claiborne speaks often about what he calls a “theology of enough,” which he says is a theology “anchored in the idea that God did not create too many people or not enough stuff. Poverty was not created by God, but by you and me because we have not learned to love our neighbor as ourselves.”[5]

Responsive Prayer 1
Jesus Christ, Lord who gives abundant life,
We have not left all to follow you.
You call us to simplicity, and we refuse.

You call us to care for the poor,
But we exploit them in our greed.
You call us to be poor,
But we fill our lives with worldly possessions.
Though you call us to worship you alone, we follow after
Mammon, the god of wealth.
Forgive us, Lord, and renew our faith.

(Silent Reflection)
“What [Jesus] says about the rich youth selling all his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor, and about the indisposition of camels trying to pass through needles’ eyes, is only the beginning. In the Sermon on the Plain’s list of beatitudes and woes, he not only tells the poor that the kingdom belongs to them, but explicitly tells the rich that, having had their pleasures in this world, they shall have none in the world to come. He condemns those who buy up properties and create large estates for themselves. You cannot serve both God and mammon. Do not store up treasure on earth, in earthly vessels, for where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. …Paul constantly condemns pleonexia, which is often translated as “excessive greed” or even “thievery,” but which really means no more than an acquisitive desire for more than one needs. …James says that God’s elect are the poor of this world; the rich he condemns as oppressors and revilers of the divine name, who should howl in terror at the judgment that is coming upon them, because the rust of their treasure shall eat their flesh like fire on the last day. And on and on. This is so persistent, pervasive, and unqualified a theme of the New Testament that the genius with which Christians down the centuries have succeeded in not seeing it, or in explaining it away, or in pretending that it does not mean what it unquestionably means may be among the greatest marvels of the faith.”[6]
          - David Bentley Hart

Responsive Prayer 2
How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,
Than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Many who are first will be last,
And the last will be first.
Good and gracious God,
Forgive us the inconsistencies and tensions that define our lives.
Yesterday we gave thanks for the abundance of blessings that you have given us;
But today we desire to chase after other gods.
We hear your call to sell all that we have and follow you,
But we are intoxicated by the god of comfort.
We hear your invitation to a life of simplicity and trust,
But we are full of fear.
Give us wisdom to see through economic systems that exploit the poor,
Vision to see how our actions contribute to their suffering,
And hope to imagine a life lived in freedom from the need to acquire.


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Counter Liturgy: Advent and Christmas


[1] Shane Claiborne, “Mark 2: Sharing Economic Resources with Fellow Community Members and the Needy Among Us,” in School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism, ed. Rutba House. (Eugene: Cascade, 2005), 34.
[2] Quoted in Matthew Boudway, “Alistair MacIntyre on capitalism,” Commonweal, 1 May 2009, https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/alasdair-macintyre-capitalism
[3] Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, “Factory Collapse in Bangladesh,” April 24 2014, http://www.globallabourrights.org/campaigns/factory-collapse-in-bangladesh
[4] David Welsh, “Fair Trade for the Global Garment Industry,” May 20 2015, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/21/opinion/fair-trade-for-the-globalgarment-industry.html
[5] Claiborne, “Mark 2: Sharing Economic Resources,” 33.
[6] David Bentley Hart, “Mammon Ascendant: Why Global Capitalism is Inimical to Christianity,” First Things (June
2016), https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/06/mammon-ascendant

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Sam Davidson

has a B.A. in Religion from Baylor University and (almost) a Masters of Divinity from George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, TX, where he lives with his wife Alexis. He hates blogs, including his own, which is called “Pontifications. And Stuff.” He is also a waiter, a graduate assistant, and a Seminary Fellow at the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.